News / USA

US Woman's Afghan Experience Inspires Novel

Patricia McArdle incorporates real-life occurrences into fictional tale

Multimedia

Audio
TEXT SIZE - +
Faiza Elmasry

"Farishta" means 'angel' in Dari, the widely spoken language in northern Afghanistan. It’s also the title of a novel by Patricia McArdle, a retired American diplomat who spent a year in Afghanistan.

'Farishta' is a novel by Patricia McArdle, a retired American diplomat who spent a year in Afghanistan.
'Farishta' is a novel by Patricia McArdle, a retired American diplomat who spent a year in Afghanistan.

Over her 27-year career as a U.S. diplomat, McArdle served in Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean and Europe. But it was her last assignment in Afghanistan that inspired her to write about her experiences.

However, instead of a memoir, she opted to write a novel inspired by real people and events.

“I couldn’t really use their names without compromising their safety and the work they’re doing in Afghanistan," she says.

So she wrote a novel, hoping to convey the same message a memoir would.

"I created fictional characters that are composites of people I knew, the people I met. Some of the incidents are based on real incidents that happened to me. Others are incidents that happened to other people," says McArdle. "But I think I was able to be freer to express my opinions sometimes through the voices of my characters.”

"Farishta" tells a story of Angela Morgan, a mid-career diplomat who overcomes personal tragedy to discover a new life and new sense of purpose.

After losing her husband in a terrorist bombing in Beirut and dealing with post traumatic stress disorder, Morgan is forced to choose between early retirement or assignment to an isolated British army compound in northern Afghanistan.

At the small camp in Mazar-e-Sharif, she receives a cold welcome from the British soldiers and from Rahim, a young interpreter who makes it clear he is not pleased to be working for a woman.

“What I tried to capture in Rahim was this clash of cultures because he is an educated young man and he wants to be a modern person in the modern world, but he still has this male dominated culture that he has to struggle against," says McArdle. "So with his relationship with Angela, I tried to deal with it in that way. Then when he begins his romance with Nilofar, he is also dealing with a very Western but Afghan woman. And I hoped to portray the struggle that I saw some young men facing.”

Nilofar is a law student who embodies the struggle McArdle saw young Afghan women facing.

The author's first view of Afghan women, as she was driven in an armored convoy from the airport to the embassy in Kabul, was of them walking along the street in the blue burqas.

"But I began, after I was there for a while, to meet some women who were doing very brave things," she says. "I met women lawyers, doctors, who were trying to help other women in their society. And some of them were really taking great risks. And I was so impressed with what they were doing. I did see a lot of women going to school and I met school teachers, who were trying to educate women, which is very impressive.”

However, McArdle believes Afghan women still have a long way to go to improve their legal, economic and social status and to be part of their country’s future.

Patricia McArdle with a solar cooker, similar to the one she introduced to Afghan villagers.
Patricia McArdle with a solar cooker, similar to the one she introduced to Afghan villagers.

Several scenes in "Farishta" mirror McArdle’s experiences working with Afghan communities to improve their future.

In the novel, Angela notices that children spend their days gathering firewood for their mothers’ cookstoves. She shows them how to fashion a solar cooker, which is what McArdle once did, at a meeting with local officials in an Afghan village.

“I built a little solar cooker out of a cardboard box and aluminum foil. I set it up in a village, where we had a meeting. I poured a liter of water into a pot, put the cooker on the ground, pointed it at the sun and went on to the meeting. We were in a meeting with the district governor for about an hour. When we came out, the pot was boiling," she says.

Since returning from Afghanistan, McArdle has become an advocate of sustainable, renewable energy and a promoter of integrated solar thermal technology. She’s also joined Secretary of State Hilary Clinton’s new Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves initiative.

McArdle says these simple technologies should be embraced as Afghanistan rebuilds.

"It disappoints me that our construction is required to follow international building codes, so we’re bringing in cement and cinder blocks and putting up buildings that require generators to run ventilation systems because without those ventilation systems these buildings in the winter are too cold and in the summer are too hot. I would like to see us focus more on traditional Afghan building, helping them maybe make slight improvements. Let the Afghans use their own techniques to re-build their own country.”

You May Like

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

John the XXIII and John Paul II will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square on April 27 More

Thailand Reacts to Plots Targeting Israelis

Authorities hope arrest of two Lebanese suspects will disrupt plot to attack young Israeli tourists More

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

'Once Upon a Forest' takes viewers deep into heart of tropical rainforest More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Churchi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
Jerome Socolovsky
April 22, 2014 4:14 PM
On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Robotic Mission Kicks Up Lunar Dust

A robotic mission to the moon was deliberately crashed onto the lunar surface late last week, but not before scientists had collected data gathered by the spacecraft which was designed to self-destruct. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports on the preliminary findings of the craft, called LADEE - an acronym for Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer.
Video

Video Boko Haram Claims Responsibility for Bombing in Nigerian Capital

The Nigerian militant group known as Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for a bombing in the capital on April 14th that killed 75 people. In the video message, Abubakar Shekau, the man who says he ordered the bombing, says nothing about the mass abduction of more than 100 teenage girls, most of whom are still missing. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Abuja.
Video

Video Ukraine Developments Hang Over Obama Trip to Asia

President Barack Obama's trip to Asia this week comes as concerns over Beijing's territorial ambitions are growing in the region. Those concerns have been compounded by Russia's recent actions in Ukraine and the possibility that Chinese strategists might be looking to Crimea as a model for its territorial disputes with its neighbors. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid