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The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan Hardcover – March 22, 2011

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday (March 22, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385533314
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385533317
  • Product Dimensions: 1.1 x 5.8 x 8.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (75 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #427,596 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

Kim Barker was The Chicago Tribune's South Asia Bureau Chief from 2004 to 2009, much of which she spent living in and reporting from Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Taliban Shuffle comprises her recollections of these years, but make no mistake: this is not your parents' war correspondent's memoir. In fact, to hear this charismatic debut author tell of life in war-torn Kabul during these years, you'd think it was a more-or-less non-stop party. Journalism is famously known as a business for which "if it bleeds, it leads," and with a fresh war raging in Iraq, Barker initially faced long stretches of relative quiet. As a result, an absurd, often promiscuous subculture grew up among her fellow reporters. (Think M*A*S*H with a dash of Catch-22.) Of course, it wasn't all fun, games, and the occasional heavy petting. Barker's reporting eventually brings her into contact with warlords, fundamentalists, and drug kingpins, and she does get blood on her hands (quite literally). As the action heats up and the Taliban begins slowly to regroup, she finds herself reporting on and fending off a host of unsavory types, from anonymous gropers in crowded streets to former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who woos her shamelessly, breaking all manner of internationally recognized rules of professional decorum. After five years of these "Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan," Barker finally returns to the States with a one-of-a-kind memoir, a true story that's rife with both black humor and brutal honesty about the absurdities of war. --Jason Kirk

From Booklist

War correspondent Barker first started reporting from Afghanistan in 2003, when the war there was lazy and insignificant. She was just learning to navigate Afghan culture, one caught between warring factions, and struggling to get space in her newspaper, the Chicago Tribune. Lulled into complacency, everyone from the U.S. military to the Afghan diplomatic corps to the Pakistani government stumbled as the Taliban regrouped. Very frank and honest, Barker admits a host of mistakes, including gross cultural ignorance that often put her in danger even as she found Afghanistan similar in some ways to Montana, her home state, what with �bearded men in pickup trucks stocked with guns and hate for the government.� She reports a string of characters: an amorous Pakistani former prime minister, a flashy Afghan American diplomat, an assortment of warlords, drug lords, fundamentalists, politicians, and fellow correspondents struck by wanderlust and plagued by messy personal lives�all of them against a backdrop of declining war coverage in declining American newspapers. A personal, insightful look at covering an ambivalent war in a complicated region. --Vanessa Bush

More About the Author

For almost five years, Kim Barker was the South Asia bureau chief for the Chicago Tribune, directing coverage of Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India. She covered natural disasters like the tsunami in Asia and the earthquake in Kashmir. She tracked manmade disasters -- the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the corruption in Afghanistan, the assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. Through all of it, she tried to keep her sense of humor. After the Tribune decided to cut back on foreign coverage, Barker quit in April 2009 to write "The Taliban Shuffle" and become the Edward R. Murrow fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. She freelanced for Foreign Affairs, The Daily Beast, Reader's Digest and The Atlantic. Barker, who previously worked at The Seattle Times and the Spokane Spokesman-Review, is now a general-assignment reporter at ProPublica working on enterprise and investigative stories.

Customer Reviews

That is the story Kim Barker tells in this book.
A. Tegtmeier
I guess she is trying to make the story personable and relatable for a Western audience, but I just felt like I was wasting my time reading it.
9th son of a 9th son
Writing about it in a book, however, does more harm than good.
M. Kelsey

