Ukraine Through Personal and Political Lenses

Book review: In Wartime, by Tim Judah (Amazon / Book Depository) As we came closer to the coast, birds skimmed and whirled. The coastline is always changing here. Sediment and sand constantly form new low islands and sandbanks. Finally, we came to where this branch of the river flows out to the sea. A monument has been erected on the beach and become slightly lopsided. … Continue reading Ukraine Through Personal and Political Lenses

Hope in Historical Precedence

Book review: Lessons from a Dark Time, by Adam Hochschild Book Depository When times are dark, we need moral ancestors, and I hope the pieces here will be reminders that others have fought and won battles against injustice in the past, including some against racism, anti-immigrant hysteria, and more. The Trumps and Putins of those eras have gotten the ignominy they deserve. Journalist, public historian … Continue reading Hope in Historical Precedence

Catfishing ISIS

Book review: In the Skin of a Jihadist, by Anna Erelle (Amazon / Book Depository) When one worked on “societal” issues, it was out of passion. If only I could write about this topic in a new way, one that avoided treating individuals as part of a succession of similar cases. I wanted to investigate the roots of “digital jihadism” and get to the bottom … Continue reading Catfishing ISIS

A Darkly Funny, Sweet Coming-of-Age Story Between Two Countries

Book review: Miss Ex-Yugoslavia, by Sofija Stefanovic Amazon My mother said, “just imagine this situation we’re in is a massive black cloud falling from the sky, and be like a net. Allow it to pass through you.” I pictured a net through which a black cloud is squeezed, dispersing into many pieces; I imagined holding my breath as it passed, careful not to catch the … Continue reading A Darkly Funny, Sweet Coming-of-Age Story Between Two Countries

Literary Journalism Explores the Why of Young Women’s Radicalization

Book review: Two Sisters, by Asne Seierstad Amazon One October day in 2013, Somali-born Norwegian sisters Ayan and Leila (pseudonyms) left a note explaining their intentions, then boarded a flight from Oslo, beginning a journey that led them to a border town in southern Turkey. From there, they crossed into Syria, choosing to live in terrorist-controlled Raqqa, marry IS fighters and have babies, and embrace … Continue reading Literary Journalism Explores the Why of Young Women’s Radicalization

Women’s Voices Tell the Stories of Russia at War

Book review: The Unwomanly Face of War, by Svetlana Alexievich Amazon Yet another book about war? What for? There have been a thousand wars—small and big, known and unknown. And still more has been written about them. But…it was men writing about men—that much was clear at once. Everything we know about war we know with “a man’s voice.” When I came to polish up … Continue reading Women’s Voices Tell the Stories of Russia at War

Memory, History, And Family Roots in Latvia

Book review: Among the Living and the Dead, by Inara Verzemnieks “This is why I had journeyed to my grandmother’s lost village, nestled at the edge of Latvia, which is itself nestled at the edge of Europe’s psychic north, south, east and west, or, as Pope Innocent III described it…’the edge of the known world’.  Because I imagined, maybe, I might find her again in the old … Continue reading Memory, History, And Family Roots in Latvia

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 of the two historic royal families of Afghanistan. Bar’s family … Continue reading Royals to Refugees: Roots of an Afghan Family

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. The citizens have a brief glimmer of hope that things … Continue reading Dispatches from an Occupied Land

Across Land and Sea, a Teenage Refugee and Her Flight from Syria

Book review: Nujeen, by Nujeen Mustafa with Christina Lamb (Amazon / Book Depository) I fell in love with Nujeen Mustafa, like many did, when Last Week Tonight host John Oliver used BBC interview clips of the teenage Syrian refugee at a way station on the Serbian-Hungarian border as she traveled to Germany with her sister. She was so sweet and optimistic despite her unimaginably difficult journey and experiences in the … Continue reading Across Land and Sea, a Teenage Refugee and Her Flight from Syria

A French Village, Under Occupation

Book review: One Day in France, by Jean-Marie Borzeix (Amazon / Book Depository) A history written in rich, lovely language (even in translation!) about the author’s interest in digging up information about the tragic events that took place on a single day in a French village, when German soldiers murdered several (likely) Resistance members and probably an additional person, a Jewish man who may or may … Continue reading A French Village, Under Occupation