Akbar, Said Hyder 1984–
Akbar, Said Hyder 1984–
PERSONAL: Born 1984, in Peshawar, Afghanistan; immigrated to the United States c. 1985; became a naturalized U.S. citizen.
ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Author Mail, Bloomsbury, 175 5th Ave., 3rd Fl., New York, NY, 10010.
CAREER: Writer and college student. Wadan Afghanistan (rebuilds Afghan schools and roads), founder and codirector.
(With Susan Burton) Come Back to Afghanistan: A California Teenager's Story, Bloomsbury (New York, NY), 2005.
SIDELIGHTS: Said Hyder Akbar was born in Afghanistan, grew up in California, and lived a typically American life. This changed abruptly after the September 11 terrorist attacks. In the aftermath of the attacks, Akbar's father sold his hip-hop clothing store and returned to Afghanistan, serving first as spokesman to Afghan president Hamid Karzai and then as the governor of a rural province. As a result, Akbar spent three successive summers in Afghanistan, starting at the age of seventeen. He worked with his father in the presidential palace and in his province, served as a translator for U.S. forces, and witnessed the interrogation of terrorists. He embraced Afghan culture, meeting relatives, eating and drinking the same food as the local people, and wearing Afghan clothing. He learned to shoot a gun, was ambushed, and visited Osama bin Laden's abandoned house.
Back in the United States, Akbar shared his experiences in radio stories for National Public Radio's program This American Life and later in his memoir Come Back to Afghanistan: A California Teenager's Story. Akbar wrote the book with Harper's magazine editor Susan Burton, who also helped him produce his radio segments. Reviewers had ample praise for the book. Joseph Di Prisco suggested in the San Francisco Chronicle that Akbar might well have a better grasp of the complexities of the Afghan situation than many older observers. Gillian Engberg, writing in Booklist, called the book "a wholly engrossing memoir that balances sophisticated political and social observations, … with irresistible flashes of teen enthusiasm."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Akbar, Said Hyder, and Susan Burton, Come Back to Afghanistan: A California Teenager's Story, Bloomsbury (New York, NY), 2005.
Booklist, September 1, 2005, Gillian Engberg, review of Come Back to Afghanistan, p. 46.
Entertainment Weekly, October 28, 2005, Michelle Kung, review of Come Back to Afghanistan, p. 93.
Kirkus Reviews, September 15, 2005, review of Come Back to Afghanistan, p. 1007.
San Francisco Chronicle, November 13, 2005, Joseph Di Prisco, review of Come Back to Afghanistan.
Bloomsbury Web site, http://www.bloomsbury.com/ (January 3, 2005), author profile.