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Peace Meals: Candy-Wrapped Kalashnikovs and Other War Stories Paperback – Bargain Price, October 25, 2011
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—Norman Ollestad, author of New York Times bestseller Crazy for the Storm
“Anna Badkhen is a hero among women —war correspondent, wife, mother, diplomat, and, with the publication of this book, a sensitive and lyrical human-interest reporter from the outer reaches of the world. Peace Meals takes us not only into the hearts and homes of some of the least-understood (and most interesting) people in war zones, it fearlessly explores the wrenching moral conflicts every war journalist faces. This is a beautiful, vivid, gripping book —with some fabulous recipes.”
—Amy Chua, author of World on Fire and Day of Empire
“Peace Meals is an extraordinary mosaic built of keen observation and uncommon compassion. So much more than mere war reportage, Badkhen attunes her ear to fundamental questions that war time activities: what are the causes of hate and what are the measurable and immeasurable costs of war? What does it mean to resist, to persist, and when is it worth it? Badkhen maintains an unswerving gaze not only at the complex subject matters she investigates but also at her own role as a reporter. Always her conclusions resonant with authenticity and compassion as she renders accounts that neither judge nor praise; neither sensationalize nor diminish. People are more than their stories, Badkhen asserts line by line. Because of this Badkhen can find beauty in the brokenness. She describes a profound generosity evidenced with astonishing regularity. It comes in the most humble and necessary of human acts: eating.”
—Gina Ochsner, author of The Russian Dreambook of Color and Flight
"The philosophical connection is interesting...absorbing observations...An intriguing premise." —Kirkus
"Illuminates the strange, dark history of the past couple of decades—the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and drought-stricken East Africa. Most chapters chronicle her connections with particular individuals...each character providing insight into local customs and quirks, but more significantly, illustrates and humanizes regional complexities. Badkhen regularly encounters real danger, but meets it with compassion and graveyard humor...the resulting range of events both large and small is both honest and real." —Publishers Weekly
"Promising...With careful observation, [Badkhen] sees beyond the heartbreaking stories of the families and soldiers, refugees and warlords, she meets. Her eloquent, honest words tell an in-depth history of recent war, and also make known courageous and resourceful people whose actions, or lack thereof, are forced by circumstance." —Christian Science Monitor
"[A] gritty memoir of Afghanistan and Iraq that focuses not on frontline reportage but on behind-the-scenes kindnesses of local families, many of whom shared their hearths, and their bread, with the foreign journalist. In Peace Meals [Badkhen] uses those simple meals as a window, a graceful way to bear witness to the devastation she was covering. But don't think that her book is about food. It's about humanity." —Entertainment Weekly
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Top Customer Reviews
Through her words we get to meet families like that of Ahmad Shawkat in northern Iraq and share dolma (stuffed grape leaves) with them as we learn the story of their survival and hope for a country whose future is still uncertain.
She takes us through many accounts of what she witnessed, some horrific and heartbreaking, some heartwarming, and some even humorous, but all come back to the common ground of breaking bread together. Each chapter takes the reader to a different place with different people and the food that was shared, and ends with recipes of the dishes she was offered. But this is not a cookbook. It is one woman's journey to report on the brutal facts of war but in doing so, found so much more in sharing life with the people she met along the way.
This is where my reading experience ran aground. Contrary other reviews posted here, I didn't find this book to be highly literary. In fact, I think it suffers from reporter's acumen in places which would otherwise be quite moving. Many English-language authors, Hemingway included, who wrote for newspapers before or concurrently while writing stories and novels suffer from an inability to shift gears between the language or reporting and the language of literature. They employ an overlapping set of devices, but ultimately news, remaining objective in language, is not supposed to move you the way novels and stories -- which need and want no concept of bias -- can and should. Journalistic strength can be literary weakness. As I read this novel I often found myself frustrated by the distance at which I was kept from the joy and tragedy. I wanted to feel the sorrow of death, the relief of reaching safety, and that overwhelming endorphin-barrage that comes with eating after days and days.Read more ›
I focused mostly on the chapters dealing with her Iraq experience, since I also traveled there as a freelance embedded photojournalist from 2007-09. Badkhen, however, reported from the country in the 2003 era, before security fell apart. She writes about her experiences being able to travel around Baghdad with a pair of friends - something that was rendered impossible by the time of her later trips in 2005 and 2008, when she was forced into the embedded cocoon of the US military. By then, there was no way for a westerner to stay safe by themselves.
I appreciated Badkhen's willingness to name names, even when it's uncomplimentary. One soldier, tearing open bags of flour, basically wrecking someone's house, is a microcosm of all our failures there - I'm sure he didn't appreciate seeing his name in the newspaper or in this book. But like she quotes a battalion commander, after he read one of Badkhen's often-critical stories, "It happened."
Her knowledge of US military equipment and nomenclature is also very good. I'm a veteran myself, so I had a fair amount of familiarity with the various gear and vehicles. Badkhen had to learn all these finer details - and she clearly did. I didn't notice any mistakes or exaggerations.
Some of her stories are taken directly from her previous newspaper reporting, and this book now provides additional context.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
To start, I read this book alongside Anna Ciezadlo's "Day of Honey," a similar cookbook/memoir about a freelance reporter's experiences in the Middle East, but I must say... Read morePublished 21 months ago by Tyler Johnson
This book needs more personality. I never felt like the author really enjoyed any of the people she met. And I did not feel she had any real empathy with the families she visited. Read morePublished on November 1, 2013 by avidreader
This book reflects upon a journalist's overseas assignments. It is very personal and intimate, especially because the author names names and ties various stories together by food... Read morePublished on August 4, 2013 by groundie
As I'm interested in Afghanistan, I found this book OK, but didn't care for the style of writing. There was too much description of the physical locales for me and the individuals... Read morePublished on July 2, 2013 by asiana
I really enjoyed this book, and found it illuminating and inspiring. I am not very familiar with world events and the places Badkhen writes about, but her stories included the... Read morePublished on January 11, 2012 by Lori
The book arrived promptly and was in perfect condition. Thank you. I am enjoying it and will send it onto a friend else when I am done.Published on November 4, 2011 by Betsy
PEACE MEALS: CANDY-WRAPPED KALASHNIKOVS AND OTHER WAR STORIES comes from a war correspondent who has traveled to some of the most torn places in the world. Read morePublished on January 13, 2011 by Midwest Book Review