Saber Azam explores the history of Afghanistan throughout the last several decades through the eyes of a resilient and courageous woman named Soraya. The story has an honest voice as Azam captures the sorrow and tragedy that befell the people under the rulers which begins in the 1960s. This is inspired by the amazing life of Soraya Ludin who at the time became the only woman from her country to graduate from the University of London. The aim of the book is to explore two stories: the inefficiency and ignorance of Afghanistan’s leaders and to show through Soraya’s eyes how women are perceived. The goal is to pay tribute to the amazing Afghan women through a fictional story that holds a lot of truth and heart.
Soraya’s life is explored beginning with her childhood which lets you see the thoughtful and curious girl she was and how she becomes the amazing woman that she becomes. The story is an evolution that goes from her childhood to her adulthood which is set against the backdrop of Afghanistan’s own evolution politically. As a young girl, she was full of curiosity which serves as a catalyst for the strong-willed woman that speaks her mind and her beliefs. Her carefree spirit is seen through the way she views the world and, in her wish, to fly like a bird so to see everything. Her father is an influential figure in her life and her inspiration as he is the one that nurtured her curiosity and answered all her questions, teaching her to value learning. He is also an important political figure that sought to do big things such as highways, hydroelectric dams, and other revolutionary feats which is a desire for progress and change that is passed on to Soraya.
Azam captures the essence of Afghanistan through details that explore the community, the people, and the beauty of it. These details are told with love and respect to bring the political issues that plagued the country throughout the decades with sincerity and honesty. The story weaves together two points; the changing politics of Afghanistan and the role of women through the inspiring tale of Soraya’s life. The story weaves through Afghanistan’s liberation and the failure of the leaders while also bringing out the heart of the country through its spirit, forbearance, and beauty.
Soraya evolves from a young girl speaking out in class over a dispute about a fact in American history to a resilient woman that speaks out and does not back down to do what is right. Various important women are included throughout with a few being: Queen Soraya who went unveiled in public, Indira Gandhi who is described as a parallel to Soraya, and the unforgettable Simone Veil that has the same determination and strong-will as Soraya. Her way of seeing the wonder within the world is heightened throughout her travels which allows her learn and grow, while seeing the struggle of the people.
Soraya: The Other Princess is an incredible story of courage, resilience, and inspiration that though being a fictional tale it is told with honesty, integrity, and heart that shines a light on an incredible woman and shows the strength of the Afghanistan women.
Hollywood Book Reviews
"Unlike other females of her generation, she dared to address all men, stare straight into their eyes, state substance and logic, and refute unsubstantiated claims."
In the introduction, AZAM is vigilant to tell us this is “in no manner Soraya’s biography.” This is only a synopsis of the overall neglect and suppression of women in Afghanistan. This thinly veiled fictional account is inspired by his friend Soraya Ludin’s life. She is the daughter of politician and Afghan diplomat Kabir Ludin. AZAM’s four-decade friendship with her and admiration prompted him to pen his “own recollection of her dazzling personality and remarkable endeavors for Afghanistan.” He dedicates the book to “all Afghan women.”
AZAM paints Afghanistan as a beautiful country but reminds us it is a land ravaged by blood and war. He describes the landlocked territory as an “ornament of lofty mountains, deep valleys, coarse deserts, and quaint four-season plains.” It is a place that has moved and inspired “poets, writers, and philosophers to describe heaven.” Yet, the country is mired by a complex geopolitical landscape that sees cycles of “violence, revenge, and mistrust” impacting the region with its communities “built on wealth and power” for centuries.
The book centers on the fictional Soraya, an only child born in 1945 with “bright green eyes and magnificently long limbs.” She earns the nickname “Emerald” by the family cook in reverence for her “priceless beauty.” She is naturally inquisitive with an eye for discovery. Her curiosity and love of reading nourish a close relationship with her father, Zamir Suri. He provides his beloved daughter with the best of education at home and overseas. He patiently indulges her serious questions and debates. Zamir, referred to as Mr. Suri throughout much of the narrative, is a “renowned, educated, and handsome lawyer.” He believes in “robust reforms” for Afghanistan but is unable to prevent the inevitable regression from political fallouts. Where the country fails, Zamir quietly provides for his daughter. He ensures for her a good life and the ability to travel. In turn, Soraya grows up as a strong woman with powerful beliefs and empathy for the plight of others.
