An unexpected light

Waiting, originally uploaded by yaznotjaz.

Sometimes, I run away and lie around in the park all afternoon, reading books and listening to music and taking photographs. Sometimes, I even skip around on my jump-rope (but I discovered early on that that works better on concrete than on grass), and my new goal in life is to buy hula-hoops. Somehow, I’ve convinced myself that if I could get back into hula-hooping – as I did when I was a kid – I’d be much more coordinated and comfortable in moving my body, and then I’d even learn how to dance. It’d be amazing!

Last week, I did cartwheels in the park for the first time since childhood. Needless to say, I completely sucked (that part about extending your legs in the air is kinda tricky), but I couldn’t stop laughing along with Princess Pretty Pants and Beanay, and I didn’t even feel ridiculous for attempting something at which I knew I would fail. That’s progress.

(PPP captured all the laughter and cheering and my attempted cartwheels on camera, and they just might be coming your way soon via facebook-video, if we’re friends over there on that addictive, timesuck of a social-networking site. Also, via wikipedia, I found a nice little tutorial on cartwheeling. You didn’t doubt me, did you, when I mentioned “reading something on wikipedia once”? I look up everything.)

An Unexpected Light

Speaking of parks and lounging around and reading on the grass, I just posted this on flickr, and then I remember how much you Blogistan folks love books, too, so I’m sharing this here as well:

I’m currently almost done reading Jason Elliot’s An Unexpected Light: Travels in Afghanistan, quite possibly one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read. It’s nonfiction (as are most of the books I like).

An Unexpected Light is poignant, and unexpectedly funny, and perceptive. There are lots of references to chapli kabob and chai and Pathans and Sufi parables and open-armed unconditional hospitality, for those of you who are fans of such things. (As well as an equal number of references to guns and landmines and destruction and the mujahideen and Taliban and meddling/useless foreign nations, for that matter.)

What struck me most as I was reading this was Elliot’s respect and compassion for the Afghans. "He just has so much love and compassion for the people," I told [K] recently. "I love how he writes about them. Everyone is handsome or beautiful to him, I noticed. He never mentions people being ugly." Yet the Afghans are never exoticized or Other-ized here. Elliot sees them as dignified and beautiful, inside and out, because, for him, they are first and foremost profoundly human.

I don’t often make book recommendations (to each his own, eh?), and I’m too lazy to write books reviews.

But you should read this one.

That is all.


K and I had a lovely conversation about this book weeks (months?) ago, and it made me so happy to know someone else had read it. You can check out an excerpt of the Prologue on amazon.

(Also, don’t give me drama about those folded-over pages. I always dog-ear book pages while reading! Sacrilegious, I know.)

19 thoughts on “An unexpected light

  1. Yasmine :) Okay, I will take your word. Any book that has references to chapli kabob AND sufism, is right up my alley.

    Hula hoops, trampolines, green turf and frisbee..summer. Love it.

    You have a nice collection of red shoes. :)

  2. Just wanted to second your book recommendation. It was a very good book and all you say about the author resonates with my impression of him. One incident from the book always pops up when I am talking to friends about life .. he tells of a poor Afghan, who ignores the extreme cold, the war, the poverty – opens his palms to the sun and then rubbing his hands to enjoy the meager warmth, says: Allah is kind to us! (This is how I remember it .. I could be way wrong on the details :))

  3. Dude, you’re such a hippy.

    And you don’t need a hoola hoop; PP and I’ll teach you to dance! Ok, we’re starting tomorrow! =)

  4. “Everyone is handsome or beautiful to him, I noticed. He never mentions people being ugly.”

    beautiful — we have much to take from this — tashakkor (:

    & i will read this book asap

  5. dude. hello to all the new (?) readers!

    seriously. CHAPLI KABOB! it is too much the amazing! which reminds me, i haven’t had any chapli kabob in a while, and now i’m craving some. also, you brought up frisbee! i’m pretty sure my dad would adopt you, if he knew you were a fan (i’m assuming you’re a fan, if you mentioned it). my childhood was all about frisbees, too, and fussball (the table soccer version).

