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Every Man in This Village is a Liar: An Education in War

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A shattering account of war and disillusionment from a young woman reporter on the front lines of the war on terror. A few weeks after the planes crashed into the World Trade Center on 9/11, journalist Megan K. Stack, a  twenty-five-year-old national correspondent for the Los Angeles Times, was thrust into Afghanistan and Pakistan, dodging gunmen and prodding warlords for A shattering account of war and disillusionment from a young woman reporter on the front lines of the war on terror. A few weeks after the planes crashed into the World Trade Center on 9/11, journalist Megan K. Stack, a  twenty-five-year-old national correspondent for the Los Angeles Times, was thrust into Afghanistan and Pakistan, dodging gunmen and prodding warlords for information. From there, she traveled to war-ravaged Iraq and Lebanon and other countries scarred by violence, including Israel, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen, witnessing the changes that swept the Muslim world and laboring to tell its stories. Every Man in This Village Is a Liar is Megan K. Stack’s riveting account of what she saw in the combat zones and beyond. She relates her initial wild excitement and her slow disillusionment as the cost of violence outweighs the elusive promise of freedom and democracy. She reports from under bombardment in Lebanon; records the raw pain of suicide bombings in Israel and Iraq; and, one by one, marks the deaths and disappearances of those she interviews. Beautiful, savage, and unsettling, Every Man in This Village Is a Liar is a memoir about the wars of the  twenty-first century that readers will long remember.


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A shattering account of war and disillusionment from a young woman reporter on the front lines of the war on terror. A few weeks after the planes crashed into the World Trade Center on 9/11, journalist Megan K. Stack, a  twenty-five-year-old national correspondent for the Los Angeles Times, was thrust into Afghanistan and Pakistan, dodging gunmen and prodding warlords for A shattering account of war and disillusionment from a young woman reporter on the front lines of the war on terror. A few weeks after the planes crashed into the World Trade Center on 9/11, journalist Megan K. Stack, a  twenty-five-year-old national correspondent for the Los Angeles Times, was thrust into Afghanistan and Pakistan, dodging gunmen and prodding warlords for information. From there, she traveled to war-ravaged Iraq and Lebanon and other countries scarred by violence, including Israel, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen, witnessing the changes that swept the Muslim world and laboring to tell its stories. Every Man in This Village Is a Liar is Megan K. Stack’s riveting account of what she saw in the combat zones and beyond. She relates her initial wild excitement and her slow disillusionment as the cost of violence outweighs the elusive promise of freedom and democracy. She reports from under bombardment in Lebanon; records the raw pain of suicide bombings in Israel and Iraq; and, one by one, marks the deaths and disappearances of those she interviews. Beautiful, savage, and unsettling, Every Man in This Village Is a Liar is a memoir about the wars of the  twenty-first century that readers will long remember.

30 review for Every Man in This Village is a Liar: An Education in War

  1. 4 out of 5

    Trish

    Stack uses language like a paintbrush in this memoir of her time covering the Middle East and South Asia as a reporter for the L.A. Times. In fact, she became a foreign correspondent by accident: being in Europe when the Twin Towers fell, she stumbled into Afghanistan. Throughout the book I have highlighted passages that capture light:I left Afghanistan--the light that falls like powder on the poppy fields, the mortars stacked like firewood in broken-down sheds at the abandoned terror compounds, Stack uses language like a paintbrush in this memoir of her time covering the Middle East and South Asia as a reporter for the L.A. Times. In fact, she became a foreign correspondent by accident: being in Europe when the Twin Towers fell, she stumbled into Afghanistan. Throughout the book I have highlighted passages that capture light:I left Afghanistan--the light that falls like powder on the poppy fields, the mortars stacked like firewood in broken-down sheds at the abandoned terror compounds, the throaty green of the mineral rivers. In the back of the car, I stared into a scrubbed sky as empty plains slipped past.And then I was at my mother's house in Connecticut, walking known floorboards, the same naked trees in the windows, blocked by familiar walls. The silence of the house screamed in my ears, and my bones and skin hung like shed snakeskin that wouldn't fall away. But Stack also captures the sense (or the nonsense) of the Middle East, and in a gut-wrenching final analysis makes the divisions between countrymen in Lebanon sound so much like the deadlock in the current U.S. political situation one wants to wail in sorrow. Instead of transforming the Middle East in our image (George W. Bush's raison d’être), we are becoming more like them. The final chapter of Stack's mideast tour introduces us to a young man in Baghdad in 2006, and if her description of his wasted life doesn't make you grind your teeth in frustration and fury, you have already passed to the netherworld.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Hannah Norris

