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American Hostage: A Memoir of a Journalist Kidnapped in Iraq and the Remarkable Battle to Win His Release Paperback – November 9, 2007

4.3 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Moving and suspenseful, this account of a journalist's ordeal as a captive in Iraq recounts the machinations behind a delicate hostage situation. Documentary filmmakers Garen and Carleton went to Iraq in 2003 to investigate reports of looting at archeological sites. Near the end of their project, Carleton returned to New York City, leaving Garen to complete the final stages of filming in the southern city of Nasiriyah. Everything seemed to be wrapping up smoothly until, two days before his scheduled return to America, Garen was identified as a foreigner in a crowded marketplace, and he and his Iraqi translator were kidnapped by a local Shi'ite group. Garen's first-person account of their time in captivity alternates chapters with Carleton's story of how friends and family rallied at home and abroad to jump-start a rescue effort, even before the FBI got on the case. Carleton details the effort's minute-by-minute reversals and its many risky decisions in crisp, straightforward prose that will soon have readers commiserating with her highs and lows. For his part, Garen recalls his fear, anger and confusion with clarity and immediacy, never demonizing his captors yet never condoning their acts. One of the book's great pleasures is the description of his friendship with his translator, Amir, an educated, secular Muslim. Even readers who followed the story in the newspapers will find much that is new since so many of the crucial negotiations happened off the front page. And with a romantic subplot humming through the tension, this story is made for the silver screen.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"Gripping... Their story remains extraordinarily compelling. An incredible tale told with intensity." -- Kirkus (starred review) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (November 9, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416586318
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416586319
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,232,767 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I won't give away the ending (hint: it's co-authored by captee Micah and freedom-fighter Marie-Helene), but will say that that American Hostage - which chronicles Micah Garen's capture and captivity last year in southern Iraq, and his fiancée Marie-Helene's New York City based efforts to free him - is an amazing tale well-told by a winning and resourceful pair.

Working utterly independently from one another (Micah was in a palm enclosure in southern Iraqi marshes and Marie-Helene in NYC), they still mirror one another's ethos and energy. As Micah practices yoga to steady nerves (and baffle his guards) and cagily grills another guard about local soccer to gage location, Marie Helene and friends establish a remarkable network of well-connected souls (politically and strategically) and set more wheels in motion via their grassroots efforts (and wall-mounted Sheik Sheet) than the FBI can fathom, or match.

There's an unbelievable lack of bravado or ego to both of their tellings.

And they describe Iraq - their time there, their friends and experiences - with such compassion and understanding, that the beleaguered country emerges almost as another character in the narrative. Their Iraqi translator, Nietzsche-enthusiast, friend and co-captive, Amir, is the wise, steady and winning third character. And dog Zeugma the fourth.

The couple come across as the pair most likely to succeed, and shine, and make friends in compromising and dismal of circumstances. You'd want them on your side, Amir along, and dog Zeugma at your feet.

Would recommend for all the narrative threads that weave through American Hostage:

The looting of Iraq's Sumerian heritage - the reason Micah (and Marie Helene) are in the country, reporting.
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Format: Hardcover
AMERICAN HOSTAGE is a difficult book to classify. Though the cover calls it 'a memoir of a journalist kidnapped in Iraq and the remarkable battle to win his release', that is only the tip of the pyramid in this book that is not only beautifully written, but also weaves a story of intense intrigue, some fascinating inside information about the people of Iraq, the obstacles of living in a land at war, the tenderness not only between a fine journalist and his lover but also between the journalist and his translator/friend. There is more to learn from this highly entertaining book than could be expected.

Micah Garen, an American journalist covering the looting of the ancient ruins of Iraq with his partner/lover Marie-Helene Carleton, was kidnapped with his translator Amir on August 13th, 2004. Garen relates the issues leading up to the kidnapping, and the daily hardships and terrors while under guard with his good friend Amir, until their release August 22nd, 2004 - nine days and nights filled with despair, terror, suffering, political manipulation, yet with the indomitable human spirit that allowed them to survive. During the time Garen and Amir were in captivity, Carleton did amazingly courageous acts of spirit and fact from her home in New York to guarantee that the two men would survive and be released. That story is important enough and intensely interestingly enough to make the book work.

But the joy of reading AMERICAN HOSTAGE is in part due to the diary-like mode of writing: Garen makes entries like a diary listed by day and Carleton mirrors those entries with her won responses from New York.
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By K. Reed on October 23, 2005
Format: Hardcover
In the past few years we've seen a horrific rise in the abduction of journalists as an effort to alter the course of political events. The media was once a venue through which we attempted to understand the true nature of overseas conflict. Today the camera is war's most compelling weapon; the hostage is the tool with which battles are fought, and a nation's eyes are coaxed back towards events we are otherwise unwilling to look upon.

The hostage narrative is a surprising and compelling new genre of war reportage--partly shaped by the mainstream media as events unfold, and later retold by the survivors, who give a voice to the people used as leverage in modern warfare. Garen and Carleton's narrative is essential for those who wish to understand the role of independent journalists in the volatile new Iraq and in the shock theater that has become contemporary mainstream media. Their book is a portrait of both the internal and external spheres of modern war. It deftly reveals the way an artist's medium can turn upon him, first as a threat to his very life, and later as a vehicle for reconciliation.
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Format: Hardcover
This memoir is unique and compelling because it operates on so many levels: on one level, it's the story of two journalists who fight for a cause they believe in as well as their own lives. On another level, it's also the story of the multi-layered society and culture that's being shaped in war-torn Iraq.

The Iraqis described in the book are both committed to preserving their culture (translator and historian Amir Doshi) and destroying it (the looters of antiquities). They are pro-American (the kidnapper who asked Micah to sponsor his visa) and anti-American (the thugs who yelled 'Foreigner' and snatched him from the market at gunpoint)

Whether you are interested in a varied perspective on the current state of Iraq or are curious about the challenges faced by freelance journalists in high-conflict zones, this book illustrates a side of the war that rarely makes it to the nightly news.
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