Tamim Ansary
writes books, teaches writing workshops, and speaks on a variety of topics related to history, politics, and culture.  His literary memoir West of Kabul, East of New York was selected by both Waco, Texas and San Francisco, California as a One City One Book pick. Destiny Disrupted, A History of the World Through Islamic  Eyes won a Northern California Book Award for nonfiction in 2009 and has been translated into eleven languages including Spanish, Korean, and Russian. Through the Osher Institute of Lifelong Learning at U.C. Berkeley, he delivers six-week lectures from to time on subjects related to his books, although sometimes the lectures come before the books.  In Ripple Effects, for example, a lecture series that looked at human history as a drama of ever-increasing interconnectedness, he developed the ideas for his upcoming book, The Invention of Yesterday, scheduled for release in October, 2019, Born in Kabul, Afghanistan, Ansary came to the United States in 1964,  at the age of 16, and spent a dozen tumultious years immersed in the counterculture of the ’60s and ’70s, a period chronicled in his recent memoir Road Trips.  Although his works range from fiction- to columns to children’s books, he is drawn mostly to history and memoir as a writer. These,  he regards as two sides of the same coin: “Memoir is what history looks like from up close. History is what all the interwoven memoirs of an era look like from a distance.”  Some of his and other writers’ short pieces appear in a website dedicated to art of telling real-life stories …


24 Responses to Home

  1. Wahid Nugroho April 7, 2013 at 5:28 AM #

    After read one of your book, Destiny Disrupted, i began to be one of your fans. Just wanna say hello from Indonesia 🙂

  2. Vince Scott March 30, 2013 at 6:15 PM #

    I just read your book “Games Without Rules”. I think it is well written. By that I mean I find most “history books” to be boring academic treaties. Your book was not. And for a westerner trying to get a glimpse of another culture, the book does well.

    I think in some respects you feel Afghan cultural differences are materially different than U.S. I think large U.S. cities are more tolerant of other religions and philosophies then small rural communities. I expect if you drove 150 miles northeast of San Francisco you would find less tolerance than you do in San Francisco – mainly because these people, for the most part, have not had the exposure to different peoples. Hence the expression “when small town values come to the big city”.

    Same with doing business. In the U.S. we tend to do repeat business with those who have provided reliable reasonable services and goods in the past. If you have ever had an incompetent mechanic (or two) work on your car – when you find a really competent mechanic who charges reasonable rates we tend to go back to that mechanic.

    Still, I thought your book was really very good.

  3. waheed March 21, 2013 at 10:59 PM #

    Tamim jan with all due respect I begg to differ with you, you are leaving a very important point out. Afghans get blown away by Pakistani death squads daily. these so called Taliban come from across the border and mercilessly kill maim and destroy Afghans and at times American boys too. Every Afghan knows that there is no such thing as Taliban, they are smart enough to know that these are Pakistani ISI agents. The president and all the way down to an ordinary Afghan is very upset and perplexed as to why the Us allows this to happen. US has declared a war on terror, they say they are in Afghanistan to eradicate terrorists, however Pakistan is allowed to train, arm and plot a mission against Afghans, Indians and Americans. Every Afghan finds this unacceptable, if terror comes from Pakistan than why is the US in Afghanistan!?? If Osama Bin Laden is sheltered in Pakistan and many other ones like him and if all the corrupt Afghan so called Taliban are in Pakistan under Pakistani protection than naturally, according to any Afghan, Pakistan should be punished and every effort must be made to bring them to a world body such as the UN. We have not heard or seen a solid and concrete step taken by the US Govt to eliminate this issue. As a matter of fact there are many perplexing and unanswered questions. Karzai in private has repeatedly asked the US to stop the Pakistanis from murdering Afghans! The last bombing that killed many Afghans only a month ago, I think was the last straw so to speak for Karzai patience. He is right, STOP PAKISTAN NOW!! Or you are with them, he considers Pakistan as the Taliban , when says you are with Taliban what he means is Pakistan!! Do you blame him!!?? He is allowing foreigners in his country to fight terror but its crystal clear that there is no terror in Afghanistan and every Afghan knows this, as an Afghan he has no explanation to give to his people, why are Americans in Afghanistan, shouldn’t they be in Pakistan!?? If the US is there as a friend of Afghan people and if US is fighting terrorists? Than why is the powerful US not helping poor Afghans and Afghan govt from Pakistani death squads?? WHY!?? Are they in bed together for an evil hidden agenda? Is the US playing a double game!?? I ask this question every day and my 80 year old mom asks this question every day and my sister asks this question every day! Tamim jan lets forget about the tunnel and the razing of the shrine, AFGHANS ARE NOT FOOLS!! I command Karzai for having big balls to bring this up in an open forum. I am disappointed with your misinformation though.