    this book made me want to light myself on fire

  3. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    Every Man in This Village Is a Liar is one of the most moving works--whether books, magazines, newspaper or online articles--I've read about America's War on Terror and the long term consequences of Western meddling (or not-so-benevolent neglect) in Middle Eastern politics since the discovery of oil under Saudi Arabian sands, the creation of Israel, and the start of the Cold War. Megan Stack does, in these hysterical times when there's a terrorist hiding under every bed, the impossible: she huma Every Man in This Village Is a Liar is one of the most moving works--whether books, magazines, newspaper or online articles--I've read about America's War on Terror and the long term consequences of Western meddling (or not-so-benevolent neglect) in Middle Eastern politics since the discovery of oil under Saudi Arabian sands, the creation of Israel, and the start of the Cold War. Megan Stack does, in these hysterical times when there's a terrorist hiding under every bed, the impossible: she humanizes everyone and spares none, Muslim Brotherhood and Hezbollah members, Iraqi Sunnis, Americans, Israelis, Afghan and Yemeni tribesmen, Syrian soldiers, Libyan bureaucrats, everyone who's unfortunate enough to be in the way of power. Stack's memoir of her war reporting for the Los Angeles Times is beautifully summed up by this quote on pages 242-243: "But up close the war on terror isn't anything but the sick and feeble cringing in an asylum, babies in shocks, structure smashed. Baghdad broken. Afghanistan broken, Egypt broken. The line between heaven and earth, broken. Lebanon broken. Broken peace and broken roads and broken bridges. The broken faith and years of broken promises. Children inheriting their parents' broken hearts, growing up with a taste for vengeance. And all along, America dreaming its deep sweet dream, there and not there. America chasing phantoms, running uphill to nowhere in pursuit of a receding mirage of absolute safety."

  4. 4 out of 5

    Mary Carrasco

    This is a memoir based on Megan K. Stack's journalistic travels through several war torn, Middle Eastern countries. The writing is beautiful. War is not. So, it felt to me that the author's use of sweet, flowery writing was at odds with the stink and rot of the violence of war. Perhaps that was part of the message here; The incongruity of death and devastation with the beauty of the Middle Eastern landscape, it's culture and people. In my opinion, this book often felt disjointed. It left me wonde This is a memoir based on Megan K. Stack's journalistic travels through several war torn, Middle Eastern countries. The writing is beautiful. War is not. So, it felt to me that the author's use of sweet, flowery writing was at odds with the stink and rot of the violence of war. Perhaps that was part of the message here; The incongruity of death and devastation with the beauty of the Middle Eastern landscape, it's culture and people. In my opinion, this book often felt disjointed. It left me wondering what was this story really about. Was it the war that continues to rage on? Was it the beauty of these ravished countries? Or was it about the life struggles of the people that the author met along the way? Ms. Stack touched on each of these things in a fairly short book when in reality, she could have written several based on her experiences. On the down side, this book left me with more questions than answers and I supposed that in the same breath, this was a positive thing. It succeeded in piquing my curiosity and left me with a desire to learn more about Middle Eastern culture and politics.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Carolyn

    Hmmm - I have a lot of non-fiction. The cover, title and flap sucked me in. She writes for the L A Times - figured she would be a better writer. If you can wade through the flowery language and imagery that she piles on, the experience is pretty interesting. But, she's a war correspondent - put on your big girl panties and write like one.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Denise

    Picking up right after 9/11, this beautifully written memoir by a foreign correspondent for the Los Angeles Times follows Megan Stack's time spent in a succession of Middle Eastern countries. She was on the ground during the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Lebanon, reported from places like Yemen, Jordan, Libya and Saudi Arabia, and explored the Israel-Palestine conflict while living in Jerusalem. Interesting, insightful and deeply moving.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Claire Grasse

