About heathermcconnell

I’ve been living in Los Angeles for a while now but grew up in upstate New York and still go back several times a year to visit with friends and family. I’ve been involved in the book/writing world in one way or another for most of my working life. I left the retail side a few years ago, and now work from home, editing and managing some of the production details for a professional medical online newsletter. I am passionate about making a difference in the world, and am constantly reading news from all corners of the planet to both better understand the way we are evolving as a human race, and to identify ways in which we can improve (or already are) until we reach “100%.” How do you think we can make our world better? Let me know!

Book Group Questions for An Invisible Woman in Afghanistan

A couple of book groups have now read An Invisible Woman in Afghanistan (hooray!) so with a lot of help from Suzzy Canny who has expertly led many such groups I came up with a few questions to add to the discussion. (If you want to print them out, there’s a PDF link below.)

  1. Cat MacGregor leads an average, quiet American office worker’s life before gaining her superpowers. How do we see her ordinary invisibility before she is given the power of Invisibility?
  2. The character of Dr. Sarmina is based on Dr. Sima Samar, an Afghan physician, activist, and human rights advocate. In 1984, she fled from the occupying Soviet forces in Afghanistan to Pakistan where she established the Shuhada Organization to provide health care to Afghan refugee women and girls in Quetta. She returned to Afghanistan in 2002 to become the first Minister of Women’s Affairs and is now the Chairperson of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission. After reading this book, has your perspective on Afghan women changed? In what ways?
  3. At one critical point, Lt. Col. Jack Wallace has to choose between pursuing Osama Bin Laden and protecting the people he cares about. Does he make the right choice? Why?
  4. The Taliban Commander ruthlessly destroys the ancient artifacts of Afghanistan yet he spares Humera’s life and cares deeply about the people of Kabul. Did his actions surprise you? Were there other aspects of Afghan culture in the book that you didn’t know about?
  5. The goddess chooses Jack for certain reasons. What strengths does he have that help Cat? What are his weaknesses and how does Cat help him?
  6. In their 2016 Annual Letter, Bill and Melinda Gates discussed “Two Superpowers We Wish We Had.” They picked Energy (Bill) and Time (Melinda). The goddess gives Cat MacGregor both Invisibility and the ability to Shift in order to protect one very important person. What superpowers would you like to have to help save the world?

An Invisible Woman in Afghanistan is available in both trade paperback and e-book formats at Amazon.com.

To download the questions in a 1 page printable PDF just use this link: Book_Group_Questions_for_An_Invisible_Woman_in_Afghanistan

 

Bringing a Ray of Hope to the Girls of Afghanistan

Almost six months ago, I published my first novel, An Invisible Woman in Afghanistan. I began working on the book in June of 2001 just before 9/11 and finally published on June 1 of this year.

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A lot of people have asked why I chose Afghanistan. There are many and varied reasons but the main one has always been that Afghanistan at the time was (and still is) one of the toughest places to be a woman or girl. I needed to put my character in the country and find out if she could do anything at all to help the women there because this series, although fiction, was always meant to focus on international women’s rights issues. (And if you want to know what she does and how that works out, you’ll have to read the book!)

While doing the research for the book and discovering the many and truly horrific adversities Afghan women have faced, I also found that there are equally extraordinary, strong, and powerful Afghan women fighting hard every day to bring their country out of its recent Dark Ages and back into the light.

One such woman is Razia Jan, Razias-Ray-of-Hope-imagean Afghan-born American woman who was profoundly moved to do something, anything, after 9/11. She began by organizing her American community to send blankets to rescue workers at ground Zero, then care packages to soldiers in Afghanistan, and then shoes to Afghan children. And then she got on a plane and went there. Right into a war zone. She hadn’t been back in over 30 years.

Razia wasn’t sure at first what to do to help but eventually it became clear: help to ensure that the girls in her homeland had the same educational opportunities as the boys. She founded Razia’s Ray of Hope to fund the Zabuli Education Center for girls which opened in March of 2008. The school now has 440 students, is increasing this number every year, and Razia has set a new target – building the first  women’s college in rural Afghanistan. The Razia Jan Technical College is scheduled to open in March of 2015.

Empowering women and girls in a country that just a few years ago seemed committed to their complete and total dis-empowerment is no small task. But Razia Jan and the founders of this school (including the male elders of the community who she enrolled in the project and who now support it 100%) believe that the education of all the children of Afghanistan is key to bringing positive peaceful change to their country.

Girls across the world are going to school as never before. I can’t help but think that this “Girls’ Revolution” will have some very profound, positive, and peaceful effects as they grow into women leaders in Afghanistan and beyond.

Thanks for stopping by,

Heather McC

P.S. For more information on Razia’s Ray of Hope, you can also watch this short video trailer of the upcoming film documentary, WHAT TOMORROW BRINGS (3 min trailer) from Principle Pictures on Vimeo.

Sources

A list of some of the websites, news sources, and books that I’ve relied on for reference material for the An Invisible Woman series:

The BBC News site – countless articles and video reports

The Los Angeles Times – many, many articles. Using back issues on microfiche in various public libraries, I was able to create a reference timeline of events post 9/11. This allowed me to follow how the pieces were put together after the attacks.

First In: An Insider’s Account of How the CIA Spearheaded the War on Terror in Afghanistan – Gary C. Shroen

Charlie Wilson’s War: The Extraordinary Story of How the Wildest Man in Congress and a Rogue CIA Agent Changed the History of Our Times – George Crile

Unleash the Warrior Within: Develop the Focus, Discipline, Confidence, and Courage You Need to Achieve Unlimited Goals – Richard J. Machowicz

Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia, Second Edition – Ahmed Rashid

The Afghans – Willem Vogelsang

Warrior Women: An Archaeologist’s Search for History’s Hidden Heroines – Jeannine Davis-Kimball

The Storyteller’s Daughter: One Woman’s Return to Her Lost Homeland – Saira Shah

The Alphabet Versus the Goddess: The Conflict Between Word and Image (Compass) – Leonard Shlain

The Seven Daughters of Eve: The Science That Reveals Our Genetic Ancestry – Bryan Sykes

The Chalice and the Blade: Our History, Our Future—Updated With a New Epilogue – Riane Eisler

The White Goddess: A Historical Grammar of Poetic Myth – Robert Graves

In Search of the Indo-Europeans – J.P. Mallory

The Women of Afghanistan Under the Taliban – Rosemarie Skaine

War’s Offensive on Women: The Humanitarian Challenge in Bosnia, Kosovo, and Afghanistan – Julie A. Mertus

Veiled Threat: The Hidden Power Of The Women Of Afghanistan – Sally Armstrong

Veiled Courage: Inside the Afghan Women’s Resistance – Cheryl Benard

Price of Honor: Muslim Women Lift the Veil of Silence on the Islamic World – Jan Goodwin

Meena, Heroine of Afghanistan: The Martyr Who Founded RAWA, the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan  – Melody Ermachild Chavis