Afghans and Pashto Proverbs Book Honored by 2014 USA BEST BOOK AWARDS

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Pashto Proverbs Book by American Naval Officer and Afghan High School Wins 2014 USA BEST BOOK AWARD Honors

Tampa, Florida, November 15, 2014  -  A unique literary project by an American naval officer and an Afghan high school has won honors from the 11th annual USA BEST BOOK AWARDS for a new book, Mataluna: 151 Afghan Pashto Proverbs, the premier online magazine featuring mainstream and independent publishing houses, announced the winners and finalists of the 2014 USA BEST BOOK AWARDS on November 12, 2014.  Mataluna, by U.S. Navy Captain Edward Zellem and illustrated by Marefat High School in Kabul, won Finalist honors in the highly competitive “Non-Fiction Multicultural” category.  The book’s title, Mataluna, means “Proverbs” in Pashto, one of Afghanistan’s two official languages. 

Zellem, an active-duty naval officer, spent a year and a half embedded with Afghan forces in Afghanistan. He speaks Dari, Afghanistan’s other major language, and he discovered a passion for collecting Afghan Proverbs after hearing the colorful way Afghans use them in daily conversations. An Afghan high school offered to create illustrations, and Zellem decided as a personal project to publish them in a bilingual Dari-English book. 40,000 copies of Zarbul Masalha: 151 Afghan Dari Proverbs were delivered all over Afghanistan to more than 200 schools in 2011.

Subsequent editions by Zellem and the art students at Marefat High School in Kabul became unexpectedly popular worldwide.  Zarbul Masalha (“Proverbs” in Dari) received several book awards and international media attention, and so it was soon followed by a children’s version, Afghan Proverbs Illustrated.  The two books together have won four international book awards since publication in 2012. Volunteers then translated the children’s version into 12 more languages.  Afghan Proverbs fans around the world began asking when a companion edition of Pashto Proverbs would be published.

“Like Dari, the Pashto language also has its own great tradition of Afghan Proverbs. Pashto speakers asked me for a new book, and now they have one with Mataluna,” says Zellem. “There is great wisdom in the Afghan Mataluna, and the world needs all the wisdom it can get right now.  The USA Best Book Awards honors Afghans and Pashtuns everywhere, and I’m honored to be part of the global Afghan Proverbs phenomenon.  People of all countries seem to find them very useful.”

Jeffrey Keen, President and CEO of USA Book News, said this year’s competition included over 2,000 candidates from mainstream and independent publishers. “The 2014 results represent a phenomenal mix of books from a wide array of publishers throughout the United States,” Keen says of the awards, now in their eleventh year. “Our success begins with the enthusiastic participation of authors and publishers, and continues with our distinguished panel of industry judges who bring to the table their extensive editorial, PR, marketing, and design expertise.”

Winners and finalists were selected from across the publishing world.  Books from Simon & Schuster, Penguin, John Wiley & Sons, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Kensington Books, Harlequin, McGraw-Hill, Llewellyn, Yale University Press, Cornell University Press, and hundreds of independent houses such as Cultures Direct Press were included in this year’s competition.

USA Best Book Awards in the Nonfiction – Multicultural category:


The Portal of Light by Anthony Garcia

Journey of Exodus-Jornado de Exódo



Mataluna: 151 Afghan Pashto Proverbs by Edward Zellem

Cultures Direct Press

ISBN:  978-0692215180


100+ Native American Women Who Changed the World by KB Schaller

The Peppertree Press

ISBN:  978-1-61493-216-1


The Bingo Queens of Oneida: How Two Moms Started Tribal Gaming in Wisconsin by Mike Hoeft

Wisconsin Historical Society Press

ISBN:  978-0-87020-652-8


Two Countries…Two Loves by Irma Schettini Caiazzo

Dorrance Publishing Co. Inc.

ISBN:  978-1-4809-0241-1

A complete list of the winners and finalists of the 2014 USA Best Book Awards are available online at

More information about five-time award-winning author Edward Zellem and his books of Afghan Proverbs is available at, or follow on Twitter @afghansayings



Edward Zellem is a 27-year U.S. Navy captain currently serving at U.S. Central Command in Tampa, Florida.  A veteran of several wars, he is known for his work on President Karzai’s staff inside the Presidential Palace of Afghanistan, and for his three award-winning books of Afghan Proverbs:  Zarbul Masalha: 151 Afghan Dari Proverbs (English-Dari), Afghan Proverbs Illustrated (in 14 languages) and Mataluna: 151 Afghan Pashto Proverbs (English-Pashto).  Zellem wrote the books “to show how Afghan Proverbs demonstrate our common humanity and the humanity of Afghans." His books are available in over 100 countries worldwide through and other leading international booksellers. 

Contact: Cultures Direct Press

About the author


Captain Edward Zellem is the award-winning author of three bilingual English-Dari and English-Pashto books of Afghan Proverbs published in 15 languages. He is a U.S. Navy officer and trained Dari speaker, and spent a year and a half embedded on native Afghan teams in Afghanistan. This included a year inside…

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