    Afhanistan. Iraq. Iran. Israel. Palestine. Libya. Syria. Yemen. Megan Stack has given us a conscience-ripping look at the wars in the Middle East, the mostly-civilian casualties, and the utter, irredeemable waste of it all. For the most part the author doesn't attempt to take sides or to make political statements. She just presents the things she saw and heard and smelled, in all their tragedy and horror - the things the media won't show us, and lets America make up its own mind about what the bl Afhanistan. Iraq. Iran. Israel. Palestine. Libya. Syria. Yemen. Megan Stack has given us a conscience-ripping look at the wars in the Middle East, the mostly-civilian casualties, and the utter, irredeemable waste of it all. For the most part the author doesn't attempt to take sides or to make political statements. She just presents the things she saw and heard and smelled, in all their tragedy and horror - the things the media won't show us, and lets America make up its own mind about what the bloody hell we're doing over there. In speaking of America's ability to glance at the Middle East situation, shrug, and go on, she says this: "It occurs to me now that maybe this is the most American trait of all, the trademark of these wars. To be there and be gone all at once, to tell ourselves it just happened, we did what we did but we had no control over the consequences." Indeed, to read this book is to become accountable, and to call into question everything you've ever heard or believed about the necessity of preserving "the American way of life" at the cost of human life. Pity you if you are able to read this book and remain unmoved.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Marci

    Megan K. Stack spent years as a war journalist in the Middle East and her writing about her time there is superb. It's a hard book for me because I was for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and yet what you see from her writing is that the people suffering mostly end up being innocent civilians. She also writes about problems in Jordan, Lybia, Lebanon, Israel, etc.. I think this next quote abtly describes the overall feeling in her book: "I am covering the wars. It all matters. It is worth everyth Megan K. Stack spent years as a war journalist in the Middle East and her writing about her time there is superb. It's a hard book for me because I was for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and yet what you see from her writing is that the people suffering mostly end up being innocent civilians. She also writes about problems in Jordan, Lybia, Lebanon, Israel, etc.. I think this next quote abtly describes the overall feeling in her book: "I am covering the wars. It all matters. It is worth everything. You turn yourself into something separate, something absent. There and not there. It works, putting thick glass between you and the world. You can be anywhere if you're not really there. You can walk into any room, drive down any road, ask any question, write about anybody's pain. You tell yourself you are unscathed. You stand smooth and count yourself unaffected. And basically, it's true--compared with the people around you, the civilians and soldiers, you are unscathed and unaffected. That works fine until all of a sudden it doesn't work at all. It occurs to me now that maybe this is the most American trait of all, the trademark of these wars. To be there and be gone all at once, to tell ourselves it just happened, we did what we did but we had no control over the consequences." You can tell that Ms. Stack has been deeply affected by the wars and she portrays the mess she finds in the Middle East in vivid detail. Interesting book, beautifully written, no solutions presented to the difficulties oversees, just vingettes on what life is like for the ordinary people who get caught up in the violence.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Sally Embury-thomas

    Hated this book. Picked it up to read for the Vce English class next year but I thought it was very unlikeable. For starters it is a topic that I just don't know enough about. That is shocking of me and I should be more informed about the politics of that area but I just find it deadly boring. So it's not a book I would normally pick up. Then the way this woman writes is so strange and flowery. A taxi ride becomes an interminable couple of pages of prose. She obviously has tickets on herself - e Hated this book. Picked it up to read for the Vce English class next year but I thought it was very unlikeable. For starters it is a topic that I just don't know enough about. That is shocking of me and I should be more informed about the politics of that area but I just find it deadly boring. So it's not a book I would normally pick up. Then the way this woman writes is so strange and flowery. A taxi ride becomes an interminable couple of pages of prose. She obviously has tickets on herself - every man and his dog seems to find her attractive and she flits around the Middle East in a bewildering time-frame. I found myself asking where is she now and how long ago was she there? This ties in well with those students who are doing Conflict as a Context and are maybe politically aware of the goings on in that region but for my class of students I think it's a definite No from me

