A Different Kind of Daughter: The Girl Who Hid from the Taliban in Plain Sight by Maria Toorpakai with Katharine Holstein

Review by: dancingonrain

Maria Toorpakai was born a girl, but raised as a boy (Genghis Khan) in order to have a freer life and not be restricted to the lack of freedom women had in the Middle East.  Her secret was eventually discovered and she had to figure out if she wanted to hide her true self in order to keep everyone she cares about safe or if she wanted to be who she is despite the inevitable consequences.

I’m normally more of a fantasy/adventure junkie and can’t stand anything written about the “real world,” but I was trying to broaden the genres I read.  This book seemed as good as any to start and I must say that I did enjoy it overall.

While a good part of the beginning was backstory and I lost interest through pages and pages of it, but this was also more of a personal preference rather than a book flaw.  I personally would have much rather seen more about her story with squash since that seemed like her true passion and that it presented problems for girls in Middle East.  While the book definitely spent a good amount of time on this topic, I think I would have loved if it had expanded on her and her love of the sport despite harassment more rather than the backstory of moving from place to place.  Still, I did like the book despite my preferences.

I thought this book did a great job with characterizing Maria/Genghis.  I didn’t know if that was intentional or not, but one part of the backstory that was useful was we got to see what a scrapper she was and while I would have preferred the prose showed it more rather than told it, I still thought it was presented successfully.

One aspect of this book that I thought was well done was it showed me just how bad life for anyone living there at the time was and even now.  I always knew it was hard for the people living there with the Taliban, but now I have a little more insight into it and from the perspective from someone who actually lived there and not just what the U.S. news decided to tell (or not tell) you.

And despite the fact that I’m not a religious person, I did enjoy the philosophical discussions Maria/Genghis had about religion and other aspects with her father.

Overall, while this genre is not my usual cup of tea and some of the excessive background story detached me from the story on occasion, I still enjoyed this novel of one girl’s struggles and who ultimately perseveres in the end.