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So Many Enemies, So Little Time: An American Woman in All the Wrong Places Hardcover – March 30, 2004


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; Stated First Edition edition (March 30, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060524421
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060524425
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.4 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,747,659 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

"I'm not a danger junkie," Burkett (Another Planet, etc.) declared at the start of her Fulbright year with her husband in Kyrgyzstan on September 18, 2001. In a burst of midlife ennui, the two wanted to move somewhere where she could teach and they could both recharge their cultural batteries. The process of elimination led the pair to this small central Asian republic of the former Soviet Union, advertised as having a "liberal media" and "actively pursuing ethnic tolerance and democratization." When they arrived in Kyrgyzstan, reality overtook them. While appointed to teach "American-style" journalism, Burkett found students so shaped by Stalinist culture, it was all she could do to make them ask questions, much less stir controversy. Unable to resist a little adventure, she and her husband visited Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. When invited, Burkett hosted forums on the media, which usually turned into brouhahas critiquing potential U.S. intervention in Iraq. In Afghanistan, she met with a series of educated women who'd been terrorized by the Taliban and remained fearful. As Burkett walked in Kabul in her burqa, getting elbowed and bruised by men who "walked down the street as if the women simply weren't there," she decided the struggles in Central Asia were more an attempt by hardcore traditionalists to fight modernization than about religion per se. Few readers would actually want to face a dinner of roasted goat brains or dodge bombs on the highway passing the Tora Bora caves; reading Burkett's snappy, witty account nicely suffices.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Moving to Kyrgyzstan shortly before September 11, journalist Burkett and her husband decided to stay in this predominantly Muslim country despite some very valid initial misgivings. Not only did she opt to remain in Central Asia but she also used the opportunity to travel throughout the region, seeking out both adventure and information in an era of great uncertainty. Burkett's subsequent travelogue is a fascinating first-person account detailing the vagaries of life in a decidedly non-American--and sometimes anti-American--setting. Whether recounting personal experiences or interviewing a diverse cross-section of native Iraqis, Iranians, Afghans, Uzbekistanis, Kazakhstanis, and Kyrgyzstanis, she provides an intimate glimpse into everyday life in nations struggling to establish their own unique post-cold war identities. Interestingly enough, despite the tenuous world situation, she encountered very little blatant hatred directed toward herself as either a woman or an American. Though tourists won't be flocking to this remote and seemingly dangerous comer of the globe, they will appreciate viewing it through the experienced eyes of an intrepid female journalist. Margaret Flanagan
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

Burkett may have traveled widely, but her attitude is strictly bush, pun intended.
Pen Name
The author writes in a very readable and interesting style, and her descriptions and conclusions are clear and concise.
Bunny
All in all, I would recommend this book, as well as her others, to anybody who wants to learn more about the world.
Margaret Knoebel

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 7, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This is the rarest of books: at once hugely entertaining and hugely thought-provoking; both an exercise in pure fun and an attempt (successful) at genuine political and sociological enlightenment. It's a breezy travel memoir; it's a serious and timely look at the image and impact of the United States abroad. It reflects very much the issues that 9-11 raised, and yet it's also more timeless than that. Burkett bops through the former Soviet Union, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, China and, in almost every place, challenges the conventional wisdom about what's going on and offers less predictable glimpses and insights. It's a book full of hope; it's a book laden with hilariously cranky pessimism. It's terrific.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 28, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Unfortunately, most Americans "learn" about life in Islamic countries only through the news media and only in the context of the War on Terror. Burkett's most significant achievement with this book is to provide a glimpse into the lives of ordinary people in Central Asia and the Middle East - one that avoids the dual pitfalls of self-indulgence (for the most part) and political demagoguery. After reading this book I found it much easier to imagine life in the Middle East and felt I had gained a better understanding of what people in that part of the world love and hate about Americans. It's not a political book per se, but I would highly recommend it as supplemental reading for anyone interested in the region.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful By hrladyship on January 29, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Elinor Burkett and her husband, Dennis, having become restless and wanting what might be a final adventure, decide they want to spend some time abroad. Not as tourists, but she as a teacher and he as her companion. They've been to Europe, South America and other usual destinations. Checking on the Fulbright program, she elects to become a professor, teaching journalism in Kyrgyzstan, a fragment of the former Soviet Union. Unfortunately, it seems, they arrive at their home for the next year a week before 9/11.

The book begins right after the attack when all Americans abroad must have been frightened and wanting to go home. She and Dennis, like several others elect to stay. This beginning makes some readers think that this book will be the story of fear and frustration as they cope with hatred and tension over their being Americans in a part of the world that must hate them and their country.

But there is actually very little of that which is what makes her story amazing. During the months following 9/11, the two of them travel to countries in central Asia and the far east. The only real difficulties in their travels is getting there -- the beueaucracy and bribes, suspicions of minor border guards. Everywhere they hear much the same things from the people: America is arrogant and brought the attacks on itself by interfering in the affairs of other states. They should keep their noses out of other people's business. But why don't they do something about . . . (take your pick)" Never has it been more clear that America has such a love-hate relationship with the rest of the world.

In her teaching in the Kyrgyz university her own biases keep her at odds with the administration.
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18 of 25 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 20, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Burkett's journey is an interesting one. But her writing is so incredibly self conscious, full of chunky words with absolutely no flow, that the book becomes a difficult read. A sample sentence: "Rather than plod through the expected, I let myself be swept along past the graceful architecture of old Silk Road cities like Khiva and Bukhara into the center of Kabul during its first unreal days of freedom and to an Iran just emerging from behind its national chador, moving to the syncopation of calculated daring and the adagio of improvised caution."
Ple-e-e-e-e-z!!!
And that's just one sample of incredibly pretentious and strained prose that runs throughout this book. I recommend the author's journalism students heed this as a writing style to avoid - the writing gets in the way of the story, instead of telling it. How on earth did this author qualify for a Fulbright?
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful By takingadayoff TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 27, 2004
Format: Hardcover
With remarkably unlucky timing, Elinor Burkett and her husband, Dennis, arrive in Kyrgyzstan a week before September 11, 2001. They came to Central Asia in a fit of midlife restlessness, and get rather more than they bargained for.

Europe was too easy and South America too familiar. So they decided on Kyrgyzstan, a former Soviet Republic, and Burkett got a job as a journalism teacher at the Kyrgyz university for a year. After September 11, they decided to stay and stick it out. After all, the attacks had been in their home of Manhattan, halfway around the world.

For the next year, in between teaching her journalism classes, Burkett and her husband visited Afghanistan, Mongolia, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, and most of the other -stans. Remarkably enough, they faced almost no physical threats, and nearly everyone they met was fascinated with their American-ness. In every country they visited, even during the Afghanistan war and the run-up to the Iraq invasion, they were welcomed by the people, if not by the border guards, and made to feel welcome.

What Elinor and Dennis experienced is what America has experienced internationally -- people everywhere disagreed with American foreign policy, but they welcomed actual Americans. Nearly everyone they encountered, in every country, resented American "meddling" and arrogance, thought that America had brought the New York attacks on themselves, and yet were perfectly willing to share their homes with two American travelers.

As a journalist, Burkett knows how to tell a story. So Many Enemies, So Little Time starts off on September 11, 2001, then fills in the gaps a little later. She is very opinionated, and never hesitates to tell her guests and students what she thinks or if their arguments are weak.
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