The Bookseller spotlights “My Dear Kabul”

Discover August Reads & Bookseller Previews

Natasha Omwuemezi featured My Dear Kabul in her ‘Discover August’ reads in The Bookseller print edition on 5th July 2024. My Dear Kabul is also listed online in Caroline Sanderson’s non-fiction previews for August 2024.

Excerpt from “My Pen Is The Wing Of A Bird”


Service95 is a global editorial platform founded by Dua Lipa. Issue 102 was inspired by Dua’s Monthly Read for February, A Thousand Splendid Suns. Titled Women In Resistance, it was dedicated to incredible Afghan women. The platform featured an excerpt by Batool Haidari from My Pen Is The Wing Of A Bird: New Fiction By Afghan Women.

“Sharing their true stories”

The Week Junior

In the January 2024 issue of children’s newspaper The Week Junior, Batool Haidari, one of the contributors to Rising After the Fall is interviewed for The Week Junior’s Book Club. 

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“Breaking stereotypes that their country is only about war…”

The Markaz Review

On 3 December 2023, the Markaz Review published an article by Untold’s Paranda Network project co-ordinator Lillie Razvi, telling the story of how the programme has developed since it was established in 2019.

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“Remarkable women … and remarkable conversations”

Naga Munchetty, BBC Radio 5 Live

On 27 November 2023, Untold writer Marie Bamyani and co-editors Zarghuna Kargar and Lucy Hannah spoke to BBC Radio 5 Live presenter Naga Munchetty about the women writers of the Paranda network and the story behind ‘Rising After the Fall: Afghan Women Share Their Stories’.

Listen (at 40.55)

“An important initiative to promote these otherwise less heard voices”

Handelsblatt, Germany

Published to mark Untold’s partner, KfW Stiftung, being awarded the Kulturkreis der Deutschen Wirtschaft – the German Cultural Sponsorship Prize 2022/2023 – this article in Handelsblatt describes Untold’s work in Germany, in collaboration with Weiter Schreiben.

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“Moving, profound and memorable.”         
Buzzfeed, US
Ahead of the US publication of ‘My Wing is the Pen of the Bird’ on 18 October 2022, Buzzfeed featured the anthology on its ‘Best Releases in October’.
Farah Penn writes: This translated anthology contains moving, profound, and memorable short stories written by Afghan women inspired by their lives and explores topics of friendship, political policies, family, culture, and more.

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“[These] stories form a remarkable portrait of lives largely invisible to readers outside Afghanistan. This brims with humanity.”         
Publishers Weekly, US

This revelatory anthology of stories grew out of the Write Afghanistan project, which connected editors and translators to Afghan writers, many of whom use pseudonyms to protect their safety. Though a handful of entries are inspired by news events […] most show glimpses into the day-to-day lives of Afghan women and girls, taking place against the backdrop of four decades of conflict, with episodes of violence happening just outside the frame. 

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“This intense collection does inspire hope that Afghan women and girls will persevere” NPR, US

This week marks a year since the Taliban regained control of Afghanistan, a bitter anniversary for many Afghans and foreigners, like me, who lived and worked there […] But the Taliban hasn’t succeeded in silencing the female half of Afghan society, whose voices at home and abroad ring out in two new and powerful anthologies: We Are Still Here: Afghan Women on Courage, Freedom and the Fight to Be Heard and My Pen Is the Wing of A Bird.

Read more…

“How We Live Now: Afghanistan’s Women Speak” Financial Times

Over the course of a year of Taliban rule, a group of women writers (the contributors of the anthology ‘My Pen Is The Wing of a Bird’) share their thoughts, fears and dreams via a messaging app.

With the fall of Kabul on August 15 2021 and the Taliban’s reinstatement of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, women across the country had to find ways to cope with their lives being turned upside down swiftly and unexpectedly.  A group of women writers aged 22 to 60, from different provinces and ethnic groups, found reassurance by creating an online diary, shared via a messaging app and facilitated by Untold.

