Book Review: Drunk Chickens and Burnt Macaroni by Mary Smith

I worked for ten years in Pakistan and Afghanistan for a small health organisation. Drunk Chickens and Burnt Macaroni: Real Lives of Afghan Women is a memoir covering three of the years I worked in Afghanistan, with a section on a more recent visit after the fall of the Taliban regime.

More than a memoir, though, it introduces readers to real Afghan women and their families. These are women who will never be in the news headlines, will never be famous – they are the ordinary women who live their day-to-day lives against a backdrop of war. Yet, mostly the war recedes into the background as the women train to become health volunteers in their villages in the Hazara Jat region in central Afghanistan, or in the city of Mazar-i-Sharif. They worry about their children’s health, education, chances in life. They laugh and cry, fall in love – not always with their husbands – and show a tremendous zest for life despite the hardships they face. For the rural women that means no running water, no electricity, not proper sanitation or medical resources.

If you think all Afghan women are downtrodden and repressed (as so often depicted by the news media and in various novels) forget it – many of these women are strong and feisty and by no means silent when it comes to decision-making. It was some of the women, with whom I formed life-long friendships who urged me to write this book – they wanted a book which would not focus on Commanders and Mujahideen and which did not depict women as veiled ghost-like creatures flitting through the shadows.

Meet Jemila, Latifa, Benazir and lots of other women who storm through the pages of Drunk Chickens and Burnt Macaroni, doing all they can to improve life for themselves and their families. You will like them.

And if you want to know why the chickens were drunk (they were also happy) and the macaroni burnt you’ll have to buy the book!

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