Jihad, Choices, and Fearless Journalism

Book review: I Was Told to Come Alone, by Souad Mekhennet (Amazon / Book Depository) Sometimes a reporter is simply lucky enough to pick the right restaurant for tea. That's one way journalist Souad Mekhennet, a contributor to the New York Times and Washington Post, among others, and a veritable force in modern journalism, describes her experience in 2001, listening... Continue Reading →

Royals to Refugees: Roots of an Afghan Family

Book review: Crossing the River Kabul, by Kevin McLean Book Depository Author Kevin McLean adopts the voice of Baryalai Popal to tell his dramatic true story, spanning decades, of escaping Afghanistan in 1980 during the Russian invasion and war, and his eventual trek to America. Now an American citizen, Baryalai (called Bar) was born into one... Continue Reading →

Tracking Al-Qaeda and the Hunt for Bin Laden, 9/11 to Now

Book review: The Exile, by Cathy Scott-Clark and Adrian Levy Investigative journalist Lawrence Wright published the Pulitzer-winning narrative history The Looming Tower in 2006, detailing Al-Qaeda's formation and the road to September 11. It closes shortly after the towers fall. With the recent popularity of the film Zero Dark Thirty portraying the SEAL team raid on Osama bin Laden's Abbottabad compound,... Continue Reading →

Dispatches from an Occupied Land

Book review: The Raqqa Diaries: Escape from Islamic State, by Samer, translated by Nader Ibrahim Samer (not his real name) is a Syrian hoping to begin his studies when Assad's regime is overthrown and the Islamic State (referred to here as Daesh, another of its names) rolls into the country, taking Raqqa as a de facto capital.... Continue Reading →

Story of a Family, Story of Syria

The Home That Was Our Country, by Alia Malek Journalist and civil rights lawyer Alia Malek was born in Baltimore to Syrian parents. With the memory of her beloved grandmother Salma, the matriarch of their large extended family, and Salma's apartment in Damascus, she always felt a strong connection and pull to the country. Her... Continue Reading →

When Blasphemy, Heresy and Apostasy are Necessary

Book review: Heretic, by Ayaan Hirsi Ali (Amazon / Book Depository) On ______, a group of ______ heavily armed, black-clad men burst into a ______ in ______, opening fire and killing a total of ______ people. The attackers were filmed shouting “Allahu akbar!” Speaking at a press conference, President ______ said: “We condemn this criminal act by... Continue Reading →

A Lighter Side of War

Book review: The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan by Kim Barker (Amazon / Book Depository) Post-9/11, Chicago Tribune reporter Kim Barker accepts a position as South Asian bureau chief based out of Delhi, but more often the work entails going on embed with military units in Afghanistan. She knows nothing about these countries culturally... Continue Reading →

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