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Synopsis

Includes a Reading Group Guide and Author Q&A

From her first humanitarian visit to Afghanistan in 1994, Suraya Sadeed has been personally delivering relief and hope to Afghan orphans and refugees, to women and girls in inhuman situations deemed too dangerous for other aid workers or for journalists. Her memoir of these missions, Forbidden Lessons in a Kabul Guesthouse, is as unconventional as the woman who has lived it. This is no humanitarian missive; it is an adventure story with heart.

To help the Afghan people, Suraya has flown in a helicopter piloted by a man who was stoned beyond reason. She has traveled through mountain passes on horseback alongside mules, teenage militiamen, and Afghan leaders. She has stared defiantly into the eyes of members of the Taliban and of the Mujahideen who were determined to slow or stop her. She has hidden and carried $100,000 in aid, strapped to her stomach, into ruined villages. She has built clinics. She has created secret schools for Afghan girls. She has dedicated the second half of her life to the education and welfare of Afghan women and children, founding the organization Help the Afghan Children (HTAC) to fund her efforts.

Suraya was born the daughter of the governor of Kabul amid grand walls, beautiful gardens, and peace. In the aftermath of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, she fled to the United States with her husband, their young daughter, their I-94 papers, and little else. In America, she became the workaholic owner of a prosperous real estate company, enjoying all the worldly comforts anyone could want, but when a personal tragedy struck in the early 1990s, Suraya seriously questioned how she was living and soon sharply changed the direction of her life.

Now, in Forbidden Lessons in a Kabul Guesthouse, she shares her story of passion, courage, and love, painting a complex portrait of Afghanistan, its people, and its foreign visitors that defies every stereotype and invites us all to contribute to the lives of others and to hope.

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