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Dreams and Shadows: The Future of the Middle East [Hardcover]

by Robin Wright
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)


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Book Description

February 28, 2008 1594201110 978-1594201110 First Edition
A magnificent reckoning with the extraordinary changes engulfing the Middle East, by one of our greatest reporters on the region.

Robin Wright first landed in the Middle East on October 6, 1973, the day the fourth Middle East war erupted. She has covered every country and most major crises in the region since then, through to the rise of al Qaeda and the U.S. invasion of Iraq. For all the drama of the past, however, the region's most decisive traumas are unfolding today as the Middle East struggles to deal with trends that have already reshaped the rest of the world. And for all the darkness, there is also hope. Some of the emerging trends give cause for greater optimism about the future of the Middle East than at any time since the first Arab-Israeli war in 1948.

Dreams and Shadows is an extraordinary tour de horizon of the new Middle East, with on-the-ground reportage of the ideas and movements driving change across the region-and the obstacles they confront. Through the powerful storytelling for which the author is famous, Dreams and Shadows ties together the players and events in Iraq, Iran, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Morocco, Turkey, the Gulf states, and the Palestinian territories into a coherent vision of what lies ahead.

A marvelous field report from the center of the storm, the book is animated by the characters whose stories give the region's transformation its human immediacy and urgency. It is also rich with the history that brought us to this point. It is a masterpiece of the reporter's art and a work of profound and enduring insight.

At the end, Wright offers perspective on the United States' most ambitious and costly foreign policy initiative since the rebuilding of Europe after World War II. The stakes are far greater than winning the war on terrorism, stabilizing Iraq, or achieving a lasting Arab-Israeli peace. Transforming the greater Middle East is the last great political challenge of the modern era. Yet the early burst of activity in a region long stagnant is already becoming one of the first grand surprises of the twenty-first century.


Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Despite having lost several of her friends in the 1983 US Embassy bombing in Beirut, Wright (The Last Great Revolution: Turmoil and Transformation in Iran) is guardedly optimistic for the Middle East's future: "a generation after the Beirut bombing, Islamic extremism is no longer the most important, interesting, or dynamic force in the Middle East." Her observations, of a "budding culture of change"-even, perhaps, a "renaissance"-are bolstered by platinum credentials; for more than 30 years, Wright has been covering the region for major American publications including The New York Times, Atlantic Monthly and Foreign Affairs. She illuminates her assessment with stories of the new "voices in the region" pushing for a more open, democratic society: activists, reformers, political leaders and ordinary citizens (like an Egyptian "middle-aged soccer mom" so outraged to learn of female government agents beating female demonstrators that she became an activist). Wright also tackles the big targets; though a staunch supporter of Israel, Wright sees the potential for reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah, in an effort to maintain democracy in Palestine, as a positive harbinger of change for the entire region. Further interviews, anecdotes, a crystalline sense of the area's multifarious history and a clear message-practical, progressive change requires "sorting out the past or at least trying to move beyond it"-make this a vital, compelling and surprisingly uplifting piece of reporting.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Wright has covered the Middle East since 1973. Highly acclaimed author of The Last Great Revolution: Turmoil and Transformation in Iran (2000), she brings a long perspective to the current challenges faced by the U.S.—and the world—in the Middle East. Drawing on interviews with Palestinian and Lebanese militants, Egyptian and Moroccan activists, Syrian and Iranian reformers, Wright offers a broad perspective on the issues facing particular nations and the broader area. The interviews add an immediacy and sense of human urgency to conflicts in a region often rendered from great political and emotional distance. Wright examines the historic and current factors that add to the complexity, including unfulfilled promises of democracy, the rise of al-Qaeda, oil riches, globalization, and the Internet. She concludes with an analysis of how the U.S. invasion in Iraq has impacted the region as well as prospects for democratic government and cultural tolerance there. Readers interested in a broader perspective on conflict in the Middle East will appreciate Wright’s absorbing, insightful book. --Vanessa Bush

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Press; First Edition edition (February 28, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594201110
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594201110
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.5 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #851,681 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author


Robin Wright has reported from more than 140 countries on six continents for The Washington Post, The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, TIME magazine, The Atlantic, The Sunday Times of London, the Los Angeles Times, Foreign Affairs, CBS News and many others.
Wright has also been a fellow at the U.S. Institute of Peace, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Yale, Duke, Stanford, the Brookings Institution, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the University of California at Santa Barbara.

