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The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan Paperback – March 6, 2012
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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.
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.
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
A great read. A little different from the movie but has the same feel. It's also rather instructive--in an entertaining way--about American middle east policy. Read morePublished 1 day ago by MP
This was one of those unusual books that was informative and also very entertaining. The author presents us with a first person account of the who what where and when of the... Read morePublished 3 days ago by Amazon Customer
An oddball look into expatriates working and playing in war zones.Published 3 days ago by Kenneth G. Schofield
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I had never heard of it until I saw the movie. I really liked the movie and hoped the book would be good. It was insightful and funny. W.T.F. Read morePublished 12 days ago by Bibly Ophelia
Kim baker's candid view on a tough topic like war. Witty and a relflection of what most of us go through to great lengths to loose ourselves and hopefully find a meaning at the... Read morePublished 12 days ago by Arjuna Raj