Jun 172010
 

In the late 1950’s Elizabeth Farnea’s new husband traveled to a small rural village in southern Iraq to do graduate research on an irrigation project. Farnea was relegated to life with the women and thankfully recorded her observations of how women completely veiled by clothing, secluded behind walls, and hidden inside houses lived with one another and their multitude of children. It must be one of the first books to think women’s stories are worth telling. Moreover, I suspect that for many rural, Muslim women life has not changed dramatically in the intervening fifty years. The strength of the book lies in its cracking open the stereotypes and Farnea’s revelations of the individual personalities behind those veils. The fact the book has been reprinted and is still available is testament to its insight. March 2006.

Jun 172010
 

Filkins has chutzpah. He has been reporting on the war in Iraq since the days before Al Qaeda ever goaded the Bush administration into attacking Baghdad. What this book provides is the feeling of being on the ground in a country that is disintegrating. His writing is alive with the smell of a recent bombing by the U.S. Air Force, the sight of a freshly decapitated suicide bomber, and the sound of sniper bullets teeming past his head. It reads best if you recall some of the war’s history on your own, but it also stands alone as a gutsy, first-hand account of life among U.S. soldiers and ordinary Iraqis caught up in post-Saddam anarchy. January 2009.