As Soraya matures from childhood to adulthood, she learns of the inequalities of human nature. She meets major figures, such as Richard Nixon, Queen Elizabeth II, King Amanullah Khan, and Queen Soraya (with whom she shares her name). She is worldly and beautiful and kind, which makes for a terrific protagonist we can support. We follow Soraya as she comes of age in the world and as she witnesses the turmoil of her motherland through pivotal years and notable historical events. The injustices of her peoples and those abroad influence her deeply, and we experience them with her too.
AZAM clearly knows his history. His book is carefully built, progressing through the significant events that shape Soraya’s character. While much of the action centers on Afghanistan, it is a global affair, all of which shapes Soraya’s life. At times, the book seems unsure if it should be historical fiction or a historical biography. The text is densely packed with historical facts, real figures, and details. This makes for delightful reading to history lovers, but the average reader may be a bit overwhelmed as they search for the story buried within. Yet, without this history, we don’t have Soraya. And it is refreshing to see this history through the viewpoint of a young heroine—one who gives us hope, who cares for people and the world, and who advocates fiercely for equality for all.
There is much to appreciate in AZAM’s book, and there is little doubt of the work put into crafting it. Soraya’s journey is almost majestic in its course. Through her, we learn of the good and bad of humanity, of diverse customs and traditions, and how a variety of people make this planet extraordinary. Because of the volume of names and information provided, AZAM includes a list of “Abbreviations and Names Used” as a reference to help readers throughout the text. Also included is a section of “Important Quotes,” which the author pulls from scripture in the Koran and notable quotes from the mouths of world leaders such as Nelson Mandel, Mahatma Gandhi, and Martin Luther King, Jr. These quotes are selected for their importance and deemed by the author as “food for thought.”
AZAM harnesses the power of history to give us this weighty tale of one woman’s courage to stand up for what is right. It does not make for light reading, but it is a book readers can marvel at. It is a book where readers can learn and understand the complexities of politics and cultures on an international scale and their impact on us for generations.
The US Review of Books
Saber Azam takes the reader through life in Afghanistan, the culture, religion, and politics of the country in Soraya: The Other Princess. This is a fictional story inspired by Soraya Ludin, the daughter of Kabir Ludin, who was an Afghan scholar, politician, and diplomat. Through Soraya, we see how hard Afghan women have to work to achieve even a tiny amount of success. The author gives geographical and historical information about Afghanistan, her people, and the steps the country has taken over the years.
Curious from a young age, Soraya experimented with almost everything she came across. Her bold nature and analytical personality made her both inquisitive and sharp. Having someone like Mr. Zamir Suri in her life was an advantage to Soraya as she was able to learn a lot from the man and even borrow some of his traits. This helped shape her morally, spiritually, and academically. The political lessons readers learn in this book are immense. The author writes about the Taliban and how the movement changed life in the country. Being controlled by an organization that believed in extreme ideologies was unfortunate. The Taliban made women and children suffer under their rule.
Afghanis lived one day at a time, not knowing what the Taliban would plan next. Every day was a dark day. Saber Azam writes how the organization targeted victims, killed and disregarded the human rights of those that opposed them. Reading this book makes you understand that there are more marginalized communities in this part of the world than one can imagine. Some of the things which occur today have not changed since the 1950s and 1960s. Soraya observed how African Americans were treated as second class citizens in the U.S back in the 1960s. They struggled to get their freedom and be recognized as equals like every other citizen; a struggle that they still fight for to this day. Life was not easy for young men either, as they participated in some inhuman activities, either under duress or as a result of brainwashing. Amidst all this, the women still tried to uphold family values and protect their children. The Taliban have not ceased their terrorist activities completely. America recently signed a peace deal with the Taliban. This was in the hopes of marking the commencement of the end of its longest war. The author believes that with such a deal, the US may make Afghan authorities share power with the Taliban or even make the terrorist group take over, something that Saber Azam says may present major setbacks.
