From the Publisher
Soon after the fall of the Taliban, in 2001, Deborah Rodriguez went
to Afghanistan as part of a group offering humanitarian aid to this
war-torn nation. Surrounded by men and women whose skills-as
doctors, nurses, and therapists-seemed eminently more practical
than her own, Rodriguez, a hairdresser and mother of two from
Michigan, despaired of being of any real use. Yet she soon found
she had a gift for befriending Afghans, and once her profession
became known she was eagerly sought out by Westerners desperate for
a good haircut and by Afghan women, who have a long and proud
tradition of running their own beauty salons. Thus an idea was
With the help of corporate and international sponsors, the Kabul
Beauty School welcomed its first class in 2003. Well meaning but
sometimes brazen, Rodriguez stumbled through language barriers,
overstepped cultural customs, and constantly juggled the challenges
of a postwar nation even as she learned how to empower her students
to become their families' breadwinners by learning the fundamentals
of coloring techniques, haircutting, and makeup.
Yet within the small haven of the beauty school, the line between
teacher and student quickly blurred as these vibrant women shared
with Rodriguez their stories and their hearts: the newlywed who
faked her virginity on her wedding night, the twelve-year-old bride
sold into marriage to pay her family's debts, the Taliban member's
wife who pursued her training despite her husband's constant
beatings. Through these and other stories, Rodriguez found the
strength to leave her own unhealthy marriage and allow herself to
love again, Afghan style.
With warmth and humor, Rodriguez details the lushness of a
seemingly desolate region and reveals the magnificence behind the
burqa. Kabul Beauty School is a remarkable tale of an
extraordinary community of women who come together and learn the
arts of perms, friendship, and freedom.
From the Hardcover edition.
About the Author
Deborah Rodriguez has been as a hairdresser since 1979, except for
one brief stint when she worked as a corrections officer in her
hometown of Holland, Michigan. She currently directs the Kabul
Beauty School, the first modern beauty academy and training salon
in Afghanistan. Rodriguez also owns the Oasis Salon and the Cabul
Coffee House. She lives in Kabul with her Afghan husband.
From the Hardcover edition.
1. We so often think of ourselves as more socially advanced than
Middle Eastern nations. What does it say about this assumption that
the author was treated by a preacher husband in the US the same way
that Nahhida, wife of a Taliban member, is treated in
2. Did Debbie take a chance of repeating her abusive history by
marrying a relatively unknown man from a culture with a reputation
for mistreating women?
3. Were you shocked when she revealed that her husband had
4. Why do you think Debbie was so emotional upon meeting Sam's
father? Would you have been eager to meet him or preferred not to?
Were you surprised at his reaction?
5. As a mother of two, was Debbie irresponsible in taking risks
like crossing the Khyber pass and confronting her neighbors? Should
she have gone to Afghanistan at all, knowing the conditions in the
6. Debbie's "bad" neighbors were potentially dangerous. What
would you have done in her situation? How would the ineffectiveness
of the local police make you feel?
7. Was it foolish for Debbie to continue running the beauty
school in the face of government interference and hostility?
8. Debbie goes to Afghanistan in order to change the lives of
women there and give them greater power in their personal lives, a
mission that she has fulfilled for many women. How have these women
9. Does the example of a strong self-sufficient woman Debbie
sets for the Afghan women provide them with helpful inspiration or
does it set a dangerous precedent, encouraging them to model
behaviors and aspirations that might be dangerous to them in their
10. Would you have let a known Taliban member, and opium addict
at that, stay under your roof in order to help his wife? How
dangerous do you think this decision really was?
11. Why do you think Hama was unable to follow through and
accept the generous offer of a place to live and a new life in the
12. How would you have reacted if your son offered to marry
Hama? Would you have encouraged him? Argued against it?
13. How do you think American women are similar to and, at the
same time, different from the Afghan women Debbie befriended and
14. Did it surprise you to read about some of the frank
discussions and depictions of sex among the Afghan women at the
beauty salon and the wedding that Debbie attended?
15. Do you think it was wise for Debbie to help Roshanna escape
detection as a non-virgin on her wedding night? Would you have
chosen to interfere? Why or why not?
About the Book
Rodriguez went to Afghanistan in 2002, just after the fall of the Taliban, volunteering as a nurse's aide, but soon found that her skills as a trained hairdresser were far more in demand. "Kabul Beauty School" is her witty and insightful memoir of friendship and perseverance.