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The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan Kindle Edition
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|Length: 322 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
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Top Customer Reviews
That is the story Kim Barker tells in this book. The story of personal growth, interwoven with her adventures as a foreign correspondent for a Chicago newspaper.
The stories she has to tell do not reveal any big surprises about Afghanistan, the war there, the Taliban or the US handling of all that mess. There are other books out there, which already dealt with those aspects. What makes this book stand out amongst them is the unique perspective of a somewhat naive American girl, who was thrown into this alien world with no preparation at all. She eventually learns to get a grip on this strange world, and on herself. She learns, matures, and lets the reader take part in this process.
Some adventures she describes are downright hilarious, others are very sad, some are a bit strange, but all are interesting. Her writing style is not the most polished one can imagine, but it gets the message across. She is a no frills person, sometimes harsh, sometimes brash, and that is beautifully reflected in her writing style.
The book is very entertaining, especially for someone like me, who has read about half a doyen books about the current Afghanistan war, most of them are more serious historical and political scholarly works.
This book tells the tale from a refreshingly different, very personal perspective.
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.
Many, like me, probably will pick this book up after watching the movie Whiskey, Tango, Foxtrot with Tina Fey. From that perspective I was both disappointed AND rewarded. If you've read other non-fiction accounts in the many political and military hotspots around the world, then you will most likely enjoy what is recounted here. If on the other hand 99% of what you read is fiction and you generally like to keep it light, I doubt this book will be your thing. I fall firmly into the former category and love books by journalists who are willing to go right to the edge in order to make sure the world doesn't ignore what's important. I believe Kim Barker did her best to be one of these journalists, but sadly wasn't taken as seriously (because of being a woman) both on the ground and back home where journalism of this kind was drying up.
COMPARISONS: The movie is much more linear and the scripting/story arc greatly tightened up. Plus it's funnier. On the other hand this book is so much more interesting and three dimensional than the movie, which in reality takes only about 1/3 of the book as it's source material. It also puts much more emphasis on the romantic and sexual relationships of the author, which in the book hardly happen at all. The movie almost makes these as primary plot movers, and it's obvious that they were all little more than tangential to Ms. Barker in her real life.
Towards the end of the book she basically admits that writing the book was as much a form of PTSD self-therapy as anything else. That doesn't invalidate the writing at all, but it does point out that it's not the sort of book that has a "story" or over-arching theme to follow.Read more ›
P.J. O'Rourke writes in a blurb on the cover that hellholes like Afghanistan and Pakistan are "kind of fun." Nonsense. The Westerners who find themselves there, as reporters or aid workers or contractors, (but not soldiers - there doesn't seem to be much hobnobbing between military and civilian) take every opportunity to relieve the stress of being in a war zone by boozing, partying, hooking up, and doing drugs. It's the kind of desperate fun that comes with the added thrill of knowing you could be bombed, shot, or kidnapped without warning.
While The Taliban Shuffle explains a lot about the war in Afghanistan and the politics in Pakistan, it's more revealing about what it's like to be a war correspondent. Kim Barker writes a fascinating account of her evolution from inexperienced reporter to intrepid journeyman correspondent to jaded journalist. Never pompous or self-important, Barker is sometimes painfully honest about her destructive relationships and becoming an adrenaline junkie. Even when her newspaper shut down the South Asia Bureau and reassigned her to a domestic beat, she soon quit and flew back, because she was addicted to Afghanistan.
I haven't yet come across a book about the war in Afghanistan that is as enlightening as Rajiv Chandrasekaran's Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq's Green Zone was about the war in Iraq. But The Taliban Shuffle fills a different gap by being an authentic and unrestrained account of the lives of war correspondents.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I haven't seen the movie, but the book is nuanced and insightful. Barker is crazy-insane and intrepid, by turns. Read morePublished 1 day ago by RickGondella
I read this after seeing Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, which was based on Kim Barker's book. Good read - grittier than the film, but with the same wry attitude.Published 2 days ago by Amazon Customer
An excellent read, if you wonder how journalists star in local news and end up covering stories in active war zones at the other end of the globe. Read morePublished 7 days ago by Bsterling
My dream job is to be a Middle Eastern correspondent so my Dad gave me this book for my birthday.
This is a memoir of Kim Barker and her time as the South Asia bureau... Read more
Hope the movie was better. Unable to tell the characters apart....much less the tribal situation in Pakistan/Afghanistan/India..... Read morePublished 19 days ago by John D. Boyd
Bought the book after seeing the movie "Whiskey, Tango, Foxtrot". I enjoyed the movie but the book gives a much deeper look into the whole issue of the what the US is... Read morePublished 20 days ago by MJFCRC
Interesting read - well written and keeps you engaged and wanting more... Fast paced and fun. Interesting how the humor is pretty thick at the offset and dissapates as the book... Read morePublished 20 days ago by Stephanie Knight
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