Book Review: Recalling a magic carpet ride through South Asia

Brave, humble and compassionate, Harriet Sandys touches our hearts in this moving true story. (Shutterstock)
Updated 21 October 2018
0

Book Review: Recalling a magic carpet ride through South Asia

BEIRUT: This evocative title, which conjures up images of the iconic Silk Road, is only a foretaste of what you experience in the book. “Beyond That Last Blue Mountain” recalls the extraordinary journey of Harriet Sandys. At 19, realizing she was completely unqualified, she wondered what a girl from her background could do. Hearing about her brother’s trip to Afghanistan and reading Wilfred Thesiger’s “Desert, Marsh and Mountain” and Eric Newby’s “A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush” fired her imagination, and she decided to make that journey.
Four years later, in 1977, a letter inviting her to visit the archaeological sites of Afghanistan changed the course of her life.
After learning how to repair oriental carpets, she worked for the Afghan Refugee Information Network and decided to assess the situation of Afghan refugees at the North-West Frontier. Touched by their extraordinary stoicism, she organized exhibitions of Afghan embroideries and carpets and opened a shop.
However, many of the NGO carpet-weaving programs produced rugs of inferior quality which were unsellable. Harriet wanted to find an alternative project that women could do at home. The Ikat silk-weaving project was born. Over 12 years, she traveled through Pakistan, setting up the project despite problems and setbacks. She miraculously recovered from bacterial meningitis and pursued her humanitarian aid projects in Iraqi Kurdistan and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
After her departure, the silk-weaving project, contrary to all expectations, thrived thanks to the courage of Saleh, a 17-year-old boy she had trained in Peshawar. He brought the project back to Afghanistan and became a master weaver. The Afghan fashion event held in London in 2011 highlighted one of his creations, a stunning dark-green silk evening dress decorated with calligraphy.
“Oriot,” as she was affectionately called, defied danger, traveling in and around war zones with almost no financial support.
“Had I pondered too long and too hard on all the dangers and difficulties I might have encountered … I would have remained a secretary, regretting missed opportunities,” she said. Brave, humble and compassionate, Harriet Sandys touches our hearts in this moving true story.


What We Are Reading Today: Yale Needs Women by Anne Gardiner Perkins

Updated 11 min 37 sec ago

What We Are Reading Today: Yale Needs Women by Anne Gardiner Perkins

  • The book is a historical novel based on the first females that were accepted and lived on campus at Yale

Yale Needs Women by Anne Gardiner Perkins is a historical novel based on the first females that were accepted and lived on campus at Yale starting the summer term of 1969.

“This is an academic work although written in a very accessible style for the average reader,” said a review in goodreads.com.

It said the book “started as a graduate paper and morphed into a dissertation over time.”

The review also said Perkins “really allows readers into the lives of several of the students and one administrator in particular.”

It said the author “straddles the line nicely between fitting in the comprehensive detailed research she managed and making it interesting enough that someone mighty think it was a novel.”

Perkins grew up in Baltimore and attended Yale University, where she earned her BA in history and was the first woman editor-in-chief of the Yale Daily News. 

She has spent her life in education, from urban high school teacher to elected school committee member. 

She has presented papers on higher education at leading conferences.

Although Yale Needs Women’s principal focus is on, well, women at Yale, Perkins also weaves in a lot of events that were also happening at the time and impacted Yale life, such at the Black Panther movement and the Vietnam War.