One woman’s deft, thoughtful account of Muslim-American and male-female relationships.

Travels Unveiled

ONE WOMAN'S JOURNEY ON THE RAGGED EDGES OF CIVILIZATION

A personal memoir that travels decades, cultures, and many miles.

This is a man’s world, and no one knows it better that Juba, whose memoir—her first book—opens in 1999 in the unlikely setting of rural Pakistan. While staying in a hotel there, she responded to a request from her guide that she—as an American, who therefore must be smart—fix a satellite dish for some other guests. She replied willingly, only to find that the guests in question were Taliban; there was no room for mistakes, electrical or otherwise, particularly with her being an employee of the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad. In an extended flashback beginning with the next chapter, she details how she came to find herself in such a precarious situation. As a directionless youngster, she was an Affirmative Action recruit for a construction road crew and thus became one of the few women working in a male-dominated field. The challenges were real, from being denied opportunities for promotion and advancement to sexual harassment. Juba learned that her greatest chance for success lay in being observant and more or less invisible, to play by the rules, not make waves, but to learn everything she could about “the games men play”—the coded ways they interact with each other and with women. The knowledge she gained served her well in her second career with the U.S. diplomatic corps in the Foreign Service. Initially stationed in Islamabad, she interacted on a daily basis with conservative Muslims whose attitudes about women’s roles outside the home were profoundly different than those in America yet in some ways distressingly similar. In Pakistan, Juba had to navigate her otherness not only as a woman, but also as an American, walking a fine line between respecting cultural sensitivities and “leaning in” as a professional woman. Her stories about how she handled her interactions with the locals—almost all men, since Pakistani women have limited professional opportunities—are genuine, often funny, and sometimes frightening, as with the Taliban story. The stories also comprise an appealing travelogue as Juba, her colleagues, and their handlers traverse the enormous, diverse country seldom seen by Westerners. One flaw—possibly unavoidable due to professional restraint—is that apart from a harrowing chapter about the aftermath of the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombing in Nairobi, which Juba was sent to help oversee, readers learn little about what Juba’s job actually entailed.

One woman’s deft, thoughtful account of Muslim-American and male-female relationships.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5052-4867-8

Page Count: 154

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Oct. 3, 2015

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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UNTAMED

More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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