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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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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. It's just like a lot of life and meaning isn't always easy to wring out of it. In that light, the book is definitely uneven at times, and rambles all around. But it is also honest and insightful, and an important voice against the apathy and dumbing down of US foreign journalism. It's partly an indictment against the lazy and often deadly approach the US takes to its foreign policy, though this judgment is not partisan, nor does it let the countries in question off the hook. It's because she ends up loving Afghanistan that she becomes so disillusioned by it's leaders and competing factions.
I was really surprised to discover so many negative reviews of The Taliban Shuffle. A shallow reading of those reviews revealed to me that readers were disappointed about the author talking too much about herself, and that this book is not a journalistic work. I have to agree: this is not a journalistic work, is a lot more: Barker offers not only an account of the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan but also offers the human side of journalism and a personal consideration of what she is living.
Especially when reading non-fiction, honesty is a very valuable item for me as a reader and Barker writing seemed to me quite honest. She shares her feelings, thoughts and expectations, she is open about everything and this is great. She is not trying to impress anyone nor trying to be funny nor trying to convey any particular agenda. She just states what she thinks and I liked that.
What other reviews complain about, is what I enjoyed the most: Barker talks a lot about herself. This is not merely an account of war in South Asia, is an account of war in South Asia through the eyes of a woman who struggles with her highly demanding job, her personal life and the inconvenience of living in a foreign country. In two foreign countries, actually.
Not the kind of book I’m used to read but I really enjoyed it. I don't want to sound corny but reading this book made consider many things. On one hand I realised how litle I know about armed conflicts in the world, real problems of real people suffering. On the other hand, I reflected on how terribly I'm handling my life-work balance and the need I have for prioritizing and bring some order to my life.