A Fort of Nine Towers

An Afghan Family Story

Qais Akbar Omar

Picador

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Twenty-three years ago—after the Soviets left and before the Taliban came to power—Kabul was a garden where seven-year-old Qais Akbar Omar flew kites from the roof of his grandfather’s house. Then came the hollow sounds of rocket fire as the Mujahedin, self-proclaimed holy warriors, took over Afghanistan, and the country erupted in civil war. Omar’s family fled, leaving everything behind to take shelter in an old fort. But after a narrow escape from death, his father decided that the family must leave the country.

Yet the journey proved more difficult than anticipated, and in this stunning coming-of-age memoir, Omar offers a moving recollection of these events—a story of daily hardships, relieved by moments of joy and immense beauty. Inflected with folktales and steeped in poetry, A Fort of Nine Towers is a life-affirming triumph.

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Book Excerpts

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In the Time Before
In the time before the fighting, before the rockets, before the warlords and their false promises, before the sudden disappearance of so many people we knew to graves or foreign lands, before the Taliban and their madness, before the smell of death hung daily in the air and the ground was soaked in blood, we lived well.
*   *   *
We have no photos. It was too dangerous to keep them during the time of the Taliban, so we destroyed them. But the images of our lives before all hope fled Afghanistan remain sharp and clear.

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Reviews

Praise for A Fort of Nine Towers

“Poetic, powerful, and unforgettable.”—Khaled Hosseini, New York Times bestselling author of The Kite Runner and And the Mountains Echoed

“Mind-boggling yet matter-of-fact...A riveting story of war as seen through a child’s eyes and summoned from an adult’s memory.”—The New York Times Book Review

A Fort of Nine Towers captures a time and a place unknown to most Americans….Exceptional.”—The Boston Globe

“An extraordinary memoir...Even more haunting than The Kite Runner.”—The Philadelphia Inquirer

“Beautifully written, with the pacing and suspense of a novel...[A Fort of Nine Towers] is deeply fulfilling, remarkable not least because Omar lived to tell the tale.”—The Washington Post

“A classic autobiography of universal resonance...Tender and hopeful against all odds.”—Newsweek

“From squatting inside a cave in the head of a Bamyan Buddha to escaping torture at the teeth of a dog and his master, Qais Akbar Omar’s tale of one family’s journey during the Afghan civil war is inscriptional: its images carve themselves into the reader’s mind. Unlike most accounts of life in exile, A Fort of Nine Towers never leaves Afghanistan, as a boy and his family remain trapped within the nation’s borders by familial ties and by war. This book is essential reading for anyone eager to learn what more than three decades of war have cost the Afghan people.”—Eliza Griswold, author of the New York Times bestseller The Tenth Parallel: Dispatches from the Fault Line Between Christianity and Islam

“At a time when Afghanistan threatens to recede into a bloody and debased footnote, Qais Akbar Omar reminds us of the honor and courage of his people.  A remarkable feat of memory and imagination.”—Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya, author of The Watch and The Storyteller of Marrakesh

“In this stark, unflinching memoir, Qais Akbar Omar illuminates the beauty and tragedy of a country pushed to the brink by war. A Fort of Nine Towers gives voice to the unbreakable spirit of the Afghan people.”—G. Willow Wilson, author of Alif the Unseen

“As lyrical as it is haunting, this mesmerizing, not-to-be-missed debut memoir is also a loving evocation of a misunderstood land and people....A gorgeously rich tapestry of an amazing life and culture.”—Kirkus, Starred Review

 

“Omar’s prose is deliciously forthright, extravagant, and somewhere mischievous, and very Afghan in its sense of long-suffering endurance and also reconciliation.”—Publishers Weekly

 

“I know of no other book in which the complex realities of life—and death—in contemporary Afghanistan are so starkly and intimately portrayed. This brave memoir, rich in tough humor and insight, recounts an insider’s view into both the suffering and the integrity of an uncompromisingly proud and courageous people. Above all, it is a powerful reminder of the extraordinary tenacity of a culture that foreigners have repeatedly and fatally misjudged.”—Jason Elliot, author of An Unexpected Light: Travels in Afghanistan

“This is a book for those who love Afghanistan, for those who want to understand it, or simply for those who value deeply the best in the human spirit. It is a tale that deserves to rank with The Kite Runner.”—Ronal d E. Neumann, former U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan and president of the American Academy of Diplomacy

“If you read only one book this summer, make it this one....Astonishing.”—Jeanette Winterson, O, The Oprah Magazine


