War in the Land of Cain
A Novel of Afghanistan

War in the Land of Cain is a compelling story of love, war, and hard choices during the brutal Afghan-Soviet conflict of the 1980’s. American journalist and photographer Elizabeth Owen, running from a painful relationship and eager to jumpstart her career, dares to go where few men and virtually no 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 powerful sisterhood with Afghan women as she witnesses the rending of Afghan society in a confusing war where brother fights brother, and son opposes father. 


Elizabeth’s objectivity is challenged by her growing love for Yusuf Hakim, a cocky, Americanized doctor working with the mujahedeen Resistance fighters, who faces painful and often dangerous choices as he goes about his clandestine work in the ancestral province 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, the long-missing father of Yusuf and Governor Ayub. Elizabeth’s worldview is shattered by the cruelty and randomness of war, and healed by the friendships she forms with women such as 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.

Debra Denker is the author of Sisters on the Bridge of Fire: One Woman’s Journeys in India, Pakistan and Afghanistan (Burning Gate Press, 1993; Schaffner Press 2002), and of the June, 1985 National Geographic story “Along Afghanistan’s War-torn Frontier,”

illustrated by Steve McCurry’s now-famous photograph of the Afghan girl.

Debra has been a journalist and feature writer since the late 70’s, appearing in numerous publications ranging from the Los Angeles Times, The Guardian (UK), Central Asian Survey, and New Mexico magazine, to local and special interest publications. Her work has ranged from political and social documentary to work on alternative architecture, sustainable living, and many aspects of energy healing. She is also a healer, photographer, and film-maker. She is currently the founder and director of the Global Diversity Film Project of the non-profit SkySpirit Foundation, which has made films on Tibet, South Africa, and local issues. Her latest film is Community Garden, which shows the common ground between gardens in Santa Fe, where she now resides, and South Africa.

First Edition, signed by author, available in paperback

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at swlight1@gmail.com

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New edition and title coming in 2021:

Love and War in the Land of Cain

Author photo by Tara Waters Lumpkin