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The Lovers: Afghanistan’s Romeo and Juliet, the True Story of How They Defied Their Families and Escaped an Honor Killing

Summary

A riveting, real-life equivalent of The Kite Runner—an astonishingly powerful and profoundly moving story of a young couple willing to risk everything for love that puts a human face on the ongoing debate about women’s rights in the Muslim world.

Zakia and Ali were from different tribes, but they grew up on neighboring farms in the hinterlands of Afghanistan. By the time they were young teenagers, Zakia, strikingly beautiful and fiercely opinionated, and Ali, shy and tender, had fallen in love. Defying their families, sectarian differences, cultural conventions, and Afghan civil and Islamic law, they ran away together only to live under constant threat from Zakia’s large and vengeful family, who have vowed to kill her to restore the family’s honor. They are still in hiding.

Despite a decade of American good intentions, women in Afghanistan are still subjected to some of the worst human rights violations in the world. Rod Nordland, then the Kabul bureau chief of the New York Times, had watched these abuses unfold for years when he came upon Zakia and Ali, and has not only chronicled their plight, but has also shepherded them from danger.

The Lovers will do for women’s rights generally what Malala’s story did for women’s education. It is an astonishing story about self-determination and the meaning of love that illustrates, as no policy book could, the limits of Western influence on fundamentalist Islamic culture and, at the same time, the need for change.

About the Author

Rod NorlandRod Nordland, international correspondent at large and Kabul bureau chief for The New York Times, has worked as a reporter in more than 150 countries, including Bangkok, Beirut, Baghdad, Cairo, Rome, Sarajevo, San Salvador, Islamabad, London and Kabul. He has worked for The Times in the Middle East, Europe and South Asia.

Mr. Nordland came to The Times in 2009 from Newsweek, where he was the magazine’s chief foreign correspondent, based in London. During three decades abroad, he has covered every war that involved Americans and several that did not. He began his foreign reporting career for his hometown paper, The Philadelphia Inquirer, covering the Far East and Central America. He is a native of Philadelphia, where he has a large extended family, and his immediate family lives in England.

His honors have included being part of a Pulitzer Prize-winning team, and he was a finalist for a Pulitzer in international reporting. He has won two George Polk awards; several Overseas Press Club award, the 2013 Heywood Broun award and many others. A graduate of Pennsylvania State University, he was also a Nieman Fellow at Harvard.

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HIGHLIGHTS

The author recently discussed his book at the National Press Club Journalism Institute in Washington, DC.