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The Road to Fatima Gate: The Beirut Spring, the Rise of Hezbollah, and the Iranian War Against Israel Hardcover – April 5, 2011

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Michael J. Totten is an award-winning journalist and prize-winning author whose very first book, The Road to Fatima Gate, won the Washington Institute Book Prize.

He has taken road trips to war zones, sneaked into police states under false pretenses, dodged incoming rocket and mortar fire, stayed in some of the worst hotels ever built anywhere, slipped past the hostile side of a front line, been accused of being a spy, received death threats from terrorists, and been mugged by Egyptian police officers. When he's not doing or writing about these things, he writes novels.

His work has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and The New Republic among numerous other publications, and he's a contributing editor at World Affairs and City Journal. He has reported widely from the Middle East, the former Soviet Union, Latin America, and the Balkans. A former resident of Beirut, he lives in Oregon with his wife and two cats. 
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 360 pages
  • Publisher: Encounter Books (April 5, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594035210
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594035210
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,061,852 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Michael J. Totten is an award-winning journalist and prize-winning author whose very first book, The Road to Fatima Gate, won the Washington Institute Book Prize. His novel, Resurrection, has been optioned for film.

He has taken road trips to war zones, sneaked into police states under false pretenses, dodged incoming rocket and mortar fire, stayed in some of the worst hotels ever built anywhere, slipped past the hostile side of a front line, been accused of being a spy, received death threats from terrorists, and been mugged by the police in Egypt. When he's not doing or writing about these things, he writes novels.

His work has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and The New Republic among numerous other publications, and he's a contributing editor at World Affairs and City Journal. He has reported widely from the Middle East, the former Soviet Union, Latin America, and the Balkans. A former resident of Beirut, he lives in Oregon with his wife and two cats.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

34 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Karrie Higgins on April 4, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Full Disclosure: I have known Michael Totten & counted him a friend for many years. We have rolled our eyes through lame (read: back-patting) writing workshops, eviscerated each other's creative writing, and argued about the tiny 1% sliver where our politics diverge. That 1% sliver has always been small but significant. Over the years, though, that 1% sliver has shrunk considerably--at times because Totten's writing changed my mind. When someone's right, he's right.

So take this review with a grain of salt if you must, but know this: I would not be afraid to deliver a bad review to Michael if it were warranted. He has too much integrity to freak out and fire his friends over something like that. Those 5 stars are legit.

To me, what makes "The Road to Fatima Gate" different from every other book about the Middle East is this: Totten is genuinely curious about every culture, every person, every religion, every sect, every building, every propaganda poster, every town, every conflict--everything--he encounters. Even though "Fatima Gate" is a first-person account, Totten gets out of the way and lets the people and the place tell the story because he genuinely wants to understand. Most journalists and writers fail miserably at that. They have a story to tell and find a way to impose it on the places and people they encounter. Not Totten.

He listens to everyone--cab drivers, soldiers, Hezbollah security officers, journalists, Lebanese activists, bartenders, Israeli soldiers. He wants to know. He wants to understand. He wants the story he tells to be genuine and real and true. Every person has something to teach him. Every perspective is interesting on its own terms, just for existing.

And that is why his book is a game-changer.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By CMC on April 6, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It is hard to put down The Road to Fatima Gate. Totten turns arcane subject matter into flowing prose, and lets his subjects speak for themselves.

Michael Totten is not an academic, and he's not a political activist. He's a concerned American citizen who happens to be an excellent writer. This makes him a journalist, but that title doesn't fully suite him either, because it often implies reporting on deadline. His interest is not in parachuting into a foreign capital, interviewing the most important political actors and academics, writing about it, and leaving.

Totten truly wants to understand the Middle East. As is apparent in The Road to Fatima Gate, Totten arrived in the region for the first time already well versed in the academic and political theories on Lebanon, Israel, and the Middle East at large. However, those works did not describe the place Totten saw. Lebanon and Israel and the people living there were nothing like what he read in books and saw in the news. The first thing he needed to do was to reorient himself.

Totten writes that he was apprehensive on arrival in Beirut, but suddenly recognized that the images didn't match the place. A young man in a bar says to him, "You must be crazy to be here." Totten responds, ""You really think so?" I said. I didn't feel crazy to be there. That feeling passed after twenty-four hours" (7). But, of course, how could he know for sure? He didn't do what many journalists would have done: run to the politicians and the political risk consultants and the academics. He talked to the people. He went to their houses, dined with them, and drank tea. It seems his stringers were nice people he met along the way who offered to help him understand this complex place.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Gareth on April 4, 2011
Format: Hardcover
The middle-east is fascinating and important but too often it is frustrating. It is unusually complex. Every chunk of its past seems to clash with every moment of its present, revealing an intellectual abyss into which many writers and readers who attempt to tackle the dynamism and contradictions of the mid-east are flushed.

Michael Totten is different, and reading him is too. His understanding of the middle-east comes not just from personal experience, but from a perception that allows him to grasp conflicts and ideas not as news but as forces created by, and effecting, lives. He has a sub-conscious hatred for sectarianism and an outward sensibility that guards his writing, keeping it comprehensively logical and fair and therefore easy to understand without minimizing a subject's complexity. He demonstrates these qualities unfailingly in what Id call his finest work to date: The Road to Fatima Gate: the beirut spring, the rise of hezbollah, and the iranian war against isreal.

It begins where it should: "I'm going to die here" a colleague of Michael's said to himself on the plane.

When he arrived, Totten stayed in west Beirut at a ghost hotel, feeling the thick tension and fear in the air. The Lebanese prime minister's motorcade was just blown up and as locals knew very well, things could get worse. "You are crazy to be here right now," the man said next to him at a bar. "Crazy."

Michael travels to both sides of the temperamental border-region between Hezbollah controlled Lebanon and Israel, finding the sneaky hand of Iran and all the people caught between its fingers.

Michael mixes memoir and history, proving that the latter is defining the present and demonstrating within the former that he doesn't have it in him to be a bore.
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