From Publishers Weekly
An American reporter takes in one Middle East cataclysm after another in this searing memoir. Los Angeles Times
correspondent Stack covered the war in Afghanistan after Sept. 11, then bounced around to other hot-spot postings, including Israel during the second Intifada, occupied Baghdad, and southern Lebanon during the 2006 conflict between Israel and Hezbollah. Stack offers gripping accounts of the sorrows of war, especially of the traumas Afghan and Lebanese civilians endured under American and Israeli bombing, but she also writes evocatively of quieter pathologies: Libya's jovially sinister totalitarian regime, corruption under Egypt's quasi-dictatorship, and lyric anti-Semitism at a Yemeni poetry slam. Dropping journalistic detachment in favor of a novelistic style, she enters the story as a protagonist whose travails—fending off a lecherous Afghan warlord, seething under the humiliating restrictions of Saudi Arabia's gender apartheid system—illuminate the societies she encounters. The big-picture lessons Stack draws—The Middle East goes crazy and we go along with it—are none too cogent, but her vivid, atmospheric prose and keen empathy make her a superb observer of the region's horrific particulars. (Jun.)
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*Starred Review* Society assigns war to the military, not the media, yet journalists venture into combat zones ahead of, alongside, and well after the troops whose stories they tell. As a 25-year-old correspondent for the Los Angeles Times, Stack covered Afghanistan in the days immediately following 9/11, then traveled to other outposts in the war on terror, from Iraq to Iran, Libya, and Lebanon. In a disquieting series of essays, Stack now takes readers deep into the carnage where she was exposed to the insanity, innocence, and inhumanity of wars with no beginning, middle, or end. Her soaring imagery sears itself into the brain, in acute and accurate tales that should never be forgotten by the wider world, and yet always are. Stack grew increasingly demoralized with each new outburst of hostilities, and clearly covering the violence took its emotional toll: the uncomfortable hypocrisy of Abu Ghraib, the unconscionable confusion over women’s subjugation, the unfathomable intricacies of tribal allegiances. Anyone wishing to understand the Middle East need only look into the faces of war that Stack renders with exceptional humanity—the bombers as well as the bureaucrats, the rebels and the refugees, the victors and the victims. --Carol Haggas