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Sisters in War: A Story of Love, Family, and Survival in the New Iraq Hardcover – September 29, 2009

4.7 out of 5 stars 42 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This elegant narrative chronicles the lives of four women who experienced elation, hope and disappointment following the American invasion of Iraq and the fall of Saddam in 2003. Two Iraqi sisters glimpse a new life following years of oppression: Zia is fluent in English and obtains a job inside the Green Zone working for the Americans; Nunu, the younger and more timid sister, struggles to complete college in the increasingly dangerous urban environment. Asquith (The Emergency Teacher) deftly details the arduousness of establishing women's centers and getting women elected to office through her profile of Heather, once a wonky bureaucrat turned U.S. Army reservist, who must confront sexism within both the U.S. military and the unfamiliar Muslim culture. Lastly is Manal, a women's rights and antiwar activist born in America of Palestinian parents, who struggles to put aside her politics in the interests of helping Iraqi women succeed with the establishment of women's centers. Deftly chronicled by Asquith, who spent two years in Baghdad reporting from the front lines, this informative narrative offers readers a seldom heard female perspective into the everyday lives, struggles, disappointments and triumphs of four women during this chaotic and dangerous time. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


“A rare, beautifully written insight into the haunting ways in which women have been affected by the conflict.”
 The Financial Times
Sisters in War is a brilliant, powerful and convincing story of three women from the same Iraqi family. . .It is not only a story of  women fighting for  their liberated lifestyles. It is a story of Islamic traditions, religion, politics and power versus American lifestyle, American power and American belief.”
-The Feminist Review

“Few books capture the complexity and diversity of Muslim women and the varying views on their place in Islam as Sisters in War: A Story of Love, Family, and Survival in the New Iraq by journalist Christina Asquith. A true page-turner."
– Altmuslimah

 “Journalist Asquith went into hiding with a Baghdadi family she had befriended, and investigated what life meant for Iraqi women. She also immersed herself in the lives of a few Americans who remained there, devoted to creating at least small solutions to the massive problems of local women, both new and historical. Sisters in War is the formidable fruit of her reporting."
– Slate 
Asquith has won admiration from many feminists and Iraqi activists for exposing this struggle. Her resounding message is that a country committed to ensuring the needs, success and prosperity of women is a country worth fighting for.”
– Roll Call, 09.2009

“Christina Asquith has written a brilliant book, extraordinary in concept and execution, the most intimate and moving portrait I have read of the early American disaster in Iraq. It is a shifting and powerful portrait of disillusionment seen through the hopeful eyes of American and Iraqi women colliding with the hard realities of religion, politics, power, and morality in a traditional society. Sometimes, to see a thing fresh, we need to look at it from a different vantage. Asquith’s young women, from the courageous and committed American feminists to their Iraqi counterparts, who must cope with cultural constraints their new Western friends can hardly imagine, are all victims of the criminal arrogance and naïveté of the U.S. occupation. This is a work of reporting and writing that will last.”—Mark Bowden, author of Black Hawk Down

“Christina Asquith’s description of the wild incompetence–and dedication– of early American efforts in Iraq reads like a great novel but with the added weight of history. And her focus on women, both American and Iraqi, makes this book uniquely valuable among the many on this long war. Asquith is a fine writer and, clearly, a very brave reporter. She has filled in several crucial pieces of the Iraq puzzle, and done it beautifully.”—Sebastian Junger, author of The Perfect Storm

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1st edition (September 29, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400067049
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400067046
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,564,426 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Brandon Wilkening on March 11, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I learned about this book after hearing a recent interview with the author on NPR. I've read several books on the Iraqi conflict, most of them falling under the "what went wrong" category, and I'd have to say that this is probably the most heartfelt and emotionally wrenching one I've read. The author basically relates the experiences of four women who lived in Iraq during the post-invasion period and throughout the insurgency.

Two of these women, Zia and Nunu, are Iraqi sisters of Shiite background. The other two women are Americans who went to Iraq to aid in the reconstruction process. Heather joins the army and goes to Iraq out of a conviction that, whatever the merits of the invasion, the U.S. can and should play a positive role in spreading democracy. Manal is an American Muslim who staunchly opposed the U.S. invasion but nevertheless goes to Iraq to run a women's rights center. Manal and Heather eventually come to collaborate together on the construction and operation of a women's center, and the book recounts their struggles in overcoming bureaucratic inertia, interference by the Bremer's Coalition Provisional Authority, cultural resistance, and the constant threat to their security.

Zia, the older of the two Iraqi sisters, is the undisputed "star" of this story. She is fluent in English, independent-minded, and confident, characteristics which help her land a job with the CPA in the Green Zone. The book traces her initial naïve optimism in the capacity of the U.S. administration to fundamentally reshape Iraqi society and build democracy, to her eventual disillusionment with many of the policies pursued by the CPA.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Sisters in War, by Christina Asquith, documents the lives of four women in war-ravaged Iraq. Asquith anchors her story with names and events that are the memorable war headlines of American news in 2003-2004. She then reveals truths that were not known state-side: details of events and their effect on women's lives, and how the continued American military presence affects the Iraqi people outside the enclave known as the Green Zone.

Iraqi sisters Zia and Nunu experience pre-Sadam and post-Sadam Iraq, and find their daily lives, education and sense of a future interrupted and altered beyond their control. American Army reservist Heather arrives in war-ravaged Iraq, with a naïve dream and official mandate to bring American-style women's rights, as defined by American military strategists, to a traditional conservative Muslim society. She collaborates with American aid worker Manal, who understands both cultures and attempts to bridge West and Middle East in Iraq, as she has in her own life. The day-to-day details of four women's lives chillingly reveal the impact of war, in ways that more formal reports of troop movements and statistical analyses do not.

We know that soldiers are horribly traumatized by war. Still, if one considers the broad cultural devastation perpetrated by war, it is written indelibly in the minds, hearts and lives of the non-combatants: most often women, children and the elderly. Civilians in war zones are murdered, gang-raped, tortured, displaced and bereft of home, food, clothing and education. Families and communities are disrupted, often destroyed. Rarely are the day-to-day details of civilian war experience honored in the recording of political change.
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Format: Hardcover
For those of us who know Iraq from newspapers and TV, this book is important. For those of us who are women, it is essential. Christina Asquith's, "Sisters in War," puts us on the ground in Iraq from the beginning of the war up to present time. It's told from the point of view of three seemingly disparate women; a U.S. soldier who is a cog in the democracy-building bureaucracy, an American-born Arab aid worker trying to establish womens' rights programs in Iraq and a young Iraqi woman waiting for her life to begin.

On the eve of war, all of these women are full of hope, optimism and ambition. They want to participate in the creation of an Iraq where women don't just survive, but thrive. We come to feel we know these women. We recognize them as we recognize ourselves. They want the same things we want; freedom to pursue a career, freedom to fall in love and safety for themselves and their family. The thing they want most, perhaps, is to give women a voice. And to find their own voice.

We follow these women into the crucible of war. We witness their disappointments as the Americans are unable to secure the country and get it up and running again, we witness their pain, fear and frustration as chaos and terror reign.

Christina Asquith's book does what fine journalism should do, which is bring us into intimate contact with The Other. The Refugee, The Warrior, The Human Aide Worker become Zia, Heather and Manal. They could be our sisters, our best friends, our colleagues. And as harrowing as their tale is, the remarkable resilience of all three gives us cause for hope.
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