  10. 5 out of 5

    Paul Mullen

    Megan Stack's memoir of being a reporter in just about every trouble-stricken country of the Middle East is a shocker. I gave it 4 stars because of the way it stretched me, not because "I really liked it" as the pop-up guidance suggests for 4 stars. Her ability to describe with simile and carefully chosen illustration is so good that you can almost smell the smells and hear the sounds. At times I smiled at how creative her prose was to the point where I may have missed her point. But her point in Megan Stack's memoir of being a reporter in just about every trouble-stricken country of the Middle East is a shocker. I gave it 4 stars because of the way it stretched me, not because "I really liked it" as the pop-up guidance suggests for 4 stars. Her ability to describe with simile and carefully chosen illustration is so good that you can almost smell the smells and hear the sounds. At times I smiled at how creative her prose was to the point where I may have missed her point. But her point in the end is that the global war on terror is: - Not straightforward to sort out - Having disastrous consequences for many who are the poorest and most helpless - Apparently leaving broken countries and people and economies and infrastructure with little good to show. She admits to being tone deaf to the purposes that non-Arabs have in this campaign against terrorism. Though she cannot sort it out, I guess that many others see it more clearly. But to read her descriptions of on-the-ground ambiguity, pain, joy, fear, determination, destruction, collegiality, and suspicion are worth the time regardless of whether you personally can sense purpose in the efforts to end terrorism. I left the book thinking, "I know why the USA and others have intervened to combat terrorism; I wonder if our methods are having any useful or lasting impact. What might a better way be?" Highly recommended. I don't give 4 stars often.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca Olson

    This was one of the best books I've read in years - and I don't usually enjoy non-fiction. It is an incredibly beautiful, moving account of a journalist's time in the Middle East this past decade. It is difficult to describe what the book is about, and I hesitate to write anything at all because I won't do her work justice. Her account is interesting because it is both fact-based journalism and personal observation; I got the feeling that the impulse for the book was stories (or seeds of stories This was one of the best books I've read in years - and I don't usually enjoy non-fiction. It is an incredibly beautiful, moving account of a journalist's time in the Middle East this past decade. It is difficult to describe what the book is about, and I hesitate to write anything at all because I won't do her work justice. Her account is interesting because it is both fact-based journalism and personal observation; I got the feeling that the impulse for the book was stories (or seeds of stories) she wanted to report on while there, but that the LA Times wasn't interested in printing. Her writing is honest and beautiful; both lyric and specific. From the first sentence I immediately found myself transported. I learned more about the differences between and challenges facing the numerous cultures, countries and regimes in the Middle East, than I have from any other fiction or non-fiction source before. Most importantly, she shows the beauty and humanity she discovers as well, and holds up a mirror to the West, pointing out our own political and cultural untruths, half-truths and inconsistencies (lest we get too smug or superior.) And yet, more than anything, I came away from this book with a much deeper, more profound appreciation for my freedoms and the ease of life I take for granted.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    "You can survive and not survive, both at the same time." War on Terror! Manifest or farce? Megan Stack, a foreign correspondent for the LA Times, attempts to answer that question. Shortly after 9/11, Stack found herself thrust into the Middle East, spending the next six years, in various hot zones: Afghanistan, occupied Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen, Libya, Saudi Arabia and a few others. Stack’s first hand account of many atrocities is eye-opening and gut-wrenching. She befriends a variety of people in ea "You can survive and not survive, both at the same time." War on Terror! Manifest or farce? Megan Stack, a foreign correspondent for the LA Times, attempts to answer that question. Shortly after 9/11, Stack found herself thrust into the Middle East, spending the next six years, in various hot zones: Afghanistan, occupied Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen, Libya, Saudi Arabia and a few others. Stack’s first hand account of many atrocities is eye-opening and gut-wrenching. She befriends a variety of people in each of these dangerous locales, putting a human face on these tragedies. She is able to witness the myriad of lies and deceptions and experience the ugly hatreds, that fuel and drive these regions. Her prose is both tough and beautiful. She is a daring, unflinching journalist, looking directly into the horrible face of war. "Only after covering it for years did I understand that the war on terror never really existed. It was not a real thing. Not that the war on terror was flawed, not that it was cynical or self-defeating, or likely to breed more resentment and violence. But that it was hollow, it was essentially nothing but a unifying myth for a complicated scramble of mixed impulses and social theories and night terrors and cruelty and business interests.”

