Loch Awe in spring - Photo courtesy of Neil Donald Photography






Sunday, 25 November 2012

Drunk Chickens and Burnt Macaroni

I’m feeling very greedy – but very happy – to have two books published this year. Back in September my debut poetry collection Thousands Pass Here Every Day was published by Indigo Dreams Publishing and now my narrative non-fiction is about to hit the bookshelves.

Drunk Chickens and Burnt Macaroni: Real Stories of Afghan Women is about the women, and their families, with whom I was privileged to live and work for several years. With Afghanistan very much in the news at the moment I hope my book will appeal to people who want to know what life is like for ordinary people who have lived with war as a background to their lives for decades.

I spent several years in Afghanistan, from when the Soviets left to when Taliban was poised at the gates of Kabul in 1996. I lived in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif and in the rural mountainous region of Hazara Jat in the centre of the country and returned ten years later to visit friends – we were quite possibly the only tourists in the country. Our visas were granted by return of post – the quickest I’ve ever had a visa stamped in my passport.

I wanted to write a book which showed a different perspective of women’s lives from the one usually depicted by the media. Despite the hardships in their lives – and there are many – the women are not all helpless downtrodden victims, but determined to make the best of life for themselves and their families.

I have been incredibly fortunate to have had some of our country’s best writers provide testimonials for Drunk Chickens and Burnt Macaroni. If an author blowing her own trumpet doesn’t encourage you to investigate further perhaps the words of award winning author Eileen Ramsay might. She said: “At last, a book about Afghanistan written by someone who not only lived and worked there for several years but who obviously has a deep understanding and fondness for this troubled land and its peoples. As the mother of a serving British soldier, I have looked high and low for information that would help me understand why my son and so many others feel that their struggle in Afghanistan is 'right'.  Ms Smith has helped by introducing the reader of this truly beautiful book to some of the people, mostly women, with whom she lived.  I embarrassed myself and my husband by bursting into tears on a train while reading about the struggles of some of these remarkable women; an hour later, I found myself laughing out loud at the antics of others.”

Robin Yassin-Kassab, author, journalist and political blogger, described the book as “honest and unsentimental, intimate and comical, bringing Afghanistan into focus beyond the headlines and political posturing.”

Author of The Gathering Night, Margaret Elphinstone said: “Heroism is the keynote of this book - the kind of courage that struggles to make ordinary life worth living in the face of war, repression and reprisal. We encounter Afghan women who fight to be healthy, to control their fertility, to bring up strong children, to lead fulfilling lives: not exactly front-page news, but that’s the point. Smith brings her Afghan friends into such sharp focus that the reader is soon absorbed in their lives. These are the real lives behind the headlines; and such lives.”

And if you want to know why those chickens were drunk you need to buy the book. Drunk Chickens and Burnt Macaroni: Real Stories of Afghan Women is available direct from the publisher, Indigo Dreams (who pay their taxes), on Amazon (who can offer discounts and free postage because they don’t) or in good bookshops – if they don’t have it in stock ask them to order it.

Join me on a journey from the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif (where you can meet the chickens) to the remote mountainous region of Hazara Jat and get to know my Afghan friends and their families.

12 comments:

  1. Fabulous post, Mary and the testimonials brought a tear to my eye. Having loved 'No More Mulberries', I know this will be authentic, heart-warming and informative. Loev the title and cover!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for your lovely comments, Rosemary. I do feel very privilged to have received such wonderful testimonials from some really wonderful writers.

    ReplyDelete
  3. This is so humbling, Mary.....I wish you - and those Afghan women - every success with it.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thank you for your good wishes, Linda.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I look forward to getting this, Mary. Such accounts afford invaluable insights into a world most of us can never see - and will remain a testament to people's lives long after they, the author and I have all departed this world! Well done for writing it - hope you will have copies with you on Friday?

    ReplyDelete
  6. Jenny, thank you, I hope you will enjoy reading it. I'm afraid I won't be there on Friday (dad duties!)so you'd have to buy it from Amazon or direct from the publishers or a bookshop.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Tantalising glimpses of the book, Mary. Can't wait to read it (but refuse to order from Amazon any more!).

    ReplyDelete
  8. Thanks, Gill. I admire your stand on Amazon - on the other hand, I'd rather like some sales!

    ReplyDelete
  9. I look forward to reading this book Mary and surely such wonderful reviews will help to sell it - if only we could get more followers for ths blog. I will try to Tweet it but you know my skills are limited.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Gwen, if you could tweet that would be good. Linda is always very good at sharing it with her Facebook friends - thanks, Linda, I saw it on Facebook.

    ReplyDelete
  11. For the record ladies, Choc Lit usually RT all my tweets so that should bring in some viewers - although not all those who look leave a comment...:)

    ReplyDelete
  12. That's good to know, Linda.
    As for people not leaving a comment - sometimes it may be they can't! I've struggled for ages to leave comments on some blogs to which I'm signed up. The problem with those is that some other Mary Smith has already signed up and has a different password so when I leave a comment I'm told I've used an incorrect password. Very frustrating and I'm still seeking a solution.

    ReplyDelete