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Jenny Nordberg, Author of “The Underground Girls of Kabul,” to Speak at Georgian Court University

Woman smiling

Jenny Nordberg, the award-winning journalist and author of The Underground Girls of Kabul: In Search of Hidden Resistance in Afghanistan, is one of Georgian Court University’s featured speakers this fall. The New York Times investigative reporter will discuss her book exposing “bacha posh” on Friday, November 11, at 9:30 a.m. in Georgian Court’s Casino Auditorium in Lakewood, New Jersey. A book signing will follow the presentation, and books will be available for purchase.

Ms. Nordberg broke the story in 2010 of bacha posh—how girls grow up disguised as boys in gender-segregated Afghanistan. The story was first published in the New York Times and the International Herald Tribune.

The Underground Girls of Kabul is the only original nonfiction work on the practice of bacha posh, going deep into issues of gender and culture in Afghanistan. To date, Ms. Nordberg is the only researcher in the world who has explored the practice of bacha posh in a systematic and comprehensive manner.

“Set against the violent backdrop of America’s longest war, The Underground Girls of Kabul follows Afghan girls who live disguised as boys through childhood and puberty, only to be expected by adult age to transform into subordinate wives and mothers,” according to the book’s publishers. “But the battle of nature versus nurture lingers, and some bacha posh will refuse to rescind their male prerogatives in what the United Nations calls the world’s most dangerous country to be a woman.”

Nordberg’s Book Is “Thought-Provoking” for GCU Students

The book was also selected as GCU’s first-year common read, giving new students an opportunity to explore the myriad issues around gender, socioeconomics, religion, war, and culture.

For aspiring high school history teacher Daniel Ginchereau, reading The Underground Girls of Kabul has been thought-provoking.

“Overall, this book is so important to the world’s understanding of why there is so much inequality in the Middle East,” says the Marlton resident. “Jenny Nordberg is a hero for telling the stories of these valiant women who do their best to survive every day in the face of a system that is constantly trying to silence them.”

In his estimation, the book aims to explore why sons are seen as more valuable than daughters in Afghan society. And, by telling the stories of several women who are from a wide spectrum of society in Kabul, readers come to understand that the violence perpetuated in that society is the result of generations of a strict code of feminine obedience to the patriarchy.

Ultimately, it’s the kind of book he’d like to use in his own classroom someday, “so that students can have some insight to compare to their free life of privilege and prosperity,” says Daniel.

This event is in addition to many other Critical Concerns 2016 programs featuring well-recognized speakers, authors, artists, filmmakers, and educators. For the past decade, the annual Critical Concerns programs at GCU have addressed the Sisters of Mercy’s five critical concerns—the earth, immigration, racism, nonviolence, and women. This year will focus on Women’s Voices in the Jubilee Year of Mercy.

This year’s observance is being held in conjunction with Ocean County College’s Grunin Center for the Arts and the Ocean County Library. Throughout October and November, the three local organizations are exploring the theme Beyond the Classroom & Critical Concerns: Global Education for Women.

All sessions are open to the public and free of charge. Learn more and register at or call the Office of Mission Integration at 732-987-2303.

Aerial view of GCU.

About Georgian Court University

Founded in 1908 and sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy, Georgian Court University is Central and South Jersey’s only Catholic university. GCU is a comprehensive, coeducational university with a strong liberal arts core and a historic special concern for women. As a forward-thinking university that supports diversity and academic excellence, GCU is known for expanding possibility for more than 2,100 students of all faiths and backgrounds in 35+ undergraduate majors and 10+ graduate programs. The GCU Lions compete in 15 NCAA Division II sports in the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference (CACC). In 2020, GCU was named a Best Value College by and a Best Bang for the Buck (Northeast) by Washington Monthly. High student retention and graduation rates also make GCU a Top Performer on Social Mobility on U.S. News & World Reports rankings. The main campus is located in Lakewood, New Jersey, on the picturesque former George Jay Gould estate, a National Historic Landmark. Georgian Court, which is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, also serves students at other locations, such as GCU at BrookdaleGCU at Rowan College of South Jersey–Cumberland Campus, and through multiple online certificate and degree programs.

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