  13. 5 out of 5

    mz

    My high school, college, and law school education didn't do it. Keeping up to date with "the news" didn't do it. Even working with Iraqi refugees didn't do it. But this book did. It made me care--and care deeply--about the moral and political ramifications of the United States's (and other nations and groups') violent actions in the Middle East. And it made me determined to learn more about how my taxpayer dollars are being used in this sensitive region. If the complexity and foreignness of the Mi My high school, college, and law school education didn't do it. Keeping up to date with "the news" didn't do it. Even working with Iraqi refugees didn't do it. But this book did. It made me care--and care deeply--about the moral and political ramifications of the United States's (and other nations and groups') violent actions in the Middle East. And it made me determined to learn more about how my taxpayer dollars are being used in this sensitive region. If the complexity and foreignness of the Middle East's politics has always been a convenient excuse for ignorance (as it was for me), I hope you read this book.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Cherie

    Powerful, destructive, beautifully-written book about a young war journalist's exposure to war journalism. This book might break your heart apart. Even when she has it together to get to the heart of the story, her heart itself can be breaking. So sad.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Greg

    After I finished Every Man in This Village Is a Liar on the train today, I walked home up the hill asking myself: what compels me to read these books about war? It's obviously not because I need to be convinced about how horrible it is. The best answer I could come up with was that I simply want to know what it’s really like. To have someone who was an eyewitness tell me: I stared war right in the face, I saw it tear people's lives apart. There is something harrowingly addictive, at least for a After I finished Every Man in This Village Is a Liar on the train today, I walked home up the hill asking myself: what compels me to read these books about war? It's obviously not because I need to be convinced about how horrible it is. The best answer I could come up with was that I simply want to know what it’s really like. To have someone who was an eyewitness tell me: I stared war right in the face, I saw it tear people's lives apart. There is something harrowingly addictive, at least for a short while, about being plunged into a firsthand account of experiences that only filter down to us through the news. Megan Stack’s epigraph, an Arthur Miller quote, says it all: “There is nothing farther away from Washington than the entire world.” More sobering is her assertion, which takes that a step further: “We are losing interest and we fear it means nothing.” For me, and for the billions who’ve been watching this war for eight years, we may think we are all too aware of it when we see an article or a report about a suicide bombing or insurgent attacks or Taliban kidnappings. But as much as we’d hate to admit it, what we’re really thinking is, “So what?” Not that we don’t care about the lives lost and terror inflicted, but--who is not helplessly jaded and disgusted? I got home from the train and went on to the New York Times. There was the headline: NATO Raid Ends Kabul Attack; Heavily Armed Fighters Stormed Hotel I could hardly have been less surprised. Now of course, the repressed in many of the nations that Stack spent years reporting from (starting at age 25) have started to rise up, reject their despotic regimes, and turn toward democracy, which makes Every Man in This Village Is a Liar a timely and often powerful read on the heels of the Arab Spring. It’s beautifully written (though in some places overwritten, almost forcibly poetic) and offers a rare, sweeping firsthand view of a part of the world that seems like it might never know peace and normalcy. Anyone who reads this should be grateful for Stack’s truly vivid observations about the human toll of the atrocities of war, unbearable truths about the physical, political, and psychological reach of it that remind us we can’t just make the old Middle East disappear through the “hollow...unifying myth” called a “war on terror.” She covers the elections quashed by Egypt’s police; Qaddafi’s grip on Libya, which is so tight that no one in the country dares to utter dissent; Saudi Arabia’s astonishingly institutionalized misogyny and its collusion with America over oil; an affable Iraqi youth who meets Stack at a Baghdad hotel, at his peril, to describe the better life he imagines for himself; and maybe most devastatingly, a respected female Al-Jazeera reporter who's murdered after trying to cover a shrine bombing in Iraq. Each location finds Stack more and more disillusioned, until near the end, while Israel’s bombs rain down on her in Lebanon, she is reminded most horrifically of one of the first things she knew about war, an idea perhaps “as true for nations as individuals: You can survive and not survive, both at the same time.”