Soraya: The Other Princess is a literary gem that every woman who has dreams should read. The stories of the women in the book give hope. We see how the struggle has helped the women rise. To achieve freedom some women have today, lives had to be sacrificed. Some of the stories are inspiring while others devastating. Reading about the clashes, fight for rights, tragedies, and loss of lives evokes strong emotions. Another major take in the book is that liberation is not achieved in a day. It sometimes takes blood, tears, and the death of those you love to achieve the freedom you yearn.
Pacific Book Review
Soraya is an inspiring biography of a woman and the nation she fought for. It elucidates Afghanistan’s political past, placing particular focus on the positions and roles of Afghan women in their society.
The book sheds light on the plight of Afghan women and their crucial role in the building of the nation. They emerge as resilient, and appreciation grows across the book’s accounts. Afghan women are seen enduring limited opportunities in education and elsewhere. The balance between the biographical portions and the more historical portions is strong, and Soraya and Kabir Ludin’s contributions and experiences become clear.
In Soraya: The Other Princess, Saber Azam presents a history of Afghanistan in the 20th century through the eyes of one fictional woman.
The book follows Soraya from her early childhood until 2018 as she witnesses every important step in the nation’s tumultuous modern saga. Throughout, Soraya permits readers to observe important historical episodes. Azam has done much research into the history and geography of Afghanistan and the region and liberally shares his opinion throughout.
A fictionalized biography focuses on a woman who shaped Afghanistan’s place in the 20th century.
The work provides an intriguing and thought-provoking depiction of a minor but important public figure. An account that deftly captures key elements of recent Afghan history.
Soraya: The Other Princess is a great and must-read book because it is a beautiful combination of literature, history, politics, and the sensational story of an exceptional woman, Soraya Ludin.
Saber Azam drew inspiration from the right person. Anyone reading this book will come across an ocean of information and knowledge and reflect on the lessons and the ideals that he is sharing. He wants to influence the world through the eyes and spirit of Soraya.
In general, Saber is trying to enlighten the reader about the Afghan politics and culture, the wonders of Afghanistan, and the bright and strong women who took a stand for what they believed were correct. It is also about the corrupt leadership and people in authority, the inefficient governments, and flagrant inequality among people that pushed Afghanistan to successive tragedies. More specifically, it is the story of Soraya Ludin, a wonderful and intelligent woman whose course of life takes the booklovers from Afghanistan to the United States, United Kingdom, Switzerland, India, Turkey, Iran, and finally Austria.
Soraya is a unique and brilliant child. Her father is her mentor and protector. She grows up with an acute sense of honesty and forthrightness and witnesses racial discrimination and social disparity in the societies she lives in. She observes the power games in palaces, the injustice that most of her countrywomen and men are subject to, and the dubiousness of regional and international powers. She studies in the best institution in London and meets influential people. However, she does not forget her origin and the poor people of her country. She reaches those in need.
This book is also about violent international politics such as the forceful take-over of Afghanistan by communists, the invasion of this country by superpowers, the rise of current international terrorism, and the devastation of proxy wars on this land. It teaches the reader about Afghan women, Soraya being an example, and their struggle to have a meaningful existence in society. They are bright and ambitious. Most of them have big dreams and the desire to change their country. They are also resilient amidst the crisis, killings, and wars. They love their children, they are great mothers, and they are creative and skilled. Saber portrays that despite the systematic ineptness of leaders, and the existence of discrimination in society, there is always hope. Hope and change can happen if people like Soraya speak up and execute the right action for change.
Soraya: The Other Princess is also about the importance of quality education and why Afghan women and the people of Afghanistan should value it and work their way into becoming well-educated. Soraya was one of the few who had the opportunity of quality education. This way, she is cultured, bright, resourceful, and industrious. She had endless opportunities and was not limited to the role of being a mother and a housewife. This is indicative of what quality education can do for women.
Her story is also about the struggle of a woman for the liberation of her country. She flies high in the ladders of power and falls deep, uprooted as a refugee with minimal means. She believes in her ability and that of every woman. Soraya’s story is also about compassion, empathy, care, and attention for others and the long way that Afghans in general and Afghan women, in particular, must crisscross. From an outsiders’ perspective, one will feel very sad, heartbroken, and even angry for the events that were/are happening to the Afghan people. Through his book, Saber allows decision-makers to help, be realistic, and find the right solution for challenges that will sooner or later affect the whole world.
Soraya: The Other Princess is a wonderful read!