The Lovers: Afghanistan’s Romeo and Juliet | The True Story of How They Defied Their Families and Escaped an Honor Killing by Rod Nordland [in Library Journal]
Journalist Rod Nordland’s debut title began as a series of popular 2014 New York Times articles that introduced Ali and Zakia as Afghanistan’s Romeo and Juliet. At the time of the book’s publication, the young lovers were alive and living together, though facing a dangerously uncertain future. Zakia is Tajik and Sunni, Ali is Hazara and Shia – differences serious enough to warrant being hunted by Zakia’s family in the name of their family honor when the pair run away to marry.
Nordland chronicles the pair’s desperate odyssey through villages, mountains, and cities, with a disastrous foray into Tajikistan. While the lovers are the narrative’s stars, equally intriguing are Nordland’s recurring crises of journalistic ethics at odds with his humane responsibilities.
His revealing explorations of the efficacy of international NGOs, wealthy donors, and too-eager community leaders enhance the lovers’ epic far beyond an exercise in Western voyeurism. Nordland’s frustration is palpable as he reveals that the women of Afghanistan no longer get the worldwide media attention they did a few years ago; supplemental material at book’s end effectively illuminates their dire plight, including the brutal rape of a 10-year-old girl by a vicious mullah.
Verdict: An indispensable acquisition for libraries intending to increase their international nonfiction collections.
Review: modified from “Audio,” Library Journal, April 15, 2016