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 25 people found the following review helpful By M. Hyman VINE VOICE on January 20, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I started this book with high hopes. I've read other books by first hand reporters in war zones, and found they often can be filled with a humanistic view of situations and share insights as to what really is going on in the war and society. This book had relatively few of these. The author was stationed in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India, and was present during many key events in both countries, and had access to and meetings with very key officials, including a "dating" proposal from the former prime minister of Pakistan. Yet, the book is more focused on her trouble with relationships, or what she wore, and some of the other strange events and adventures she lived through. Although these events and adventures could have added interesting color to the overall experience, I found that the book was much more like a diary written for catharsis than it was a book that shared any insights or meaning. Again, perhaps a mismatch of expectations, but overall I found the book relatively uninteresting, and would highly recommend "Every Man in this Village is a Liar" instead.Every Man in This Village is a Liar: An Education in War
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By William Garrison Jr. VINE VOICE on April 20, 2011
Format: Paperback
"The Taliban Shuffle" by Kim Barker, (2011), Doubleday, 303 pgs. A `Deer Look caught in Headlights' describes the author's experiences in Afghanistan and Pakistan: she sees well that a terrorist attack is happening, but doesn't quite fully understand WHY it is happening. The author saw the immediate aftermath whereby terrorists or Islamikazes killed 'infidels' (and innocent Muslim passersby as unfortunate `collateral damage'). However, I don't recall her asking: "Why are all of these suicide bombers Muslim?" One reviewer wrote that he found this book so interesting that "I couldn't put it down"; contrarily for me, as this book really didn't cover any new ground that others haven't already written about -- I found it hard to pick it back up after setting it down (all too frequently I bemoaned: "Will this book never end?"). The only thing really new here were her dating experiences; sad experiences in a sad region. But her dating experiences led to the best line in her book: "I was also trying not to date in Kabul as Afghanistan resembled Alaska if you were a woman - the odds were good but the goods were odd" (p. 123). Even though she may not have witnessed some terrorist attack, she nonetheless related a history of the incident - but I had the feeling that I was reading generic news information; her `first hand' experience was missing. Don't get me wrong, she witnessed as lot of mayhem, but it seemed like she was usually out of the area when the incident occurred, and she was sent in as a stringer to cover the story. I do laud her as a female journalist in putting her `boots on the ground' in a really unsafe region. As a western woman in a Muslim region it was difficult for her to develop `deep', meaningful, prying questions of Islamist leaders for their beliefs, not that she didn't try.Read more ›
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Richard R on July 15, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This is a self-absorbed journalist's book about her time in Afghanistan. It's all about Kim. In one passage she teases another writer, saying he's the sort of person who would write a book called "My War" without any sense of irony. The irony, of course, is that Barker has written just such a book.

Readers will find no insights into Afghanistan, Pakistan, the conflicts, the history, or the societies. Instead they'll learn of the author's participation in alcohol-fueled toga parties among the Kabul-based journalists. They'll learn little about the political consequences of suicide bombings, but will hear about the author's feelings when she races to cover them. They'll discover nothing about the roots of Afghans' social conservatism, but will get an earful of Barker's sanctimony when --in the final handful of pages-- she criticizes everybody from Karzai to the U.S. soldiers to all journalists except herself for knowing nothing about Afghanistan. Again, all without a sense of irony. Without the sense that she's written little more than a subjective little diary full of contradictions, emotion-filled reactions, and whiny platitudes.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By VINE VOICE on January 22, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I really enjoyed "The Taliban Shuffle" by Kim Barker. A sign of how much I enjoyed it is I am recommending it to people as much as possible.

Barker is a journalist. This is her view of Afghanistan & Pakistan during the last 8 years or so. She does some reporting of the situation but mostly Shuffle is just that, a 'shuffle' of personal stories. The kind that don't make the news but make for good stories that stick in your brain.

One of the most haunting isn't even about the conflict but when she relates that she is relaxing for a Christmas holiday. She, like myself, hasn't heard yet of the tsunami that hit in 2004. That little anecdote won me over because it showed how fast things move in her world.

What I appreciated most is that Barker relates truly funny stories but humor is always best when it is laced with a kind of truthful melancholy. there is something absurd in how she describes how men in Afghanistan are so used to fighting that even when they talk of a day when they won't be fighting, she's been around long enough among them that she, nor others, believe them.

That is how this book rolls. It is funny, absurd, realistic, non-judgmental, filled with friendships, observations of corrupt and corruptible, frustrations and small victories, but mostly about how an unlikely person grew to love what seems like an unlovable place.

It is definitely a keeper for me.
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