News / USA

US Woman's Afghan Experience Inspires Novel

Patricia McArdle incorporates real-life occurrences into fictional tale

Multimedia

Audio
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

UN Watchdog Urges Israel to Probe Possible Gaza War Crimes

More than 2,100 Palestinians, most of them civilians, were killed in a 51-day war in Gaza, along with 67 Israeli soldiers and six civilians in Israel More

New Kenyan 'Thin SIMs' Poised to Transform African Mobile Money

Equity's new technology is approved in African nation for one-year trial, though industry leader Safaricom says thin SIMs could lead to data theft and fraud More

Solar's Future Looks Brighter

New technology and dropping prices are contributing to a surge in solar power 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.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid