Before her first trips as a fill-in correspondent in South Asia in 2001, current ProPublica reporter Barker had little...

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THE TALIBAN SHUFFLE

STRANGE DAYS IN AFGHANISTAN AND PAKISTAN

A memoir of the five years the writer spent reporting from Afghanistan and Pakistan after the overthrow of the Taliban in 2001.

Before her first trips as a fill-in correspondent in South Asia in 2001, current ProPublica reporter Barker had little overseas experience. But her life changed in the aftermath of 9/11, when she presented herself to the Chicago Tribune as an ideal candidate for reporting work in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Unmarried and childless, she was “expendable.” By the time Barker became the bureau chief of the Tribune’s Delhi office in 2004, she was a confirmed adrenaline junkie, always looking for her next “fix” of riots, bombings, kidnappings, assassinations and natural disasters. Of the half-dozen countries for which she was responsible, only Afghanistan gave her the “high” she craved. With its “jagged blue-and-purple mountains, and bearded men in pickup trucks stocked with guns and hate for the government,” the country seemed a hallucinatory version of her native Montana. Equally at home embedded with troops on the front lines or interviewing Taliban warlords and political elites like Hamid Karzai and Benazir Bhutto, Barker witnessed violence, death and governmental corruption on a daily basis. But unexpected absurdities, such as the attempts of an ex-prime minister of Pakistan to offer the writer choices—himself among them—for romantic “friends,” offered occasional comic relief. Her work—and a social life in Kabul that resembled a surreal cross “between a fraternity party and the Hotel California”—became a way she could escape from the relationship failures, which she chronicles with the same candor and edgy wit that characterize the rest of her bold, slightly chaotic narrative. Politically astute and clearly influenced by Hunter S. Thompson, Barker provides sharp commentary on the impotence of American foreign policy in South Asia after the victory against the Taliban. “We had no stick,” she writes. “Our carrots were limp after almost eight years of waggling around.”

Pub Date: March 22, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-385-53331-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 2, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2010

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

NIGHT

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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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