"It's upsetting that people see your culture as backward, who say to me 'You poor victim,' " she said. "I think Westerners have a simplistic idea about arranged marriage. Mine didn't work out, but that was not the case for everyone, and it's not necessarily backward to do that."...All of the usual ways of getting human beings into marriage are flawed. I could be convinced that some approaches to arranged marriage are decent enough. But somehow, this article did nothing for me. Here is an author who is a graduate of the Kennedy School of Government and rather antagonistic toward the American policy in Afghanistan. Why is she writing in the memoir form?
Within the United States, Afghans have been subversively transformed. Boys and girls court furtively or in Internet chat rooms. When suitors hit it off, they may ask parents to arrange the wedding, pretending they barely know each other. Still, Ms. Sultan said she would marry only a Muslim and might even allow her parents to introduce her to a prospective mate, though only on the condition that she get to know him.
"I have to believe there are people out there who can appreciate traditional values around family and community, but who can also appreciate me in my assertive, outspoken manner," she said.
In telling her story, she has joined the growing ranks of Muslim women who are offering an insider's view of Muslim life at a post-9/11 moment when anxious Americans are curious, as Ms. Sultan says, about "what drives Muslims, how do they operate behind closed doors."It seems that she's chosen the memoir form, despite the mismatch between her personal story and the message she wants to convey, because there's a good market for books like this. So the better question is perhaps not why is she writing a memoir, but why do Americans -- American women? -- love memoirs so much?
In the memoir "Reading Lolita in Tehran," Azar Nafisi describes a women's book club that debates the painful conflicts of living under Islamic law. In the novel "Brick Lane," Monica Ali writes affectingly about a Bangladeshi in London in an arranged marriage whose sister elopes in a "love marriage." And a former Wall Street Journal reporter, Asra Nomani, published "Standing Alone in Mecca," about her pilgrimage to Islam's most holy site last year.
More are on their way: Shirin Ebadi, the Nobel Prize-winning Iranian human rights champion, will have a memoir out in May. And Ms. Ali's editor, Wendy Walker, is publishing a memoir in the fall by Mukhtar Mai, the Pakistani woman who was gang-raped by order of a tribal court to avenge her brother's supposed misconduct.
David Ebershoff, an editor at large at Random House who edited Ms. Ebadi's book, said that these books have struck a chord with American readers because "the personal is a prism into the larger geopolitical story." Americans, he said, also respond to the conflicts of women having to juggle their working lives with more traditional roles of wife and mother — however perilous their experiences might be. In her memoir, Ms. Ebadi writes of the night that she was summoned to jail. On the way out the door she tells her daughters to order a pizza for dinner.
ADDED, to answer that question why we love memoirs: we like those parasocial relationships.