Walking the Precipice
Walking the Precipice
Witness to the Rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan
In 1990, sixty-five-year-old activist and grandmother Barbara Bick traveled with a women’s delegation to Afghanistan for what she thought would be her last great adventure. Instead, Bick forged deep friendships with her Afghan hosts and in the ensuing years, she watched with horror as the Taliban took over most of Afghanistan and instituted fiercely anti-woman policies.
Eleven years later, at age 76, Bick returned to Afghanistan, this time to an even more dangerous terrain than Kabul: she traveled to the region controlled by the Northern Alliance, an anti-Taliban militia. She found herself in early September 2001 at a compound where Ahmad Shah Massoud, a leader of the Northern Alliance, was also staying. Bick walked out of the compound on September 9; minutes later Taliban infiltrators assassinated Massoud, a prelude to the al Qaeda attacks on the United States.
In the years that followed, the US government became deeply involved in Afghanistan, and Bick decided to go back one more time, to see how women were faring under the new government. In 2004, when she returned, she was one of the few Western women able to bring years of experience to understanding the country’s trauma. Walking the Precipice gives new insight into the people, politics, and culture of a country that is on everyone’s radar—for its beauty, and for its tragic place history.
"Enthralling . . . One of her most compelling and emotional episodes . . . By the end of this short but dense narrative, readers will have a far greater understanding of the region [Afghanistan] and the stakes under which its people labor" —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"Her recollections. . .grow especially poignant as age and frailty force her onto the sidelines. Bick’s commitment to assisting women on the other side of the world is worthy of high admiration, and her book can serve as a primer for new generations of women inspired to help others as she did." —Booklist
"Walking the Precipice is a deeply personal account told with honesty, humor, and insight. The author never claims more for herself than is appropriate, nor does she apologize for her emotional responses to what she sees. . . . she brings to bear acute powers of observation, a deep concern for an oppressed group of women, and her own impressive background as an organizer in a significant moment in history. To read Walking the Precipice is to be moved and educated." —The Martha's Vineyard Times