She is the recipient of the United Nations Correspondents' Association Gold Medal for coverage of international affairs. The American Academy of Diplomacy selected Wright as the journalist of the year for her "distinguished reporting and analysis of international affairs." She also won the National Press Club award for diplomatic reporting, the National Magazine Award for her reportage from Iran in The New Yorker, and the Overseas Press Club Award for "best reporting in any medium requiring exceptional courage and initia¬tive" for coverage of African wars. She was the recipient of a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation grant.

She has been a television commentator on ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS, CNN and MSNBC programs, including "Meet the Press," "Face the Nation," "This Week," "Nightline," the PBS Newshour, "Frontline," "Charlie Rose," "Larry King Live," "Washington Week in Review," "The Colbert Report," and HBO's "Real Time."

Wright is the author of "Dreams and Shadows: The Future of the Middle East" (2008), which The New York Times and The Washington Post both selected as one of the most notable books of the year. She was the editor of "The Iran Primer: Power, Politics and U.S. Policy" (2010), which brought together 50 of the world's top Iran experts. Her other books include "The Last Great Revolution: Turmoil and Transformation in Iran" (2000), which was selected as one of the 25 most memorable books of the year by the New York Library Association, "Sacred Rage: The Wrath of Militant Islam" (2001), "Flashpoints: Promise and Peril in a New World" (1991), and "In the Name of God: The Khomeini Decade" (1989).


Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good, not great July 25, 2008
Format:Hardcover
I had read Robin Wright's "The Last Great Revolution" about Iran and was excited to buy this book. However, I felt it was a bit too much of a chef's tour. Some of the anecdotes were interesting, even inspiring, but overall I felt the book was a bit too shallow. Wright recalls a few interviews here and there, but we don't get the depth of what we get in her prior book. It's one thing to use interviews and anecdotes in pursuit of a well-argued thesis, but another just to do so to give us a flavor of the Middle East. This makes much of the book a forgettable blur rather than a true learning experience.

Having said that, I thought her chapter on Iran in this book was by far the best. And if you do want a "chef's tour" or sampling of the Middle East, this book does do that well. I hope Wright expands her prior book on Iran and updates it, since she covers Iran very well.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A reporter of the best kind April 21, 2008
Format:Hardcover
For three decades Robin Wright has worked in the Middle East as the best kind of reporter -- a messenger who really listens to people and conveys their messages straight. In this book she draws on a vast network of people who trust her to convey the real experience of Middle Easterners struggling for a better future. She introduces numerous local heroes from Morocco to Iran, who have risked themselves standing up to despotic rulers. Where the West once supported conservative Muslim rulers against Communists, Wright finds that many of the strongest voices for fairness and liberty are socialists or communists. Where the West has backed Muslim autocrats against Islamists, she finds a new wave of popular movements for religious values have become the strongest challengers to autocracy. Wright honestly conveys the difficulties and courage of these activists. She also conveys their despair over the destructive role of US interventionism in the region. As Syrian dissident Yassin Haj Saleh puts it, "However opposed Syrians are to our own regime, they now distrust the Americans more".

