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My Pen Is the Wing of a Bird

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Audiobook Downloadable / ISBN-13: 9781529423693

Price: £21.99

ON SALE: 18th October 2022

Genre: Fiction & Related Items / Fiction: Special Features / Short Stories

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“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”

A woman’s fortitude saves her village from disaster. A teenager explores their identity in a moment of quiet. A petition writer reflects on his life as a dog lies nursing her puppies. A tormented girl tries to find love through a horrific act. A headmaster makes his way to work, treading the fine line between life and death.

“A precious collection of work, the first and maybe the last of its kind. My Pen Is the Wing of a Bird is a huge accomplishment” MONIQUE ROFFEY, author of The Mermaid of Black Conch

My Pen Is the Wing of a Bird
is a landmark collection: the first anthology of short fiction by Afghan women. Eighteen writers tell stories that are both unique and universal – stories of family, work, childhood, friendship, war, gender identity and cultural traditions.

“This book reminds us that everyone has a story. Stories matter; so too the storytellers. Afghan women writers, informed and inspired by their own personal experiences, are best placed to bring us these powerful insights into the lives of Afghans and, most of all, the lives of women. Women’s lives, in their own words – they matter.” Lyse Doucet in her Introduction

This collection introduces extraordinary voices from the country’s two main linguistic groups (Pashto and Dari) with original, vital and unexpected stories to tell, developed over two years through UNTOLD’s Write Afghanistan project. My Pen Is the Wing of a Bird comes at a pivotal moment in Afghanistan’s history, when these voices must be heard.

Men always want to speak on behalf of Afghan women, but now it is time for Afghan women to speak for themselves. Without fear, we want to share our stories with the world.”

With an Introduction by BBC Chief International Correspondent Lyse Doucet and an Afterword by Lucy Hannah


UNTOLD is a writer development programme for marginalised writers in areas of conflict and post-conflict. Afghanistan has millions of Pashto and Dari speakers with little or no local support for creative writing, literary translation, or literary editing. Support for writers has been hampered by cultural norms, free expression issues, chronic instability, and internal displacement. UNTOLD has been working one-to-one with women on their short stories, with English-speaking literary editors and translators working with the writers to realise the potential of their stories for publication both locally and globally in translation.

(P)2022 Quercus Editions Limited

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A precious collection of work, the first and maybe last of its kind. My Pen Is the Wing of a Bird is a huge accomplishment
Monique Roffey, author of THE MERMAID OF BLACK CONCH
Powerful, profound and deeply moving, new fiction by Afghan women writers will expand your mind and elevate your heart
Elif Shafak
No-one aware of the harrowing events currently playing out in Afghanistan and, in particular, the catastrophic effect this has had on the lives of women, can be unmoved by their plight. The risk of womens' voices being lost and their freedoms eradicated is very high. This book is like a little light shining into the lives of women in Afghanistan. It's a beautiful read
Jo Brand
Sometimes, life is having beautiful dreams in a nightmare. The authors of this book express their longing to escape a nightmare and build a liveable world. A liveable world for everyone, but especially for women at a time when their body and soul are being destroyed
Burhan Sonmez, President of PEN International
Here we have stories of the everyday and extraordinary lives of Afghan women, all of them written before the Taliban took power in August 2021. Today, these women writers live under the harshest of conditions, their everyday human rights, as women, revoked. This book is a precious collection of work, the first and maybe last of its kind. My Pen is the Wing of a Bird is a huge accomplishment
Monique Roffey
These are extraordinary and intense glimpses into a shuttered world, written by women who have to struggle daily to make their voices heard
Lissa Evans
If fiction offers a window into the world, this is a book of stories you need to open
Romesh Gunasekera
[An] arresting collection . . . Each of the works in this collection is written in simple, direct prose and offers vivid snapshots of a country beset by war and violence, where misogyny is rife but women continue to dream for a better future . . . The women's extraordinary resilience is celebrated . . . It seems more important than ever to read the work of these courageous writers.
Lucy Popescu, Financial Times
A gripping and important book told by the women whose voices need to be heard
Bella Magazine
These stories show why the militants are wrong. They take their readers into rooms at televisions cameras and journalists never reach. In the process they reiterate how much Afghan women could again say and do, if only they were allowed to.
The pandemic and the resumption of Taliban rule have made the publication of My Pen Is the Wing of a Bird little short of a miracle . . . [T]hese short tales draw insight and lyricism from lives lived in the shadow of war, violence and relentless misogyny
Cameron Woodhead, Sydney Morning Herald
Powerful in its impact and admirable in the quality of the prose
Ellah Wakatama, Guardian
Revelatory . . . taken together [these stories] form a remarkable portrait of lives largely invisible to readers outside Afghanistan. This brims with humanity.
Publishers Weekly