  4. Kaylene Morgan February 14, 2013 at 3:40 AM #

    I am just finishing up GAMES WITHOUT RULES, and want to tell you how very much I have appreciated it. My son has been deployed to Afghanistan twice, and I wanted to learn all I could about the country ,and what the whole war is about, and why President Obama sent him there. I have come to love the Afghan people through my reading, and your book was unique, because of the perspective you have of being part Afghan and part American. Your book is one of the few books I have read that has caused me to laugh. I know well how much suffering there has been there, and how much death and destruction has occurred, but your sense of humor is a very nice change,and does not detract from the seriouness of the topic. I want to know more about your mother, so will try to get your WEST OF KABUL… book. She sounds like a very unusual woman. I think you have summed up a lot of the problems well. I just wish that people in our government would read your book. What do you think will happen after the US pulls out?

  5. John R. Maunu January 8, 2013 at 10:19 PM #

    Hello Mr. Ansary,
    I am a huge fan of DD listening to the Blackstone CD audio tapes many times and promoting DD at my AP
    College Board AP World History workshops. Your presence at the AP World History Reading in Salt Lake City, Utah Professional Night last June {2012} was immensely popular and well received by my colleagues. I voluntarily organize the “examination copies” sent to the Reading and your publisher rep was helpful in that she sent copies that 37 lucky teachers received. (We have over 1000 Readers present at the AP World History exam scoring site)

    I am going to purchase your newest book on Afghanistan and wish to share S E Smith’s Django Film review with you
    and your fans:
    Why do I do this? I do not know Ms. Smith, but feel this review is in touch with your works….ie, non-European
    points of view of history such as your great Destiny Disrupted. I support these Point of views in teaching history. History through the EYES of many differing and diverse authors not just history through the eyes of
    elites within one’s culture.


    SE Smith, “Tarantino Minorities Chained, Django to Congo: Django to Congo, the culturally and socially

    privileged refused to let minority communites speak for themselves,” Guardian, Jan. 7, 2013. An argument

    for elite/privileged classes control of media/film.

    A Lesson Plan for any teachers out in Taministan:

    1. What is SE Smith’s thesis?

    2. What evidence does she use to support that thesis? Is it appropriate? Would film such as “Roots”

    by Alex Haley and “Malcolm X” by Spike Lee, hugely popular, demean her thesis?


    3. POV analysis: Who is SE Smith? (note her references to her California-based website and work at end

    of Film review)

    4. Is it a continuity over time for powerful elites/classes to control media in all societies?

    5. What do you think?

    John Maunu
    AP/College Board World History consultant
    Grosse Ile, Michigan

  6. quratul ain December 30, 2012 at 5:28 PM #

    I feel very lucky to have come across your book Destiny Disrupted.It opened my eyes to the malaise i often felt about islam and the west.I love both cultures but i realise now better where i am coming from.I am a pakistani and now i can fanthom the why we do the things
    we do and what to expect from the west.iI also read Orientalism of Edward Said.What an eye opener it was!What do you say?

  7. David Underwood September 18, 2012 at 5:27 AM #

    The recent attacks in the Islamic communities supposedly in response to a movie that insults and defames Mohammed have caused a great deal of concern about Islam.

    How did Islam get to the point where these kind of things call for killing those who would make disparaging remarks about Mohammed? When I read some of the history of the Omayyad dynasty in Andalusia, I do not see that kind of religious fanaticism. Today I read some cleric in Iran has called for the murder of Salmon Rushdie.

    How is it that a religion that began as a social movement to prevent bad social conditions, has bred a faction that calls for murdering people? What prevents its most influential clerics from stopping such beliefs?

    This kind of rhetoric has led to calls for the murder of Muslims. What kind of world have we come to be?