I think this is the kind of direct dialogue with local leaders that we need most from our news professionals.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars America's Dreams and Shadows... September 28, 2009
Format:Hardcover
Robin Wright has been reporting on the Middle East for over 35 years, interviewing a wide-spectrum of the political players of the area. She did get off the "beaten path," finding ascendant political figures on her own, and even going to Iran so that she could walk into "Kurdistan" prior to the American invasion of Iraq in 2003. One of the best portraits is of the charismatic leader of Hezbollah in Lebanon, Nasrallah, whom she concludes is not only a local leader but also a regional "Che Guevera." Two other enlightening interviews, which are generally conducted over a period of time, are of politically active women in Morocco, Fatima Mernissi, and Latifa Jbabdi, whom the author "brought to life", certainly for this reader. In Egypt, Wright highlighted the work of Ghada Shahbender and the organization she helped found, "We're watching you"; an organization, as its name implies, that monitors and reports on the activities of the powerful, certainly including efforts to monitor electoral fraud. And in Syria she presents portraits on true "profiles in courage," or sheer obduracy, in the persons of Riad al Turk, Yassin Haj Saleh, Samara al Khalil, all of whom spent numerous years in prison, in a country with one of the most repressive governments of the region. I found the background on the Assad assassination attempt, as well as the background and origins of both Ahmadinejad and Rafsanjani in Iran particularly illuminating, and certainly relevant today. The focus of her reportage are interviews of the individuals promoting change, barely inside, or completely outside the political establishment; rarely is there an interview with the actual leader of the country, who might articulate their own interests in change. Read more ›
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nice Overview May 14, 2008
By G Man
Format:Hardcover
Nice overview of the Middle East with boots on the ground, heard on the street analysis. Would have liked at least a page on Saudi Arabia to provide contrast. Inevitable Bush bash at the end.
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10 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Fascinating Read April 3, 2008
Format:Hardcover
A clearly-written account of the current political and social roadmap in the Middle East. This book contains a lot of information and is worth reading more than once in order for everything to sink in. All Americans, especially Republicans, are recommended to read the final chapter - "Iraq and the United States", which has a long list of shocking stats associated with the war in Iraq.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Extremely well researched. Impressive. October 13, 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Extremely informative and while written in 2006-2007 has shown true to some of the recent events such as the Arab Spring and aftermath. The author, Ms. Wright, went over to each of the country and interviewed a wide slection of people to present a very true gauge of what was going on and where the region is headed. Very impressive.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent March 25, 2012
By Joe
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Because it was written by a journalist, the book is quite easy to read, unlike books by academics. It was also very informative and moved quickly. she covered a lot of info from a lot of places. a great read, especially for people who are not well informed about the area, or those who are not well informed about recent events.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A hopeful book July 7, 2008
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I found this to be a hopeful book. Robin Wright has spent years in the area and has contacts with the power structure. That plus her interviews with "ordinary" people gave her book validity. The middle east world has been expanded with access to the web and television. The seeds for change are there if we just get out of their way and give them time to develop.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A great tour of the Middle East
Some reviewers note that this book is a bit "shallow". I would agree that if you are well versed in the politics of the regions, then this book might not change your life. Read more
Published on March 16, 2012 by Clint Myers
5.0 out of 5 stars I highly recommend this book
Have you ever picked up a book because it seemed mildly interesting and was on the sale bin and it turned out to be a little gem? Well, that's what I did with this book. Read more
Published on February 21, 2012 by A. Simon
5.0 out of 5 stars A wise overview of the current (as of 2008) situation in 7 Middle...
Robin Wright, the author of Dreams and Shadows, has a uniquely engaging writing style. She tells the story of the countries she is analyzing through particular individuals who... Read more
Published on January 6, 2012 by John Mccarthy
5.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous Book!
The book arrived at my house very quickly and was in great condition when i recieved it. It is an excellent read!
Published on August 19, 2011 by ep10d
5.0 out of 5 stars 6 Stars!
This book deserves 6 stars. Its a must read for anyone looking to understand the Middle East. Wright doesn't talk in generalities but in specifics and tells the story through the... Read more
Published on April 3, 2011 by Alan
3.0 out of 5 stars Engaging read, but leaves out a lot
This book is written from a rare POV, a female journalist who has traveled extensively throughout the Middle East in both Arab and non-Arab countries. Read more
Published on March 26, 2011 by Newton Ooi
4.0 out of 5 stars Dreams and Shadows ~ hardcover book
Saw the author being interviewed on PBS. Purchased book; haven't read much of it yet. It's current material about Egypt and other Middle Eastern countries with which the author is... Read more
Published on March 19, 2011 by Lindyloo
3.0 out of 5 stars Well, everyone she met seems to have been well-dressed.
I got this book as a Christmas present, and I've been slogging through it since.

It feels pretty shallow, if for no other reason than the amount of space devoted to... Read more
Published on January 28, 2011 by Patrick Carroll
4.0 out of 5 stars A tapestry filled with rich details, but lacking a central thesis
Robin Wright, a foreign policy reporter for the Washington Post, offers an overview of the politics, tensions, civil society, democratization, and conflicts that have checkered the... Read more
Published on July 3, 2010 by John M. Balouziyeh
5.0 out of 5 stars Informative Overview
A thoughtful, in-depth and insightful overview of various countries in the Middle East and the events and conflicts that have shaped them as they are today, including Iraq, Iran,... Read more
Published on March 28, 2010 by A. Thompson
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