Signed copies of first edition, War in the Land of Cain,
available directly from the author
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First Place Winner,
2022 New Mexico Press Women Contest
New edition and title
and can be ordered at your local bookstore.
Love and War in the Land of Cain is a compelling story of love, war, idealism and hard moral choices during the brutal Afghan-Soviet conflict of the 1980’s. American journalist and photographer Elizabeth Owen, eager to jumpstart her career after a painful breakup, dares to go where few farangi men and virtually no foreign women have gone before: into the war zone with the mujahedeen in remote and forbidding Afghanistan. In the legendary Biblical “land of Nod, east of Eden” where Cain fled after killing Abel, Elizabeth finds instinctive sisterhood with Afghan women as she witnesses the rending of Afghan society in a confusing war where brother fights brother, and son bitterly opposes father.
Elizabeth’s journalistic objectivity is challenged by both this powerful sisterhood and her growing feelings for Dr. Yusuf Hakim, an idealistic, American-trained doctor who tends to both mujahedeen Resistance fighters and innocent civilians. Yusuf faces painful and often dangerous choices as he goes about his clandestine work in his ancestral province of Kunar, now governed by his pro-Soviet younger brother, Ayub Khan. Into this volatile brew is thrown the increasing threat of extremist Islamic fundamentalism, supported covertly by the CIA and threatening the influence of moderates like Massoud Khan, Yusuf’s longtime friend and mentor, and the mysterious commando leader, Rahimullah. Elizabeth’s worldview is shattered by the cruelty and randomness of war, and healed by the friendships she forms with the quietly feminist refugee leader Salima Khan and the dedicated nurse Malolai. Her love for Yusuf comes ultimately to sustain her, as her Afghan friends teach her the humility of true heroism.
Love and War in the Land of Cain was Debra Denker's debut novel under the title War in the Land of Cain. She also is the author of the cli-fi (climate change fiction) novel Weather Menders, in which time travelers reverse the ravages of climate change and pandemics. Her memoir Sisters on the Bridge of Fire chronicled her years as an international journalist, photographer and filmmaker in the 80s, including writing the June, 1985 National Geographic cover story, “Along Afghanistan's War-torn Frontier.”
Author photo by Tara Waters Lumpkin
Love and War
in the Land of Cain
A Novel of Afghanistan
Her stories and photos have appeared in numerous international publications covering subjects from social documentary to alternative architecture, sustainable living and energy healing. She is currently senior editor and contributor to the non-profit Voices for Biodiversity and project director of the Global Diversity Film Project.