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.
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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
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