Travel the World in Books Reading Challenge: Afghanistan

So I officially begin the Travel the World in Books Reading Challenge I started for myself by reading a book about Afghanistan.

Because I recognize that not everyone is familiar with every place, I will start my posts with just a (very) brief snippet about the country.

Afghanistan is a country in Asia with a population of roughly 31,822,848. Their government is an Islamic Republic and the capital is Kabul. This is obviously a very brief snippet, but I will fill in more details as I talk about the book.

Facts and map from the CIA World Factbook:

The book that I chose to read was The Photographer: Into War-Torn Afghanistan with Doctors Without Borders by Emmanuel Guibert.

This was a remarkable book in so many ways. I think that my generation especially has lacked some of the history and the background of the situation in Afghanistan. When we think of the war in Afghanistan, we think of the most recent one. But it is a country that has been marked, in some ways, in the more recent past, with war. Before the war in Afghanistan which marked my high school and college years, before I was even born, there was the Soviet invasion into Afghanistan, just one of the many effects of the Cold War felt around the world. I don’t know the history well enough to know the full story – and I hope to study it someday – but I do feel confident enough in saying that this war had a profound effect on the people living there, as war almost always does.

The book didn’t focus on the war so much as it focused on the work of Doctors Without Borders there in Afghanistan. The story is told from the perspective of a photographer, embedded with Doctors Without Borders, with the purpose of documenting one of their missions there. It is a very unique book in that the story is told in a combination of graphic novel drawings and depictions along with the photographs that photographer took. It is a true story, but this is a rare format for a non-fiction story to be told in, but I think it makes for a very compelling format. The pictures are certainly compelling and they bring you the face of a country affected by war, a very beautiful country.

In reading this book, you truly are able to gain an appreciation for foreign aid workers from NGOs in various countries around the world. I have known that the work they do is not easy, not easy by far, but reading this book, you really see the lengths they go to just to help people. In the case of this story, they had to enter the country illegally. They had to hike through mountains for weeks with donkeys and horses to get to their destinations. They had avoid the main roads which had Russian checkpoints and at the same time, these hikes through the mountains were dangerous because at certain points they faced the possibility of being bombed by the Russians. And those just scratch the surface at the difficulties. All this not for profit or for their own personal gain, but because they believe in helping people who no one else is willing or able to help. These people, these real life heroes, are remarkable and you get to see their stories play out.

I highly recommend this book. I thoroughly enjoyed it and it told a very compelling story. If you are not so sure on non-fiction either, the format will definitely help propel you along. The pictures are stunning and the story is moving. It’s a subject I feel we often hear little about but it can definitely open your eyes to what aid workers are risking.

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