Inflated in scope and ambition, but worth reading for direct glimpses into the hearts and minds of everyday Kurds.

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ELVIS IS TITANIC

CLASSROOM TALES FROM THE OTHER IRAQ

A Rhodes Scholar’s turgid account of a semester spent teaching U.S. history and English in occupied Iraq.

Inspired by Cecil Rhodes’s call to “fight the world’s fight,” the author headed for Iraqi Kurdistan in 2005 to teach at Salahaddi University in Arbil, aiming to bring English and “the American experience” to a nation struggling with democracy. Facing a generally appreciative classroom, he led far-ranging discussions on an eclectic array of writers, including Hemingway, Langston Hughes, Thomas Jefferson and Martin Luther King Jr. Klaus is at his best when simply capturing the voices of the Kurds and other nationals he encountered. Among the impressive, vibrant, tragic people who leap off the page: his direct, colorful students; the staff, fellow guests and South-African bodyguards at the hotel where he resided; and the awkwardly charming busboy who never lost an opportunity to practice his vocabulary with the American. Unfortunately, Klaus truncates these profiles to focus on pedantic exposition and lofty generalizations that verge on the incomprehensible when not faintly paternalistic. (“They had not yet assimilated the luxury of abstraction that attends self-determination.”) Disorienting temporal shifts and poor segues further hamper narrative clarity. The obviously well-read author incessantly quotes political thinkers, historians and Orientalists (Tocqueville, Graham Greene, et al.), drawing stultifying parallels between their work and his own observations. Concrete personal details are curiously absent or glossed over. For example: Who arranged for his bodyguards? How did he manage to meet Iraq President-to-be Jalal Talabani weeks before the election? Perhaps the indignant penultimate chapter about being outed to Kurds as Chelsea Clinton’s boyfriend explains these assiduous omissions. The end result, however, is disappointingly muddled and off-putting.

Inflated in scope and ambition, but worth reading for direct glimpses into the hearts and minds of everyday Kurds.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-307-26456-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2007

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Dramatic, immersive, and wanting—much like desire itself.

THREE WOMEN

Based on eight years of reporting and thousands of hours of interaction, a journalist chronicles the inner worlds of three women’s erotic desires.

In her dramatic debut about “what longing in America looks like,” Taddeo, who has contributed to Esquire, Elle, and other publications, follows the sex lives of three American women. On the surface, each woman’s story could be a soap opera. There’s Maggie, a teenager engaged in a secret relationship with her high school teacher; Lina, a housewife consumed by a torrid affair with an old flame; and Sloane, a wealthy restaurateur encouraged by her husband to sleep with other people while he watches. Instead of sensationalizing, the author illuminates Maggie’s, Lina’s, and Sloane’s erotic experiences in the context of their human complexities and personal histories, revealing deeper wounds and emotional yearnings. Lina’s infidelity was driven by a decade of her husband’s romantic and sexual refusal despite marriage counseling and Lina's pleading. Sloane’s Fifty Shades of Grey–like lifestyle seems far less exotic when readers learn that she has felt pressured to perform for her husband's pleasure. Taddeo’s coverage is at its most nuanced when she chronicles Maggie’s decision to go to the authorities a few years after her traumatic tryst. Recounting the subsequent trial against Maggie’s abuser, the author honors the triumph of Maggie’s courageous vulnerability as well as the devastating ramifications of her community’s disbelief. Unfortunately, this book on “female desire” conspicuously omits any meaningful discussion of social identities beyond gender and class; only in the epilogue does Taddeo mention race and its impacts on women's experiences with sex and longing. Such oversight brings a palpable white gaze to the narrative. Compounded by the author’s occasionally lackluster prose, the book’s flaws compete with its meaningful contribution to #MeToo–era reporting.

Dramatic, immersive, and wanting—much like desire itself.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4516-4229-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS

Maya Angelou is a natural writer with an inordinate sense of life and she has written an exceptional autobiographical narrative which retrieves her first sixteen years from "the general darkness just beyond the great blinkers of childhood."

Her story is told in scenes, ineluctably moving scenes, from the time when she and her brother were sent by her fancy living parents to Stamps, Arkansas, and a grandmother who had the local Store. Displaced they were and "If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat." But alternating with all the pain and terror (her rape at the age of eight when in St. Louis With her mother) and humiliation (a brief spell in the kitchen of a white woman who refused to remember her name) and fear (of a lynching—and the time they buried afflicted Uncle Willie under a blanket of vegetables) as well as all the unanswered and unanswerable questions, there are affirmative memories and moments: her charming brother Bailey; her own "unshakable God"; a revival meeting in a tent; her 8th grade graduation; and at the end, when she's sixteen, the birth of a baby. Times When as she says "It seemed that the peace of a day's ending was an assurance that the covenant God made with children, Negroes and the crippled was still in effect."

However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1969

ISBN: 0375507892

Page Count: 235

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1969

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