Collection of learned, poignant essays chronicling global political and cultural tumult between 9/11 and the 2008 presidential election.
New Yorker staff writer Packer (The Assassins’ Gate: America in Iraq, 2006, etc.) seeks a human element to provide the core of his investigative narratives. From Lagos to Myanmar, Tal Afar to Baghdad, the author reports on location and presents on-the-ground particulars that bring robust perspective to issues that are generally broadly reported. In Iraq, Packer details the evolution of an enlisted officer’s experience as part of a team tasked with securing an insurgent-controlled village. He describes the officer’s deepening connection with the land and people, then contrasts it with a senior-level meeting in the Green Zone where “from the beginning [the politics of the American project in Iraq] has been conducted under the illusion that controlling the message mattered more than the reality.” Packer provides readers with the opportunity to absorb a difficult, multifaceted foreign affair with a modicum of understanding and even empathy. “The Children of Freetown,” describes a Staten Island prosthetist inspired by a New York Times photo essay of juvenile war amputees in Sierra Leone. The resulting article traces not just this man’s endeavor to fit some of these children with new prosthetics, but that of several adult and child amputees, winding an outsider’s perspective with the complex and profound issues related to war, family and the bureaucracy of humanitarian aid. Like each essay in this collection, this piece is an astute, incisive and provocative examination of a specific issue bearing global parallels. In an era marked by the swift decline of well-researched, long-form journalism, these often heart-wrenching essays bring to life social, political and personal elements of far-flung crises in ways that elude more concise mediums.
A salient example of brave, inspired narrative journalism.