From a very young age, Dr. Homeira Qaderi struggled with the systematic oppression of women in Afghanistan. Born in Kabul, Qaderi spent her early childhood, youth, and adolescence in Herat during the Russian occupation, the civil war, and the Taliban rule. Following threats to her life while secretly teaching children inside a refugee tent-mosque and the first publication of a short story by a woman under the Taliban, Qaderi took refuge in Iran where she obtained a Bachelor in Persian Literature from Shaheed Beheshti University (Tehran) in 2005. In 2007, she received her Master’s Degree in Literature from Allameh Tabataba’i University (Tehran). For seven years, while she was studying in Iran, Qaderi served as Director of The Afghan Artists and Cultural Instructors Society, established for Afghan writers living in Iran. Qaderi is the author of six books. Her most recently published memoir and first book in English translation is Dancing in the Mosque: An Afghan Mother’s Letter to Her Son (Harper).
In her deeply moving memoir, Qaderi describes the unimaginable choices she’s made as a mother in the face of oppression. Some eighteen months after the birth of her son, Siawash, she accepts an invitation to participate in the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa, courtesy of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. Department of State. But in going to America, Qaderi is denied her right to her child. Devastating in its power, Dancing in the Mosque is a mother’s searing letter to a son she was forced to leave behind. In telling her story—and that of Afghan women—Qaderi challenges you to reconsider the meaning of motherhood, sacrifice, and survival. Her story asks you to consider the lengths you would go to protect yourself, your family, and your dignity.
Qaderi has devoted her life to the advocation of women’s rights in Afghanistan and being the voice for those who feel as if they have none. She shows her audiences the true definition of perseverance and strength, along with defying all odds when it seems impossible. Her passion will shine through any presentation she gives, whether it’s to a university, historical society, library, or political audience.
Qaderi began her career as a professor at the universities of Kabul, Mash’al, Gharjestan, and Kateb, teaching Persian Literature. Recognized as a national leader in civic movements, she has focused on achieving equal rights for Afghan women. Qaderi has participated in global conversations at prominent programs such as the UN-organized Second Bonn Conference, the Tokyo Conference on Afghanistan, and the London Conference on Afghanistan. She has also participated in programs in Pakistan, India, Turkey, Tajikistan, and the United Arab Emirates promoting women’s presence in government and in decision-making roles within Muslim society. Qaderi has received prestigious awards, such as the Literary Award for Prose, the Sadegh Hedayat Award, and the Malalai Award for Exceptional Bravery from the President of Afghanistan for her human rights activism.
A former editor-in chief at the Rah-e Madanyat Publications, Qaderi currently lives in California and is a Professor of Dari Literary Stylistics at the Gharjestan University.
Praise for Dancing in the Mosque:
“How does a girl grow to be a woman in a society that shuts off every opportunity? How does a mother choose between her child and the future, not just her future but that of the women of Afghanistan? Homeira Qaderi answers these impossible questions in her stunning memoir, Dancing in the Mosque—one of the most moving love letters to life itself that you will ever read.”
--Meg Waite Clayton, author of The Last Train to London
"A stunning reminder that stories and words are what sustain us, even—and perhaps especially—under the most frightening circumstances."
--New York Times
"An unvarnished, memorable portrayal of a mother’s grief and love."
--Kirkus Reviews (starred review) Best of the year 2020, Nonfiction
"A heartrending, indelible tale."
“Dancing in the Mosque is a remarkable story of great strength, perseverance, and personal sacrifice by a woman selflessly working to advance the rights of women in her homeland of Afghanistan, women and girls who yearn to be free. I so admire Homeira Qaderi's writing, but even more her courage. I wept when I read the words, " in this land, it is better to be a stone than a girl." Thank you, Homeira, for telling a story that everyone needs to read."
--Deborah Rodriquez, author of New York Times bestseller The Kabul Beauty School and Little Coffee Shop in Kabul
“A modern-day Sophie's Choice, this memoir about a mother's love for her child and country is heartbreaking, but also triumphantly hopeful and inspiring. Thank God for courageous women like Homeira Qaderi.”
--Thrity Umrigar, bestselling author of The Secrets Between Us
“'God never answers the prayers of girls,' the Afghan writer Homeira Qaderi was told when the Taliban invaded her native city of Herat. But her new book, Dancing in the Mosque, is a kind of answered prayer born of her courage, indomitable will, and storytelling gifts. In this remarkable blend of memoir and anguished letter in exile to a son she cannot see, Qaderi reminds us that the pen is mightier than the sword, especially when it is in the hands of a writer who invites her readers to dance in the mosque."
--Christopher Merrill, author of Self-Portrait with Dogwood