On Thursday, June 7, 2012 at Chapters Kingston (2376 Princess Ave.), Dr. Sharifa Sharif read from her powerful memoir On the Edge of Being: An Afghan Woman’s Journey. An audience of educators, government officials and organizers of the Kingston chapter of Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan gathered to hear the author speak of her upbringing in Afghanistan.
The event included a frank discussion of the problems women continue to experience in the country, including gender-based violence and inadequate access to education. Dr. Sharif spoke candidly of her experience as both a victim and victor in these terms saying, “While some of the stories in my book are negative, you can see me here, today, in front of you.” She outlined the three great experiences of her life, which included earning her Ph.D. at the University of Urbana-Champaign in Illinois, becoming a Canadian citizen in 1991, and the release of her memoir last year.
Upon the release of the book, Dr. Sharif said much of her family worried over how it would be received, wishing she had censored aspects of her life story as well as those of other women discussed in On the Edge of Being. Yet Dr. Sharif said that it was necessary to tell her story truthfully, so that other women from Afghanistan might do the same.
The author, a former cultural advisor to the Karzai government in Afghanistan and now a cultural sensitivity trainer for Canadian Forces going overseas, gave frank opinions on the state of Afghanistan today. She mentioned the continued mistreatment of women in Afghanistan, but mentioned that new laws which protect women from violence give victims the leverage they need to protect and defend their rights. “This sets in motion forces that will not be so easily suppressed”, she said.
Speaking alongside Madeliene Tarasick, Dr. Sharif’s perspective resonated with the broader experience of the women gathered. While most were born into families of privilege in Canada, they could relate to the experiences in On the Edge of Being. “I was amazed by her incredible serenity and grace in the telling” said Tarasick. “We’re familiar with some of these stories, but her positive outlook helps us see them in a different light.”