Harvard Book Store welcomes AMY WALDMAN—the bestselling, critically acclaimed author of The Submission—for a discussion of her new novel, A Door in the Earth.
Parveen Shams, a college senior in search of a calling, feels pulled between her charismatic and mercurial anthropology professor and the comfortable but predictable Afghan-American community in her Northern California hometown. When she discovers a bestselling book called Mother Afghanistan, a memoir by humanitarian Gideon Crane that has become a bible for American engagement in the country, she is inspired. Galvanized by Crane’s experience, Parveen travels to a remote village in the land of her birth to join the work of his charitable foundation.
When she arrives, however, Crane’s maternity clinic, while grandly equipped, is mostly unstaffed. The villagers do not exhibit the gratitude she expected to receive. And Crane’s memoir appears to be littered with mistakes, or outright fabrications. As the reasons for Parveen’s pilgrimage crumble beneath her, the U.S. military, also drawn by Crane’s book, turns up to pave the soil road to the village, bringing the war in their wake. When a fatal ambush occurs, Parveen must decide whether her loyalties lie with the villagers or the soldiers—and she must determine her own relationship to the truth.
Amy Waldman, who reported from Afghanistan for the New York Times after 9/11, has created a taut, propulsive novel about power, perspective, and idealism, brushing aside the dust of America’s longest-standing war to reveal the complicated truths beneath. A Door in the Earth is the rarest of books, one that helps us understand living history through poignant characters and unforgettable storytelling.
Certain books were “banned in Boston” at least as far back as 1651, when one William Pynchon wrote a book criticizing Puritanism.