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All but true believers suffer under Daesh, Mikhail makes abundantly clear—but especially women. A powerful study.

An Iraqi journalist and poet long resident in New York returns to her native country to chronicle the misfortunes of Yazidi women under the rule of the Islamic State group.

The country of the Yazidi lies outside Mosul in northern Iraq. Under the control of IS, also called Daesh, it saw the rise of two kinds of smugglers: of cigarettes and of captive women. Using tobacco was strictly forbidden under IS, to great penalty, but kidnapping women was a luxury, a prize of war, that was met by Yazidis and sympathetic Arabs smuggling them back to their families, sometimes impregnated by their captors. The beekeeper of Mikhail’s (The Theory of Absence, 2014, etc.) title likens the stolen women to queen bees, the work of rescuing the sabaya, or sex slaves, to apiculture: “We worked like in a beehive,” he says, “with extreme care and well-planned initiatives.” The women are psychologically damaged and do not always reintegrate easily into Yazidi society. Their accounts are harrowing; one tells the author of being raped by a Daesh fighter who sang, “Oh, Muslim, come, there’s a virgin in heaven” before assaulting her each night, promising her that in the afterlife she would remain a sex slave to serve the faithful, who “would kill themselves to meet their houris in heaven.” Mikhail bears witness to them and other women in war-torn Iraq, women who have scarcely known peace throughout their lives. That she is a poet is clear on each page, as when she writes, “maybe Kurdistan is a daffodil that has only wilted temporarily, only temporarily.” She writes affectingly and well, but newsworthy as it is, her account follows two major books—Cathy Otten’s With Ash on Their Faces and Nadia Murad’s The Last Girl—on the same subject and may be lost in the shuffle. That would be a shame, for it is a meritorious, urgent book that deserves an audience.

All but true believers suffer under Daesh, Mikhail makes abundantly clear—but especially women. A powerful study.

Pub Date: March 27, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-8112-2612-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: New Directions

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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