"I was late to school, and that's all I could think about. I started across the field. And then suddenly a fire flashed in my face and the earth seemed to move beneath my feet. I remember a shower of soil and then nothing. I woke up on the ground, surrounded by a crowd, men and boys...no women. They were all staring down at me with huge eyes. Their lips were moving, but I could hear no voices. All I heard was a loud ringing in my ears."
Farah Ahmedi is born into the world just as the war between the mujahideen and the Soviets reaches its peak in Afghanistan. Bombs are falling all over her country, and her native Kabul is swelling with hundreds of thousands of people looking for homes and jobs. The sounds of gunfire and fighter planes are as normal to Farah as the sounds of traffic or children playing are to a schoolgirl in America. When Farah steps on a land mine on her way to school, her world becomes much smaller than the dreams and hopes in her heart. She begins to learn -- slowly -- that ordinary people, often strangers, have immense power to save lives and restore hope.
The Story of My Life: An Afghan Girl on the Other Side of the Sky recounts an epic journey. It deftly interweaves a childhood in Afghanistan, where the classrooms are naked chambers with only chalkboards on the walls and are filled with more students than seats (and no books), with an American adolescence, where teenagers struggle to decide whether to try out for school plays, whom to take to the homecoming dance, and where to go to college. In Kabul, they cancel school because of rockets and bombings; in Chicago, Farah might have a snow day. In Kabul, a schoolgirl wears a black dress and a white headscarf; in America, girls need the right jeans and trendy tops.
Thanks to a number of good people who crossed her path at critical moments, Farah is thriving. She may be haunted by her past, but she is no longer enslaved by it. She is actively enjoying the realization of her childhood dreams; she's an Afghan American, free to learn, work, support herself, and choose her own path. She'll graduate from high school soon and is being recruited by some of the best colleges in the world.
Farah is living proof that not only can the human heart endure, it can also thrive. Even in war, there are miracles. Even when limbs are amputated, we are whole. Even in refugee camps, dreams come true. Even when fathers and siblings die young, there is love. The Story of My Life is our new great American memoir.