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer (JC-S)

    ‘You can survive and not survive, both at the same time.’ A number of books have been written by journalists and others about the events in Iraq and Afghanistan following the events of September 11 2001. This book offers a different perspective. On 11 September, Megan Stack, a national correspondent for the Los Angeles Times, was holidaying in Paris. Shortly after, she was assigned to Afghanistan to cover the US invasion. From there, she travelled to Iraq and Lebanon, to Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Li ‘You can survive and not survive, both at the same time.’ A number of books have been written by journalists and others about the events in Iraq and Afghanistan following the events of September 11 2001. This book offers a different perspective. On 11 September, Megan Stack, a national correspondent for the Los Angeles Times, was holidaying in Paris. Shortly after, she was assigned to Afghanistan to cover the US invasion. From there, she travelled to Iraq and Lebanon, to Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Libya and Yemen witnessing a number of the changes then sweeping the Muslim world. This book does not contain the stories she filed from those locations, instead it is a description of her experiences in the region, and her responses to those experiences. Megan Stack writes of herself: ‘So I was a reporter who didn’t really know how to write about combat, covering America from outside its borders as it crashed zealously into war and occupation.‘ In Megan’s Stack’s assessment, the violence that distorts life in the Middle East is the explosive consequence of authoritarian regimes, sectarian divisions, and short-sighted American foreign policy. However, this is not a book about states and solutions; it is a book about individuals and impressions. It is more about consequences than causes. And it’s important, because through Megan Stack we meet some of the people who are also caught up in the so-called ‘War on Terror’ because of where they are. The ‘War on Terror’ may be ‘ essentially nothing but a unifying myth for a complicated scramble of mixed impulses and social theories and night terrors and cruelty and business interests, all overhung with the unassailable memory of falling skyscrapers.’ But it has a significant impact on the lives (and deaths) of many people in the cities of Amman, Baghdad, Cairo, Jerusalem and Tripoli as well as in Afghanistan. ‘In a nest of man-made things, the flesh is the first to go.’ As Megan Stack moves from Afghanistan in 2001, to Baghdad in 2003 and then to Beirut in 2005 she writes of both the human costs of these invasions and the cost of alliances with Mubarak, Qaddafi and with Saudi Arabia. I wonder what she would think of the developments in 2011? ‘War is a total change, unleashing all things light and all things dark; we are pushed forward and our lives are invented by the history we live through.’ Jennifer Cameron-Smith

  17. 4 out of 5

    Daren

    I didn't love this book the way 'most' reviewers did. There were a few who 'hated' it, but they were a minority. I fit into neither camp here. I didn't find I enjoyed the authors writing style, although I can't put my finger on what it was about the style I didn't like. The writing at times was overly flowery - metaphors and similes left right and centre. This is probably not going to be a helpful review, as I can't really explain my apathy with this book. Generalising terribly, it seems that femal I didn't love this book the way 'most' reviewers did. There were a few who 'hated' it, but they were a minority. I fit into neither camp here. I didn't find I enjoyed the authors writing style, although I can't put my finger on what it was about the style I didn't like. The writing at times was overly flowery - metaphors and similes left right and centre. This is probably not going to be a helpful review, as I can't really explain my apathy with this book. Generalising terribly, it seems that female reviewers may find more of a connection to the author. Don't get me wrong, I have no gender bias in my author selection - I probably read more female authors than male. All I am saying is perhaps the writing is delivered in a way that appeals more strongly to the female reader? Maybe, maybe not. There are a umber of male reviewers who gave this 4 or 5 stars. The content is really interesting, and the people the author interacts with are interesting, and some chapters were better than others. I did find that the author seemed to write better about other people than about herself, and I did find the book very USA-centric - I suppose it is not unexpected given the author is American and is catering to her home market here. I sit middle of the road here, 3 stars. Recommend it - not really, unless the lack of peace in the middle east and the aftermath of 9/11 are your centre of interest.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Paulamoney