  8. Firman Maulana Noor July 27, 2012 at 1:04 AM #

    Assalamu’alaikum Mr Ansary, how are you ?

    i’am from Indonesia, i’am really love your book “Destiny Disrupted”, but i reading it in Indonesia edition,
    when you will visit to indonesia ?
    I hope you will soon visit to Indonesia, hehe..
    Happy fasting 🙂


  9. Domingo Kim June 5, 2012 at 12:09 AM #

    I’m reading your precious book, DESTINY DISRUPTED. As a reader in non – English speaking country, very fortunately, your book is not so difficult to read and understand. But there are some fastidious words to understand. NARRATIVE is one of them. For example;

    – From the perspective of the Islamic NARRATIVE, the story unfolding in Iran still resolved around the stuggle between secular and religious impulses.

    In this sentense, if you try to replace NARRATIVE with another word, what word would you prefer to take?
    Please teach me.
    Thanks in advance.


  10. Seungah Choi March 28, 2012 at 8:45 AM #


    I’m Korean woman and I just finished reading your book “Destiny Disrupted”
    It was great and really helped me to balance my thought about the world history.
    thank you so much.
    Actually My major was Farsi and I lived in tehran about 2 years.
    so I am interested in Iran, Islam and Middle east.

    Anyway thanks so much
    I really want to read your next book asap


    (Sorry. I am not good at writing english)

  11. OA March 25, 2012 at 2:54 AM #

    I have just finished reading “Destiny Disrupted” 5 minutes ago. I think it’s a rare attempt at describing Islamic narrative of world history in an (as much as possible) unbiased analysis. I think such a breakdown of that narrative is as lacking in the “Islamic world” as it is in the “West”. Hence, I would like to know if this work has been translated into other languages including but not limited to Arabic, Pashto, Urdu and Turkish.

    Thank you,

    • Ansary March 25, 2012 at 3:39 PM #

      Someone has the Turkish translation rights, but I don’t know if a translation is now underway. And someone was looking for the Arabic translation rights, but I don’t know where that dstands as of now.

      • OA March 27, 2012 at 1:01 AM #

        Mr. Ansary, given that a lot of nation states were actually created after WWI, how do you feel about your identity, as you’ve mentioned in your book, nation state didn’t develop in the middle as a result of some sort of reformation or revolutionary thought, they were a “have to catch up with the West” phenomenon. Give that you were born in such a state, how do you currently consolidate your identity?

        Thank you,

      • OA March 27, 2012 at 1:04 AM #

        Mr. Ansary, given that a lot of middle world nation states were actually created after WWI and as you’ve mentioned in your book, nation states didn’t develop in the middle world as a result of some sort of reformation or revolutionary thought, they were created by the competing superpowers in the west and adopted a “have to catch up with the West” phenomenon. Given that you were born in such a state, how do you currently consolidate your identity?

        Thank you,

  12. Brad Ansley March 8, 2012 at 12:40 AM #

    Hey Tamim, I’m pasting in an essay (letter to the Tampa Tribune) written by my cousin Rik Edmonds who lives in the panhandle of N. Florida. I found it stirred up my red blood and an interesting take on 99-1. It’s called:

    What the Rich Owe

    The hubris of the self-made man is a thing of grandeur, given moment and approbation by the immortal words of George Walker Bush in justifying tax cuts disproportionately favoring the rich: “It’s their tax dollars; they know best how to spend it.” As if the more perfect examples of humanity really could defy the laws of physics, lift themselves up by their own bootstraps, and survive to adulthood without the shelter of society. As if they were born without parents, grandparents, or ancestors; without family, neighbors, or nation; continents unto themselves. As if they invented language, mathematics, and science in their infancy, thereby justifying in their maturity a debt to society not exceeding the collateral effects of their single minded pursuit of private fortune; “trickle down.” Eons of human suffering, blood, and ultimate sacrifice fulfilled by this apotheosis of selfishness. As if living in a prosperous, lawful, healthy society added nothing to their perch at the top of it.
    Consider the captain of industry (or of hedge). Now imagine him born black in war torn Africa, female, uneducated, orphaned and starving by the age of 11, abused and left for dust before the age of the age of 12. Wither now the captain’s triumphs, palaces, and retainers? Are not the most prosperous Americans precisely those who have benefited most among their countrymen from the grand fortune of being born into this blessed nation? Are they incapable of imagining their own prospects under less favorable circumstance? Is there no mote of gratitude to engender obligation? How much longer can raw contempt for the less fortunate masquerade as tough love? And can we abide the rewards of the market as the ultimate measure of an individual’s contribution to society and therefore society’s obligation to the individual? What of a Marine dead in a shell crater – what do our rich owe him?
    Will we stifle the middle class that was the envy of the world to institute a return to the plutocracy of the robber barons, (“The Jungle” of Upton Sincalir’s microcosm of capitalism at the beginning of the previous century), regressing into a banana republic of dons and peons where the rich cannot help but remain a rotten sham of wealth and the poor cannot help but persist in hopeless poverty? Can such a nation prosper or long endure?

