The Broken Circle: A Memoir Of Escaping Afghanistan
By Enjeela Ahmadi-Miller
Little A; hardcover, $24.95; eBook, $4.99; available today, Friday, March 1
Enjeela Ahmadi-Miller was born in 1976 in Kabul, Afghanistan, and is now a citizen of the United States. She has also lived in Pakistan and India and speaks several languages, including Farsi, English, Hindi, and Urdu.
An entrepreneur since the age of eighteen, she has owned several businesses, a restaurant, Angelo's Pizza, in Los Angeles; a cosmetics line, Ahmadi, which is sold in spas and salons in LA; retail stores, Bella Bella, Friction, and Milan, all in Dallas; and a clothing line, Henry III Generation, sold in Neiman Marcus and boutiques throughout the US. In 2004, she married prominent Dallas real estate guru Henry S. Miller III, and in 2005 their son, Alexander, was born. A dynamic mother who strives to be as open and giving as possible, she maintains a creative, passionate, artistic, and spiritual outlook on life.
Ahmadi-Miller has written an emotional and sweeping memoir of love and survival, The Broken Circle, which tells the story of her committed and desperate family being uprooted and divided by the violent, changing landscape of Afghanistan in the early 1980s.
Before the Soviet invasion of 1980, Enjeela Ahmadi remembers her home of Kabul as peaceful, prosperous, and filled with people from all walks of life. Unsettled by growing political unrest, her mother leaves for medical treatment in India, changing Enjeela's life forever.
Amid the rubble of invading Soviet tanks, Enjeela and her family are thrust into chaos and fear when it becomes clear her mother will not be returning home.
This is the start of an epic, reckless, and terrifying five-year journey of escape for Enjeela, her siblings, and their father to reconnect with her mother. In navigating the dangers ahead of them, and in looking back at the wilderness of her homeland, Enjeela discovers the spiritual and physical strength to find hope in the most desperate of circumstances.
The Broken Circle is a heart-stopping memoir of a girl shaken by the brutalities of war and empowered by the will to survive. This story illustrates that family is not defined by the borders of a country but by the bonds of the heart.
In this excerpt, Ahmadi-Miller writes of what a typical night was like in Kabul when the Soviet army started to take over:
One night the electricity went off, and it didn't come back on for several days. Noor cooked dinner over a fire in the yard, and we ate in the dark. As the blackouts become more frequent, so did our use of kerosene lanterns that Padar had found. Noor went to the market each day to buy food He always came back exasperated with the soldiers, who dominated the streets. He feared the shopkeepers would just up and close. Everyone seemed to talk under their breath out of fear of being overheard by the secret police or the Soviet soldiers. Noor said there were far fewer people in the city; many people had fled to rural areas or had left the country.
Padar would never leave, and Mommy would never return to a nation at war. I used to daydream that she would suddenly appear to rescue us. But with every day that passed, she became less clear in my memory; at times I could see only a mere outline, though I could hear her voice. Even when I tried to listen for her in my head, the familiar firm sharpness of her words would be drowned out by the sounds of tanks, gunfire, and trucks full of grim-faced soldiers. I wondered if I would even recognize her if she came to the door.
I spent many days up in the pear tree, watching the tanks and jeeps and soldiers passing by. Planes streaked low across the sky; the rumble of their engines made my legs shake.
The government wanted to turn Afghan society into a socialist state overnight, wiping away centuries of religious thinking and tradition. They had already changed the textbooks in all the schools, taking out any reference to Muslim faith. They even changed the national pledge that each child recited every morning to include loyalty to the socialist state of Afghanistan. They arrested the popular teachers, administrators, and professors who refused to change. These purges and demands only fueled the discontent of the people, which spilled over into protest. Kabul settled into a state of unrest, with its citizens constantly taking to the street in active revolt. Kabuli students passed out flyers about the planned marches, and people from outlying villages poured into the city to show their solidarity. Shopkeepers closed their stores. The marches were meant to be peaceful, Padar told us at dinnertime. But they were shouting slogans denouncing the Parcham and their socialist agenda, so the soldiers fired on the crowds. People were being killed. After the violence escalated, the protests spread to the high schools.
Early in the new year of 1980, students at Ahmad Shah's high school marched to the police barricades, shouting slogans against the new regime. When they wouldn't disperse, the guards fired at them. One of the girls from Shahnaz's high school who was shouting the loudest was shot dead by a soldier. Ahmad Shah talked about her all the time. She was a hero, and her name became a battle cry to the other students. They would shout, 'Miss Nahid!'
Shortly after high school students joined the protests, truckloads of Afghan and Soviet soldiers began rolling through the neighborhood. They were searching for teenage boys in order to force them into joining the army. When the truck stopped in front of the gate to our house, soldiers dismounted with rifles in their hands. One of the maids went to warn Padar, who was in the living room. He quickly found Ahmad Shah and told him to cross over the back fence and hide on the neighbor's roof until the soldiers were gone. The soldiers barged through our front door. Padar met them in the entryway; he was very cool and calm. All of us watched from the hall as the soldiers dispersed and went room to room searching for my brother.
'We have no teenagers,' he kept telling them nicely. 'I don't know why you are coming in here.'
The soldiers kept searching, brushing past Laila, Zulaikha, and me in the hall. I watched one of them following the others. He looked no older than Ahmad Shah, who was only sixteen. He moved along, unsure of himself as he pointed his rifle at the ceiling. With a sad droop to his eyes, he poked his rifle into the rooms that had already been searched by other soldiers. They must have forced him into the army just as they wanted to do to my brother. They opened every room and closet, even the maids' quarters outside, anywhere a person could hide. I felt sorry for him and for what was happening to all the boys.