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Book Synopsis

"KABUL TO CARMEL-BY-THE-SEA"

ALMOST KILLED BY THE TALIBAN

By

Masuda Rahmati 


 

Kabul to Carmel by-the-Sea is the story of MASUDA RAHMATI, a refugee from Afghanistan
now living in the California, who overcomes deadly challenges and personal heartbreak on her
incredible life’s journey.


Masuda’s peaceful childhood in Kabul comes to an end with the Soviet invasion of 1979.
Fearing for their lives, Masuda and her family flee Kabul in the dead of night. She is not even
allowed to say goodbye to her best friend for fear of tipping off the authorities as to the family’s
plans to escape. In a heart-wrenching scene, 11-year-old Masuda must tearfully leave behind her
beloved dog. She and her family make a harrowing escape, traveling by night through the desert
until they make it across the border and into Pakistan. They linger there for two years until they
receive approval to enter the land of their dreams, arriving in Los Angeles just before Christmas.
Masuda, now 13, is thrust into a teen scene straight out of “Fast Times at Ridgemont High.”
Speaking no English and knowing little beyond her family’s traditional culture, she is lost and
confused, baffled by everything she encounters. Her teachers don’t know what to do with the
only Afghani pupil in a huge middle school, and her parents are too overwhelmed to give her the
attention she needs. Masuda could have easily slid into despair, but instead makes an important
life decision—I’ll have to help myself. She teaches herself English by reading highway signs and
watching Little House on the Prairie. A year later, she is at the top of her class and on her
school’s Leadership Council.


The family relocates again, this time to Carmel by-the-Sea. Once again, Masuda feels alone and
misunderstood in a school full of blond, blue-eyed rich kids. Her traditional culture is so strict
when it comes to relations between boys and girls that she has to pretend she’s on a sleep-over at
her best friend’s home just to attend prom. She has a secret crush on the captain of the football
team, but knows there is no way in the world it could ever be anything but a private dream. She
would be expected to marry a Muslim, a man chosen for her by her parents.
In a resort community like Carmel, celebrity sightings are a frequent occurrence, yet Masuda
seems to be a magnet when it comes to encounters with the rich and famous: Clint Eastwood,
Jason Priestley, Adam Sandler. She has a special place in her heart for Adam Jardine, son of the
Beach Boys' rhythm guitarist Al Jardine. Adam befriended Masuda when she was a lonely
newcomer at Carmel High, offering her rides home in his pickup truck. Years later, Masuda ran
into him at Carmel Beach and thanked him for his kindness. This resulted in Masuda being
invited to Al Jardine’s recording studio at his home in Big Sur. Another time, Masuda was

invited to an exclusive reception for supporters of the Halo Trust, where the guest list included
Prince Harry and Senator John McCain.


Masuda works her way through college, passes the U.S. citizenship test and gets a real estate
license. Her family continues to attempt to coerce Masuda into an arranged marriage, but she is
able to resist—but for how long? Masuda’s story takes a Cinderella turn when she runs into
Rene, her high school crush, at a local shopping mall. It turns out he, too, had been attracted to
Masuda back in the day at Carmel High! They begin dating. Months later, at sunset on a cliff in
Big Sur overlooking Masuda’s favorite beach, he proposes and Masuda accepts.


Just one problem. Masuda is expected to enter into a traditional Afghani marriage, one arranged
by her father. Masuda is on pins and needles the first time the two sets of parents meet. In
Afghan tradition, the groom’s parents are expected to provide a dowry. Rene’s parents show up
at the meeting carrying a satchel filled with play money. Everyone starts laughing, the ice is
broken, and soon the two families are getting along just fine. Masuda has the fantasy wedding of
her dreams at the beautiful Holman Ranch in Carmel Valley.


Masuda is living the American dream—a successful businesswoman with a happy marriage. Life
is good, yet Masuda is acutely aware of the desperate status of the women and girls of her native
land. She longs to help, but what can one woman do from so far away?


Then one day, quite by accident, Masuda stumbles across the Mrs. World beauty pageant while
channel-surfing. As one beautiful woman after another parade across the stage, Masuda begins to
wonder—where is Mrs. Afghanistan? With that, a plan begins to form. On a whim, she sends an
email to the president of Mrs. World, pointing out the lack of representation by Afghanistan. To
her shock, the president writes back, suggesting she enter the pageant representing Afghanistan.
At first, the idea seems audacious and a bit cheeky. What better way to throw it in the face of the
Taliban, with their backwards, fundamentalist rules about women being covered head-to-toe,
than to appear on international television in a swimsuit, proudly wearing a sash identifying her as
Mrs. Afghanistan? But as death threats begin to arrive, the life-threatening stakes become real.
Well-meaning friends and family urge Masuda to drop out of the pageant, but she persists.
Fearing for her life and looking for danger around every corner, she travels to India, the venue
for that year’s pageant. Just like she’d planned, she walks across a stage in a swimsuit and sash
identifying her as Mrs. Afghanistan in front of television cameras that will beam her image
around the world. She has made her point.


Today, Masuda is the mother of a teenage girl and is continuing her humanitarian work in San
Diego, California. She raises money to help Fatima Amiri, the young woman who lost an eye
when the Taliban attacked her school. She has adopted as a brother a young man paralyzed by
the violence in Afghanistan, and she has donated textbooks to Change Makers of the World.


Masuda has partnered with the American Cancer Society and will be donating a portion of her
book sales to them in honor of her beloved mother, who succumb to this horrible disease.
Topping the many amazing experiences in her life, Masuda is able to track down the best friend
she had to leave behind so many decades ago in Kabul. Masuda’s online searching led her to Dr.
Ahmad Sarmast, a well-known Afghani musician, teacher and orchestra leader. Dr. Sarmast also
happens to be the brother of Masuda’s childhood best friend, Frozan, now living in Portugal. In
an intense and moving scene in the book, the two besties have a reunion by telephone.
After 40 years in the United States, Masuda loves the many opportunities it has given her, and
fervently appreciates the freedom available to everyone, especially women, to speak up without
fear of prison—or worse. And yet, she maintains, “My heart will always be in Kabul.”

Thank You, Masuda Rahmati

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