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Waiting for an Ordinary Day: The Unraveling of Life in Iraq Hardcover – September 9, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

With the intriguing premise focused on the neglected citizens of occupied Iraq, Fassihi, the Wall Street Journal's senior Middle East correspondent, gathered numerous interviews throughout the war-torn cities and religious strongholds of Iraq. The author first came to international attention when a personal e-mail chronicling the rapidly deteriorating situation in Iraq made its way onto blogs in 2004; in this book, written in the same spirit as the e-mail, she dissects the convoluted conflicts and connections that closely bind the two major religious groups jockeying for control in the occupied land. She talks to a wide range of people, from staid government personnel to fiery clerics to zealous students, about the country's unstable political and social climate. Fassihi, of Iranian descent, cajoles the normally media-shy working and middle-class people of Sulaimaniyah, Baghdad, Kirkuk and Tikrit to speak on the before-and-after conditions of their civil freedoms. Through these conversations, Fassihi posits hard political and moral questions. (Sept.)
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From Booklist

*Starred Review* As the senior Wall Street Journal Middle East correspondent, Fassihi is more than credible in her candid assessment of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. On the ground in Baghdad both before and after Saddam’s fall, she focused her attention on the most overlooked aspect of the invasion: the Iraqi middle class. In her interviews with Sunnis and Shias, the secular and devout, those who are pro- and anti-American, Fassihi provides a startling compendium on what could have gone right if everything had not gone so wrong. Her frustration with errors of estimation and planning made by the U.S. government is palpable as she records the deterioration of goodwill. Through her careful collection of interviews and investigations, readers finally understand how the occupation became a war fought by multiple factions. What is heartbreaking is that it could have been avoided, and that this fact is so obvious.“It’s astounding,” Fassihi writes, “that the Americans seem so oblivious to their surroundings, with an inherently selective eye for what’s occurring in Iraq.” This is not politics but reportage written, at last, in a way that anyone, regardless of national origin, can understand. --Colleen Mondor
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs (September 9, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1586484753
  • ISBN-13: 978-1586484750
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.3 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,221,659 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Story Circle Book Reviews on October 10, 2008
Format: Hardcover
In her book, Waiting for an Ordinary Day: The Unraveling of Life in Iraq, Farnaz Fassihi presents a heart-wrenching portrait of the Iraqi people as they come to terms with the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and the rebuilding of their war-torn country. Drawing on her experiences as a Wall Street Journal senior correspondent living in Iraq, Fassihi portrays a compelling story of the struggles of the regular citizens and their families. At first they cheer the Americans for tumbling a brutal dictator, but then weep in despair as the free life they dreamed about becomes a nightmare.

This book is not a discourse on military tactics and political blunders, but readers need to know that many of the Iraqi people interviewed relate disturbing stories with heavy overtones of anti-Americanism and criticism of the President, and at times, Fassihi finds herself voicing her agreement. Descriptions and conversations, framed by the author's own pain and compassion, focus on the lives of people she has befriended. Many are affected by the overthrow, occupation and subsequent collapse of an Iraqi society that blames not only the two major ruling religious sects (Sunni and Shi'ite), but also the foreign occupiers. In Fassihi's words, "Sometimes I find myself wanting to cry while I'm interviewing people and other times I feel detached, like a machine recording misery and death."

During all this turmoil, Fassihi finds love with a fellow correspondent in this war-torn land. When they are on separate assignments, she is tormented by fears of separation.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Sue on October 4, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Farnaz's account of events are heart breaking. I have been following the incredible sad story of Iraq before the war started. No news of the war over the years have brought the sadness and misery of the war home so clearly. Farnaze's understanding of the culture, traditions and religion particularly makes her account of the events easier to understand. The fundamental factors which the war architects have so badly overlooked and foolishly underestimated and as foolishly they continue the rhetoric's for an even worst war with Iran.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Sheila C. Cullen on September 19, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Everyone should read this book for a beautifully written--vivid and nuanced--account of the situation in Iraq. It will break your heart, but it's essential reading for thinking Americans.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Charles Decker on September 30, 2008
Format: Hardcover
...you knew everything about the shameful war in Iraq, along comes this beautiful book about the war's impact on ordinary citizens. We are fortunate in the US that we have never seen occupiers. Not so in Iraq, and this book makes us realize just how we are perceived. The Bush administration, in all its customary arrogance, thinks that we are 'heroes'. Just read this book to realize just how wrong they were, as usual.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By S. McGee TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 28, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Farnaz Fassihi is a great reporter with an eye for all the details that transform an ordinary narrative into something superb. She tells the story of a "cursed ambulance", whose driver laments that since the American invasion, people die in his vehicle regularly. It only takes her a few carefully chosen words to describe how Iraqi shoulders seem more relaxed in the immediate aftermath of the invasion, or how the exhiliration of one of her Iraqi co-workers at voting in Iraq's first "free" elections fades and he wraps his purple-stained finger (the sign that he has voted) in a bandaid so that Sunnis in his neighborhood won't kill him for collaborating. She also deftly draws attention to the more familiar issues -- reported everywhere from her own contributions to the Wall Street Journal to the New Yorker -- such as the different definitions of "security" and "democracy" held by American administrators and the Iraqis themselves.
For all those reasons -- and many more, including Fassihi's ability to chronicle not just what she sees around her but also be a memoirist, writing about her own life and its gradual deterioration (from restaurant outings and parties to life under siege in a hotel suite ultimately destroyed in a bombing) -- this should have been an extraordinary book. The author has the reporting skills, the insight and the courage to step outside the boundaries imposed by North American journalism -- the rule of objectivity at all costs -- to call it as she sees it, a trait first noticed publicly when an e-mail decrying the real state of affairs in Iraq to friends and family became public in the fall of 2004.
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