From Publishers Weekly
Rhodes scholar Klaus chronicles a 2005 semester spent teaching the English language and U.S. history in Arbil, showing that the semiautonomous, historically distinct region of Iraqi Kurdistan also experiences many of the contrasts, tensions and challenges facing Iraq as a whole in the post-Saddam years. Hoping to give his students a better understanding of the actions and character of the United States, Klaus leads discussions of African-American history and pop culture that invite both teacher and students to consider how American history might inform the problems and decisions facing the ethnically, religiously and politically divided Iraqis. Although well liked, Klaus finds his perspective frequently challenged by his students. The reader, too, might question the otherwise keen-eyed Klaus's largely unexamined faith in free markets, elections and the good intentions of U.S. foreign policy, this last leading him to dismiss specific questions about Bush administration ties to the oil industry as unanswerable questions of conspiracy or fanciful tales of oil grabs. Nonetheless, these vignettes and profiles add welcome depth to the too homogenous image of the Kurds and Kurdish nationalism in the Western media. (Sept.)
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In January 2005, after the first election in Iraq following the American occupation, Klaus began teaching American history and English at Salahaddin University in Arbil. A 26-year-old Rhodes scholar, Klaus was inspired by the curiosity of young Americans about the culture of the Middle East and the spirit of volunteerism of those wanting to do something more than fight in the war. So Klaus went among the Kurds. What he found were people equally curious about American culture, mostly holding favorable opinions but furious about the occupation and hungry for the opportunities that came with English-language skills. Negotiating checkpoints and the occasional explosive blast, Klaus adapted to the cultural mix. Young men interrupted prayer to answer cell phones; heavily made-up young women refused to shake hands for religious reasons. Klaus chose texts from disparate American voices, including Thomas Jefferson, Walt Whitman, and Elvis Presley. In this engaging book, Klaus places his experience within the broader context of history, philosophy, and religion tied into the relationship between the U.S. and the Middle East. Bush, Vanessa