We all have our war epics—Gone With the Wind, War and Peace, Dr. Zhivago—that serve to entertain and educate us about a particular time in history. However, sometimes the value of a war epic is not in its ability to entertain or its historical accuracy. Although a mere 256 pages compared to Gone With the Wind’s 1,000-plus, The Story of my Life: An Afghan Girl on the Other Side of the Sky is a deeply moving firsthand account of growing up in war-torn Afghanistan, powerfully told by Farah Ahmedi, who was just seventeen at the time of its publication.
Born in Kabul during the war between the Mujahedeen and the Soviet Union, Farah grows up accustomed to the sounds of gunfire and fighter planes. She attends a school with limited resources: no books, more students than seats and frequent school cancellations due to rockets and bombings; nonetheless, she is a spirited girl with a passion for learning. One day, seven-year-old Farah steps on a landmine in a rush to get to school on time, and only then does the warfare and international relations of her home country become all too real to her.
In addition to the loss of her leg, Farah eventually suffers the loss of most of her immediate family, until she is left with only her mother to travel with as a refugee throughout Pakistan. The two endure harsh conditions in refugee camps, as well as the trials of slave labor, until they are rescued by World Relief and moved to Chicago, where they begin their lives anew.
Farah is a pleasant and perceptive narrator, able to objectively analyze the differences between the Afghan and American cultures. Her adjustment to life in the United States is poignantly portrayed, as she struggles to come to terms with her past and outright refuses special treatment for her having a prosthetic leg. Her strength of will in the face of unimaginable obstacles drives the narrative and inspires readers to wish her well throughout her journey.
Currently Farah serves as a United Nations ambassador for the Adopt-a-Minefield program, as well as founder of her own charitable program, Farah’s Wings of Hope. Her story of survival and perseverance serves as an inspirational coming-of-age portrait of a girl of indomitable spirit and endurance. Needless to say, her book is highly recommended.