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Join us for a book talk about Defiant Dreams with Sola Mahfouz and Malaina Kapoor.

Sola Mahfouz was born in Afghanistan in 1996. That same year, the Taliban took over her country for the first time. They banned television and photographs, presided over brutal public executions, and turned the clock backwards on women’s rights, practically imprisoning women within their own homes and forcing them to wear all-concealing burqas. At age eleven, Sola was forced to stop attending school after a group of men threatened to throw acid in her face if she continued. After that she was confined to her home, required to cook and clean and prepare for an arranged marriage. She saw the outside world only a handful of times each year.

As time passed, Sola began to understand that she was condemned to the same existence as millions of women in Afghanistan. Her future was empty. The rest of her life would be controlled entirely by men, fathers and husbands and sons who would never allow her to study, to earn money, or even to dream.

Driven by this devastating realization, Sola began a years-long fight to change the trajectory of her life. She decided that education would be her way out. At age sixteen, without even a basic ability to add or subtract, she began secretly to teach herself math and English. She progressed rapidly, and within just two years she was already studying topics such as philosophy and physics. Faced with obstacles at every turn, Sola still managed to sneak into Pakistan to take the SAT. In 2016, she escaped to the United States, where she is now a quantum computing researcher at Tufts University.

An engrossing, dramatic memoir, co-written with young Indian American human rights activist Malaina Kapoor, Defiant Dreams is the story of one girl, but it’s also the untold story of a generation of women brimming with potential and longing for freedom.

Defiant Dreams

Sola Mahfouz was born in Afghanistan and immigrated to the U.S. in 2016, to attend college. She is currently a quantum computing researcher at Tufts University Quantum Information Group. In her free time she is focusing on reading and studying different styles of fiction, as well as writing about the rugged homeland she has left behind. She lives in Boston, Massachusetts.

Sola Mahfouz

Malaina Kapoor is a writer from Redwood City, California. She previously served as a Fellow at PEN America, where she advocated for international human rights, press freedoms, and election integrity. Malaina served on the management team of a refugee resettlement organization and was the producer of In Deep, a nationally syndicated public affairs radio broadcast program. She has received national awards for her poetry, personal essays, and short stories. Malaina will graduate from Stanford University in 2025.

Malaina Kapoor

If you need a disability-related accommodation for this event, please contact us at  Requests should be made by January 17, 2023.

Event is sponsored by the Hamid and Christina Moghadam Program in Iranian Studies, and co-sponsored by the Abbasi Program in Islamic Studies, the Center for South Asia, and Stanford Global Studies.