    thank you! i own more pairs of red shoes than i do of any other color, which is kinda ridiculous if you consider the fact that my feet feel claustrophobic in shoes and i thus don’t wear ’em often. i came home once to find my dad had lied up ALL my shoes in numerous rows in the front hall, with a handwritten sign saying, ‘Imelda Marcos’ Closet!’, which made me laugh. i realized that evening that i have wayy too many red shoes, but i lowve ’em. =)

    i’m afraid i can’t remember that specific passage at the moment (there were so many passages i loved from the book, as you can tell if you look at the number of folded pages in the photo!), but it sounds exactly like something that would have been mentioned in An Unexpected Light. thank you for sharing that story; that’s beautiful. i need to remember that – i hate winter and being cold, and i live in california, so i don’t really even have cause to complain, as my noncalifornian friends constantly remind me. sigh.

    constructive attitude,
    oh, well, in THAT case, i just might have a few more recommendations for you, too! =) shall have to remember to fit ’em into a post sometime soon. meanwhile, go read An Unexpected Light! i’m excited you’re so excited to read it. let me know how you like!

    toooootally a hippy! and an idealistic hippie, to boot! okay, you and PPP can teach me how to dance, but i still WANT a hula-hoop. must have. the end.

    of my entire fake review, you liked that part the most? glad to know. he writes beautifully, and i really think you would enjoy this book; the poetry of it would appeal to you, i think. also, i like this ‘ASAP’ plan of yours – yes, yes, go do some reading!

  6. First of all, I must say yay! to a new entry. :)

    And second of all, YAY! to loitering in parks! Funny thing, I just went this past Sunday and played volleyball barefoot in the rain with new friends. :)

    Also, I read about your hula hoops plan and I think you should go for it! And document those videos too, please. In fact, hula hooping sounds like way too much fun and I’ll do it if you do it. ;)

  7. (Love the first picture, suits the title well)

    People are always giving me greif when it comes to books and folding the corner of pages, especially Twee librariens, who have a nack of shoving bookmarks into the books whilst their checking them out. Hey it adds character to the book ;)
    I’ll be looking it up, sounds like a good reccomendation to me ;)

  8. I believe you should lease a hula hoop. This is better if you want to move to the latest model in a few years. Come into my office for a few quotes, I have the best prices in the area. No hassle!

  9. Interview Request

    Hello Dear and Respected,
    I hope you are fine and carrying on the great work you have been doing for the Internet surfers. I am Ghazala Khan from The Pakistani Spectator (TPS), We at TPS throw a candid look on everything happening in and for Pakistan in the world. We are trying to contribute our humble share in the webosphere. Our aim is to foster peace, progress and harmony with passion.

    We at TPS are carrying out a new series of interviews with the notable passionate bloggers, writers, and webmasters. In that regard, we would like to interview you, if you don’t mind. Please send us your approval for your interview at my email address “ghazala.khi at”, so that I could send you the Interview questions. We would be extremely grateful.


    Ghazala Khan
    The Pakistani Spectator

  10. Salam Yasmine and Ramadan Murbarak to you and your family. As a supplement to this wonderful book you recommended, I thought you might be interested in a special exhibit that is heading to San Fran in October (your neck of the woods I believe?). If you have the chance to catch it I highly recommend it … fascinating stuff and the story behind it is just amazing. I was lucky enough to catch it this past weekend in DC. Here’s a link for more information ….

    Take care – khoda hafiz.

  11. I found my hula hoop at Kay Bee Toys, they might still have them there. :D

    Great book recommendation too, I heard about An Unexpected Light a while ago and then forgot. I’ll add it to my queue!

  12. Books on Afghanistan have been jumping out at me from the bushes lately. This has to be the fifth time. One actually dropped on my head (wobbly bookshelf)…

    You’ve made this one irresistible after: “Elliot sees them as dignified and beautiful, inside and out, because, for him, they are first and foremost profoundly human.” :)

    People like that, writers or not, are SO!! rare.

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