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“A hugely ambitious project” The Guardian

When Lucy Hannah decided to put together an anthology of short stories by Afghan women in 2019, it already seemed like a hugely ambitious project. Most of the authors involved had never had the opportunity to work with an editor before. One contributor submitted her story by taking photos of handwritten pages and sending them via WhatsApp. Read more…

“These stories […] reiterate how much Afghan women could again say and do, if only they were allowed to.” The Economist

The story of Ajah, or grandmother, begins with a child, born in 1905 in Chimtal, a district of the Balkh province of northern Afghanistan. The girl is orphaned at seven, when tuberculosis kills her parents, and is married off at 12. Her husband is paralysed after falling on a mountain path while searching for a cure for his infertility. Read more…

“Vivid snapshots of a country beset by war and violence, where misogyny is rife but women continue to dream of a better future.” The Financial Times

Untold is a development programme that works with marginalised writers, particularly those in areas with recent or ongoing conflict. Between 2019 and 2021, Untold’s Write Afghanistan project worked with 18 emerging female writers to develop and translate their creative writing. The result is this arresting collection of stories. Read more…

“A revolutionary collection of short stories from Afghanistan sees women writers take back their creative power”
BBC Radio 4 – Open Book

Elizabeth Day talks to Lucy Hannah and explores Untold’s new collection of fiction from Afghan writers. Listen here [13:53]

“An authentic and arresting collection of tales that are unlike any you may have read before” Whistles

Coming at a pivotal moment in Afghanistan’s history, My Pen Is The Wing Of A Bird amplifies the voices of Afghan women who, until now, have struggled to get their stories out. Untold, an initiative founded by Creative Producer and Programme Director Lucy Hannah, works closely with marginalised groups, helping them develop their work and write the stories they want to tell in their own words. Read more…

“An extraordinary project” Monocle Radio

Georgina Godwin sits down with Lucy Hannah, founder and director of Untold and its Write Afghanistan project, and Shekiba Habib, translator and journalist with the BBC Afghan service, to discuss My Pen Is the Wing of a Bird. Listen here.

“The Afghan women writing for freedom” Intelligence Squared

Afghan women’s voices are at increasing risk of being silenced and as more of their rights slip away, so do their stories. In this episode we hear from three women from the Untold writers programme, who are the co-creators of My Pen is the Wing of a Bird, a new anthology of Afghan women’s fiction. Lucy Hannah , Zarghuna Kargaar and Marie Bamyani.  [18 May 2022 · 32 minutes] Listen here.

My Pen is the Wing of a Bird [is] little short of a miracle.”
The Sydney Morning Herald

An anthology of short fiction by Afghan women might have seemed like a difficult project even in 2019 when it was first mooted. Since then, the pandemic and the resumption of Taliban rule have made the publication of My Pen is the Wing of the Bird little short of a miracle. Collected by Lucy Hannah from over 300 submissions across both urban and rural Afghanistan, these short tales draw insight and lyricism from lives lived in the shadow of war, violence, and relentless misogyny. Read more…

“This book is a powerful reminder […] that everyone has a story and every story matters.” Mint Lounge

No part of life in the last couple of years has remained unmarked by the various global disasters surrounding us: a pandemic, economic crisis, wars. My Pen is the Wing of a Bird, an anthology of short fiction by marginalized Afghan women (the first collection of short fiction by Afghan women in English translation, it says), had to survive the pandemic and the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in mid-2021. Yet, despite every obstacle, the writers finished their stories. Read more…

“Centring the experiences of Afghan women and girls” The Arts Desk

My pen is the wing of a bird; it will tell you those thoughts we are not allowed to think, those dreams we are not allowed to dream.” Batool Haidari’s words give this bold collection of stories its title and epigraph. She is one of 18 writers from the Write Afghanistan project, run by the organisation Untold which works to promote the work of writers in communities marginalised by conflict. Read more…

“Though the stories are often challenging, the writers grant their characters moments of connection, and grace” Asian Review of Books

My Pen Is the Wing of a Bird came about through the efforts of Untold Narratives, a UK-based organization which works to develop and amplify the work of writers marginalized by social, geopolitical or economic isolation, particularly those in areas with recent or ongoing conflict. Read more…

Excerpt of an article by Dr Negeen Kargar in Lekkwal
“How did you live if you have no story to tell?” Dostoevsky wrote in his book, White Nights. Batool is writing about transgender, she breaks the silence of the Buddha of Bamiyan. In Batool’s story, the Buddha’s patience is broken, and he tells silently and patiently in the ear of the story character to seek for himself. It tells the story of a young man who has a woman inside him. When he’s alone, he wears women’s clothing and makeup and lives for a few moments.  It is a sad fact of our society that we do not accept it. We do not get the identity of the person born that way. It is a story of doomed people in Afghan society.  Lekkwal is a Pashto base printed magazine in Khaibar Pakhtunkhwa since 1992.

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