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ZEN UNDER FIRE by Marianne Elliott


How I Found Peace in the Midst of War

by Marianne Elliott

Pub Date: June 1st, 2013
ISBN: 978-1-4022-8111-2
Publisher: Sourcebooks

An activist’s candid account of the hardships she endured working as a human rights officer for the United Nations.

In 2006, Elliott arrived in Herat, Afghanistan, thinking she had finally gotten her “dream job.” But Herat proved every bit as challenging as Kabul, the city where she had been stationed before. Just one month after her arrival, she was called upon to defuse an explosive situation between two feuding tribes that erupted after the leader of one tribe was assassinated. Elliott was soon mired in the thorny politics of both her job and the region. U.N. bureaucracy on one side and the machinations of desperate Afghan officials on the other made the task of getting humanitarian aid to people in need extremely difficult. For a while, Elliott seemed to thrive on the excitement created by coping with challenges that “seemed well beyond [her].” But soon, the accumulated weight of years working in war zones, including the Gaza Strip, began to take its toll on her. She suffered from insomnia, anxiety and despair, and a romantic relationship with a fellow aid worker slowly fell apart. Worse still, Elliott began questioning whether her tireless work was genuinely helping anyone. Desperate to regain her balance, she turned to yoga, a practice that helped her come to terms with the personal limits she had ignored in her zeal to make a difference in the world. Elliott describes her experiences with an open-heartedness that is admirable, but her memoir tells more than it shows and often reads more like an interesting field report than a fully realized book.

An earnest but fairly unskilled rendering of a humanitarian worker's trials and tribulations in Afghanistan.