Hooray to the writers of the Afghan Women’s Writing Project!

Grayson Books has released Washing the Dust From Our Hearts, a bilingual anthology of poetry and prose written by Afghan women. In works presented both in English and Dari (Afghan Persian), the women speak candidly of their lives and viewpoints, and do so unfiltered by family or news media.  Books may be purchased for $18 each at the AWWP market page (Note: books are no longer available for purchase.)

The writers, all Afghan nationals, took part in online workshops conducted in English by the Afghan Women’s Writing Project (AWWP). Their work was published first in English on our website. For most of these brave women, this is the first time that they will see their words printed in their own language, a rarity. It is truly the start of a quiet revolution powered by pens. 

Longtime AWWP writer Pari—known by first name only due to security concerns—translated the works from English to Dari with assistance by Afghan writer Ahmad Aria. The pieces in this collection cover such themes as marriage and family, love and forgiveness, education, and human rights. For many writers, including Pari, the act of putting pen to paper was literally an escape from their burqas. Afghan women are often told to stop writing, since women’s writing is often considered unworthy, and women are discouraged from participating in public life.  

“With my pen and notebook, I had a secret place where I gave myself freedoms that were forbidden to me,” says Pari. “I talked about taboos and I broke them with my pen, my second voice.  It was a privilege for me to translate this book.”

In her poem “Listen to Me,” Marzia pleads, “Let me speak out/If you listen to me,/I can change my world./I want my children to live differently than yours.”

By sharing their stories, the writers resist invisibility, and stand up for themselves and their families and communities.  With their pens, they create a world where women’s voices are heard, and listened to; and a new destiny, fueled by a new literature, emerges for future generations.

Founded in 2009 by American journalist Masha Hamilton, the Afghan Women’s Writing Project strives to give women the basic human right to tell their own stories—a right that has too often been denied. Through online writing workshops led by international writers, educators, and journalists, AWWP empowers women in seven of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces. Poems and essays are published in an online magazine that carries the writers’ voices to a global audience.