New Audiobook Of Short Stories Written By Afghan Women, Narrated By Kabul-Born Actress

It has been described as “powerful, profound, and deeply moving” by Elif Shafak, author of The Island of Missing Trees, a Reese’s Book Club pick. A new collection of audio and print short stories by Afghan women called ‘My Pen Is the Wing of a Bird’ was released on October 18, and gives listeners and readers the chance to hear directly from women in Afghanistan what life is like for them.

After the shocking news of the Taliban retaking power in 2021, 20 years after they were pushed out by the US, many women in the country turned to social media to share how this was impacting their lives.

Eighteen Afghan women living in, speaking about, and writing from the country itself tell stories that are powerful and illuminating, unique and universal – stories of family, work, childhood, friendship, war, gender identity, and cultural traditions.

A woman’s fortitude saves her village from disaster. A teenager explores their identity in a moment of quiet.  A tormented girl tries to find love through a horrific act. A headmaster makes his way to work, treading the fine line between life and death.

These and more original, vital, and unexpected stories hail from extraordinary voices rooted in Afghanistan’s two main linguistic groups (Pashto and Dari), and were developed over two years through the writer development program Untold’s Write Afghanistan Project. ‘My Pen Is the Wing of a Bird’ comes at a pivotal moment in Afghanistan’s history, when these voices must be heard.

The audiobook version was narrated by Sitara Attaie, an Afghan born American actress who grew up in The Netherlands. She spent her early years learning several languages while living in Afghanistan, India, The Netherlands and now The United States. She is fluent in Dari, Farsi, Dutch, German, Hindi, Urdu, Pashto and conversational French.

She has worked on television shows such as: ‘Homeland’, ‘Stumptown’, ‘True Blood’, ‘United States of Al’ and has extensive experience in voice acting. “My Pen Is the Wing of a Bird” is Sitara’s first narrated Audiobook. What drew Sitara to the book is the amount of heart and soul that the stories carry. Each one of these short stories struck a chord with her. Many of them in fact resembled Sitara’s own experiences during her childhood in Kabul, Afghanistan. 

As a freelance Journalist Sitara has written for a variety of online media as well for the local papers in The Netherlands. Her poem: “My Life As Long As Eternity” was published in the book: “Refugees tell their story…” by Marie Wijk.  

Here’s what she told us about being part of this special project that is dear to her heart.

What first drew you to the opportunity to narrate ‘My Pen is the Wing of A Bird’?

The fact that these are stories written by Afghan female authors. 

During the process of recording the narration, you were moved emotionally by many of the pieces. As a woman born in Kabul, what were some of the moments you connected with most in these stories and poems?

There were many moments I deeply connected with, mainly all the stories around school. Predominantly the girls school being ruined. I still lived in Kabul when a rocket hit my school an hour after I got home.

A lot of what we hear about Afghanistan, especially Afghan women, in the news is merely a soundbite or at worst a stereotype. What are you excited about most for readers to hear in these stories?  

That these are true reflection of what and who Afghan women actually are: Teachers, News Anchors, Students, Business owners despite the challenges of everyday life in Afghanistan. 

Hearing about the Taliban taking back power in Afghanistan has reminded many of us about how the rights of women are often tenuous at best in many places (including America with reproductive rights!). Can you share about what is at stake for many women and girls in Afghanistan right now?

Life is at stake. Their sanity is at stake. Their health & well being on every level is at stake. Their future and the future of their daughters is at stake. Imagine a world that is so restrictive for women it’s literally and figuratively difficult to breathe (from behind the Burqa). And that in 2022! 

How can storytelling, art, poetry and creative projects become a powerful way to break through divisive narratives and misinformation?

Through the power of Imagination which gives life to creativity and therefor gives you freedom regardless of the circumstances of life.

Was there a story you related to the most in this collection? Can you share why?

Literally all of them! There is not one story that me or any of the readers or listeners would not relate to, simply because they are all human stories first and foremost. 

How do you hope the stories and voices shared in ‘My Pen is the Wing of the Bird’ will shape the history of Afghanistan for the future?

I think these stories will shape the future of Afghanistan in two ways:

1). It’s the relatability factor that will help everyone going through challenges perhaps get through it a bis easier because you know you’re not alone.

2). It gives hope for what is possible for a better future! 

You can download and purchase ‘My Pen Is the Wing of a Bird’ by clicking HERE.

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