    • Ansary March 25, 2012 at 3:37 PM #


  13. michelle miller March 7, 2012 at 3:30 PM #

    We are interested in purchasing the 10 book set on Native Americans- could you provide details on where to purchase for our school. Thank you

    Michelle Miller, SLMS
    Library Teacher
    Gorham Intermediate School
    Gorham, NY 14561

  14. History student February 28, 2012 at 8:46 AM #


    I recently watched the PBS documentary “Islam: an empire of Faith”. The 2nd episode portrayed the city of Baghdad during its glorious years, the crusades, and finally the Mongol invasion. Although the documentary showed the brutality of the invasions, it also claimed that these invasions had a “positive impact” on the islamic civilization. I know you don’t agree with that as you call the Mongol invasion a “holocaust” and also mention that these events changed the trajectory of Islamic history.

    I want to ask whether you think that these outside influences had an overall negative impact on the islamic history and whether you agree that muslims would have been better off if the “ghost of these supplanted empires hadn’t altered islam” as you mention on page 89 referring to the Byzantine and Sassanid empires.

    • Ansary March 4, 2012 at 9:53 PM #

      Well, the brutality and damage done by the Mongol invasions is incontrovertible, but when you ask whether the invasions had a “positive effect” overall, well–that’s a different question. I’m not going to weigh in on that one; I will only say that many historians think the Black Death, which wiped out a third of Europe’s population in the 14th century had some positive effects, leading to an economic and cultural revival that culminated in the Renaissence. And I think they make that case persuasively, so who’s to say what’s ultimatily a plus in history? (Unless, of course, you were one of the 75 million who died or their close relative, in which case you’d probably consider the Black Death to have been wholly negative.)

  15. David Underwood February 19, 2012 at 4:20 AM #

    Go East, Young Knight

    How does this compare with your view of the Crusades in “Destiny disrupted?” As I recall you posited that the crusades were begun to give idle young upper class men who were not first in line to inherit the family title an outlet and to get them away from the local fiefdom.

    • Ansary February 21, 2012 at 7:41 PM #

      The writer in the Times is partly questioning the bravery-piety-heroism narrative of the Crusades, and so do I; he also notes that Byzantine losses, especially to the Seljuks at Manzikert, inspired Emperor Alexius to call for Western help–but this is hardly as unknown as the Times guy seems to imply; and the other notion he seems to float, that Byzantine emperor Alexius called for the Crusades and the knights came rushing because he exercised authority they respected beyond that of the pope!–and that the pope and the social conditions in Western Europe had “barely” anything to do with it–is dubious on the face of it. Western Christendom had been divergingfrom the Eastern church for centuries, and the final break–the Great Schism–came in 1054, twenty years before Manzikert. Anna Comnena’s jaundiced account of the Crusaders who arrived at the Eastern court (She was Alexius’s daughter) makes it pretty clear that the Emperor knew he was in over his head as soon as the Western knights arrived, and his concern then was to get them to keep moving, move along, not tarry in Constantinople. (He could see how they were eying the furnishings.)

  16. Elise February 2, 2012 at 3:55 PM #

    Hello Tamim! Just heard the news about Obama and Panetta’s decision to pull troops out of Afghanistan ahead of schedule. I’m sure I’m not alone in wanting to hear your comments. Thanks. Elise

    • Ansary February 21, 2012 at 7:48 PM #

      The talking continues; some sort of withdrawal is coming, but the nature of it is still unresolved. The U.S. will continue to hold onto major military bases in Afghanistan–at Bagram, at Kandahar, and perhaps in the north–while (attempting to) turn governance over to an Afghan strongman yet to be named. I don’t feel Panetta’s statement was a landmark moment of any kind.

  17. Qureishi March 9, 2011 at 7:22 PM #

    I read your book “Destiny Disrupted” it is a book that puts things in a different and realistic perspective for you. The amount of research you did is apparent throughout the book. In one chapter you mentioned Maulana Rumi and the story of Flute. This resonated with me as I truly admire his work. A renowned Pakistani Singer Tina Sani sang that same piece you mentioned in Urdu and did it so beautifully that I thought you might enjoy it even if you do not know Urdu.