Nana Maria’s mother) gives her lessons on life from her own experience. “There is only one, only one skill a woman like you and me needs in life, and they don’t teach it in school … Only one skill. And it’s this: tamale. Endure … It’s our lot in life, Miriam. Women like us. We endure. Its all We have… ” (Hussein, 18) Here is the truth of life for women that Nana foreshadows early in the novel. This lesson essentially becomes prophetic for the end of the novel and it shows how women had to endure in order to survive in their society.
Endurance is something familiar to Miriam. Very soon after her mother died, at the age of fifteen Miriam was forced to marry a harsh, shoemaker who was at least thirty years older than her named Rehashed. Miriam was forced to push aside any feelings of sorrow and even guilt of her mother’s death as well as her father’s rejection, and had to deal with what she was given, despite her strong dissatisfaction. However, the forced marriage is not the last of the troubles Miriam had to face as a woman.
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Being he wife of an abusive man in Afghanistan during the Italian’s rule made life extremely painful and arduous. Even the years before the Taliban arrived in Kabul, Rehashed was physically, mentally, emotionally, and verbally abusive to Miriam. For eighteen years before Rehashed married Leila, Rehashed abused Miriam to the extent where nothing pleased him. Rehashed had a very short temper and would ridicule and then hit Miriam over minor things such as food and housekeeping. For the beginning years of their marriage Miriam reserved to gain approval from Rehashed but it never came.
To accurately describe how Miriam felt and was treated as a woman Hussein wrote, “And as her heart pounded, her mind wondered what excuse he would use that night to pounce on her. There was always something, some minor thing that would infuriate him, because no matter what she did to please him, no matter how thoroughly she submitted to his wants and demands, it wasn’t enough” (Hosting 99). Another time within the novel depicting the plights of women is in Part 2 of the book, talking about Leila.
Despite the Italian’s strict rules, Leila left the house almost every day (without Rehashed) and suffered many beatings and whippings by the Taliban in order to see her daughter. The beatings could not Stop Leila because she persevered and was determined to see her child even if it meant enduring countless, brutal beatings. “Leila never would have believed that a human body could withstand this much beating, this viciously, this regularly, and keep functioning” (Hussein).
Laic’s ability to withstand the beatings shows how he was able to persevere and that is why she was able to last so long in her marriage and in Afghanistan. Until Leila became a part of the family and the two became friends, Miriam endured Rasher’s abuse because it was the only option she had. Even though Miriam and Leila are years apart by age, and come from two different life styles, they are both forced to marry Rehashed. Miriam and Leila eventually learn to cooperate as they undergo Rasher’s emotional and physical abuse, and the rules set out for women in Afghanistan.