In the Press

A FORT OF NINE TOWERS An Afghan Family Story By Qais Akbar Omar - Washington Post
In a brief afterword to “A Fort of Nine Towers,” a powerful coming-of-age tale set in Afghanistan, Qais Akbar Omar offers a warning: “I have long carried this load of griefs in the cage of my
- The Washington Post

‘A Fort of Nine Towers,’ by Qais Akbar Omar - NYTimes.com
In this memoir, an Afghan family’s attempts to escape the horrors of war show them new ways of seeing their world.
- The New York Times

Afghan author, carpet seller, BU student tells his powerful story - Lifestyle - The Boston Globe
ais Akbar Omar is a Boston University graduate student who grew up in Afghanistan. He sees people upset over losing their smartphone or computer files, and he tells them, “This is not the end of the world. The end of the world is when you’re at a ditch filled with dead bodies and you’re thinking, “I’m the next one.’?” Omar would know, because he has been that person. He’s just published his memoir, “A Fort of Nine Towers,” the story of growing up in Kabul during the brutal years of the mujahideen and the
- The Boston Globe

A Fort of Nine Towers: An Afghan Family Story By Qais Akbar Omar - Book Finder - Oprah.com
A boy and his father survive being bitten nearly to death, not by a rabid dog but by a torturer.
- Oprah

A Carpet Weaver’s Essential Afghan Memoir: Qais Akbar Omar’s ‘A Fort of Nine Towers’ - The Daily Beast
A carpet seller tells the story of his family’s odyssey through Afghanistan. John Kael Weston hails this essential Afghan memoir.
- The Daily Beast

And the Mountains Echoed, By Khaled Hosseini A Fort of Nine Towers, By Qais Akbar Omar - Reviews - Books - The Independent
There is a striking image in Nadeem Aslam's recent novel about the Allied invasion in Afghanistan that neatly captures the country's fate. The war-torn terrain in The Blind Man's Garden is studded by boot-prints left by the latest invading force. These offending imprints make vivid the fact that Afghanistan has been invaded and stamped upon for over three decades.
- The Independent

The Q&A: Qais Akbar Omar: Memories of the Taliban | The Economist
WHEN the Taliban were forced out of Kabul in 2001, life began once again for Qais Akbar Omar. He helped rebuild the family carpet business, became an interpreter for...
- The Economist

Afghan childhood recalled in 'A Fort of Nine Towers'
A FORT OF NINE TOWERS: An Afghan Family Story, by Qais Akbar Omar. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 396 pp., $27. We see the worst and best of people in Qais Akbar Omar's lucid, moving English-language m
- Newsday

Worldview: In Afghan memoir, exorcising the demons - Philly.com
At a time when American troops are leaving Afghanistan and U.S. officials are trying to talk to the Taliban, I recommend that you read a book called A Fort of Nine Towers: An Afghan Family Story.
- The Philadelphia Inquirer


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About the Author

Qais Akbar Omar

Qais Akbar Omar (whose first name is pronounced "Kice") manages his family’s carpet business and writes books. In 2007, he was a visiting scholar at the University of Colorado. He has studied business at Brandeis University and now lives in Boston, where he is pursuing an MFA in creative writing at Boston University. Omar has lectured on Afghan carpets in Afghanistan, Europe, and the United States. He is the coauthor, with Stephen Landrigan, of Shakespeare in Kabul.

Qais Akbar Omar

Tom Fattori
Qais Akbar Omar

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Available Formats and Book Details

A Fort of Nine Towers
An Afghan Family Story
Qais Akbar Omar

Award

Amazon.com Best Books of the Year, Bookish Best Books of the Year, Saroyan Writing Prize - Finalist, Washington Post Best Books of the Year, Kirkus Reviews Best Books of the Year, Massachussetts Book Award - Honor Book

Trade Paperback

Trade Paperback
Picador
April 2014
Trade Paperback
ISBN: 9781250043658
ISBN10: 1250043654
5 1/2 x 8 1/4 inches, 416 pages, Includes 3 maps
$17.00

Hardcover

Hardcover
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
April 2013
Hardcover
ISBN: 9780374157647
ISBN10: 0374157642
6 x 9 inches, 416 pages, 3 Maps
$27.00

e-Book Agency

e-Book Agency
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
April 2014
e-Book Agency
ISBN: 9780374709181
ISBN10: 0374709181
416 pages, 3 Maps
$9.99
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