_A Different Kind of Daughter_ is a 2016 memoir (written in English with
the help of a ghost writer) by Maria Toorpakay Wazir, a professional squash
player from Pakistan, who now lives in Canada.
The book describes some fascinating and some disturbing events.
The author is a Pashtun, born into a people with a fierce warrior tradition
in one of the most conservative Muslim tribal regions in the world.
Her Muslim father is a passionate supporter of women's rights and education,
and he has received death threats from the Taliban. Her Muslim mother
told her that she once witnessed the stoning to death of a 16 year old girl
for daring to elope with a boy of which their families had disapproved.
Maria was an extraordinarily big and strong girl, bigger and stronger than most boys of her age.
Early in childhood, she rejected everything feminine. (She burned all her dresses.)
She yearned for the freedom and opportunities of being male. So, with
the help of her parents and her brothers, Maria spent her first 16 years or
so impersonating a boy, being generally accepted as another 'one of the boys'.
(As she grew up, Maria's developing body would make it harder for her to pass as male.)
Maria apparently was an indifferent (unmotivated) student in school, but
she loved sports and took pride in surpassing boys in weightlifting and squash.
By her own account, 'Genghis Khan' (her chosen name as a boy, no kidding!)
was an experienced street fighter with an explosive temper. She apparently
liked to beat up boys, particularly any boys whom she perceived as disrespectful.
In addition, when she was only eight years old, her father gave her a gun
(a local copy of a Soviet Makarov pistol) and taught her to clean it, take
it apart and put it back together, and fire it. With regular practice, Maria
became a crack shot. Apparently by the time she was nine years old,
Maria often would go out carrying a gun (this was in a warlike region where
hardly any man would go out unarmed) and was ready to use it. On one
occasion, she almost shot an unarmed boy who had been persistently following
or harassing her. Maria remains fiercely proud of her warrior heritage.
By 'civilized Western' standards, one presumably would insist that a girl
who preferred a male's life and who apparently enjoyed beating up boys
(even when not carrying a gun) should receive some kind of psychotherapy.
But would it be fair to judge Maria by 'civilized Western' standards?
After all, she had to spend years doing her utmost to avoid being killed by the Taliban.
At one time, Maria felt desperately lonely and depressed by herself in the USA.
Then the Pashtun tribal code of hospitality came to her aid. A Pashtun
immigrant received an E-mail from Pakistan that there was a Pashtun girl
in trouble in the USA. He quickly drove about 400 miles to help Maria.
He arranged for her to live with his own family, with no payment expected.
He became Maria's protective 'uncle' in effect.
At this time, Maria Toorpakay Wazir is attempting to advance her career
as a professional squash player while also drawing attention to the plight
of girls' education in Pakistan's regions with major Taliban influence.
Her older sister is a member of Pakistan's parliament.
I suspect that, while many Westerners may admire Maria Toorpakay Wazir as
a brave symbol of resistance to the Taliban's misogyny, not many Westerners
would like their own daughters to grow up to be exactly like her.
And I suspect that Maria Toorpakay Wazir would not care about that.