TMW Book Reviews

Review – One Life: An Afghan Remembers


Abdul Qayum Safi

In a world increasingly interconnected yet deeply divided, Abdul Qayum Safi’s poignant memoir, “One Life: An Afghan Remembers,” offers a timely bridge between the East and West. This debut memoir delivers a nuanced, introspective look at Safi’s early years in rural Afghanistan, his educational pursuits, and when he came to the USA on a student visa. It’s a compelling narrative that readers will find particularly enlightening, offering a rare glimpse into the socio-cultural intricacies of a nation so often discussed but seldom understood.

Safi’s narrative is more than a mere autobiography; it’s a sociocultural exploration. He opens up about his formative years in a large family, struggling with the limitations of rural life, and his yearning for education. The tale is rich in detail, from the intricacies of daily life in Afghanistan to the broader geopolitical canvas that impacted Safi’s life decisions. What stands out is the author’s balanced tone—neither overly sentimental nor dispassionately factual—enabling the reader to embark on a journey that is both deeply personal and universally relevant.

The memoir also covers Safi’s nontraditional marriage to an American woman, offering an intimate look into the challenges and triumphs of cross-cultural relationships. This aspect of the story is particularly resonant, as it adds another layer to the book’s central theme of bridging cultural divides.

Safi doesn’t shy away from discussing the challenges of working abroad and adapting to a culture radically different from his own. It is in these moments that the book achieves its most universal appeal. Many readers, regardless of their background, will find something to relate to in Safi’s quest for belonging and identity in a world that often seems indifferent to individual struggles.

The narrative is enhanced by Safi’s eloquent prose, which is straightforward yet evocative, inviting readers to contemplate the larger issues at play. He touches upon the current political climate in Afghanistan but does so without overshadowing his personal journey. This balance ensures that “One Life” is not just a memoir but a multifaceted examination of identity, culture, and the geopolitical forces that shape our lives.

The memoir closes with a reflective overview of the current political situation in Afghanistan, a topic that Safi handles with both sensitivity and candor. His observations are insightful, providing readers with a fresh perspective on a topic often dominated by Western viewpoints.

In summary, “One Life: An Afghan Remembers” is a must-read for anyone interested in understanding the complexities of Afghan society, the immigrant experience, and the power of education and cultural exchange to change individual lives. Safi’s debut is a thoughtful, well-crafted work that promises to engage, enlighten, and inspire.

– The Moving Words Review

Official Entry: The Most Moving Book Award, Jan. 3, 2024