    'Stars' subtracted off for silly writing style. The last 1/4 of the book is very good, though, and redeems itself. Much has already been said about the contents so I will not repeat. My problem (only 3 stars) is the irregular quality of the writing. When Megan Stack writes as a reporter I appreciated the story. Factual from her viewpoint, straight forward, gripping. But then, too often she writes as if she is a novelist (albeit not a very good one, in my opinion.) Too many (silly) similes and ri 'Stars' subtracted off for silly writing style. The last 1/4 of the book is very good, though, and redeems itself. Much has already been said about the contents so I will not repeat. My problem (only 3 stars) is the irregular quality of the writing. When Megan Stack writes as a reporter I appreciated the story. Factual from her viewpoint, straight forward, gripping. But then, too often she writes as if she is a novelist (albeit not a very good one, in my opinion.) Too many (silly) similes and ridiculous metaphors. These writing techniques were overused and often left me scratching my head as to their significance or purpose. In one passage where she told us that (in Egypt) big tanks, during a civil disturbance, were appearing in the streets during foggy weather, she writes "tanks loomed through the fog like dinosaurs....." Huh! Dinosaurs???? Don't we all know what tanks look like? What Foggy weather looks like? 'Nuf said. Now we have to imagine dinosaurs........something no living being has actually ever seen? The language is just too funny and incomprehensible. The story is good, though. Worth reading just for the POV that the middle eastern people have towards America. Read this to get into their minds.....to see how THEY perceive us and why. Quite an eye opener. You will not think of this "war on terror" the same way you did.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Crysty

    Many reviews of this book critique the "flowery" language. I wouldn't use the word flowery but, yes, Stack's descriptions often border imprecision. Still, I could forgive all that, because the lack of polish was responsible for an honest, beseeching energy that flowed consistently from beginning to end. Even if images of war felt blurred or locales indistinct, the experience of being surrounded by war and its mess and confusion was ever-present. And Stack frequently does away with the qualifiers Many reviews of this book critique the "flowery" language. I wouldn't use the word flowery but, yes, Stack's descriptions often border imprecision. Still, I could forgive all that, because the lack of polish was responsible for an honest, beseeching energy that flowed consistently from beginning to end. Even if images of war felt blurred or locales indistinct, the experience of being surrounded by war and its mess and confusion was ever-present. And Stack frequently does away with the qualifiers, the overwrought verbs and adverbs, and the almost-cliches to deliver a passage, a person, or a description that is stripped down, clear, and unforgettable. One such passage, below: "Here is the truth: It matters, what you do at war. It matters more than you ever want to know. Because countries, like people, have collective conscience and memories and souls, and the violence we deliver in the name of our nation is pooled like sickly tar at the bottom of who we are. The soldiers who don't die for us come home again. They bring with them the killers they became on our national behalf, and sit with their polluted memories and broken emotions in our homes and schools and temples. We may wish it were not so, but action amounts to identity. We become what we do. You can tell yourself all the stories you want, but you can't leave your actions over there."

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jess

    This book was an absolutely stunning memoir. Stacks has an unbelievable way with prose, and offering some of the most vivid "showing" I've read in any work. Her observations in Libya and Yemen were especially interesting, making me question the role of government in people's lives. She offered new insight as to issues of war and the Middle East, which is unusual, since at this point I feel a bit as thought I've read it all. I would highly suggest this book to anyone interested in the Middle East This book was an absolutely stunning memoir. Stacks has an unbelievable way with prose, and offering some of the most vivid "showing" I've read in any work. Her observations in Libya and Yemen were especially interesting, making me question the role of government in people's lives. She offered new insight as to issues of war and the Middle East, which is unusual, since at this point I feel a bit as thought I've read it all. I would highly suggest this book to anyone interested in the Middle East or America's 21st century wars. However, as a caveat, I would also say that it would help if you had some sort of background or prior reading in this subject. It's not necessary, but it'll help. I found myself a little bit lost in the chapter on Lebanon because my understanding of Hezbollah is less developed than what I've learned about Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt, etc.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    The title of this book is deceptive. You would think it's the report of a soldier's combat experience in Iraq or Afghanistan but it's the reporting of an American woman jounalist of her travels in the Middle East. The title makes you pause and reflect on what is really the truth after reading her many vignettes. She is everywhere it seems: Yemen, Israel, Afghanistan, Egypt, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, etc..; and she is in the greatest danger when in Lebanon. She is in every sense a soldier with a pen as The title of this book is deceptive. You would think it's the report of a soldier's combat experience in Iraq or Afghanistan but it's the reporting of an American woman jounalist of her travels in the Middle East. The title makes you pause and reflect on what is really the truth after reading her many vignettes. She is everywhere it seems: Yemen, Israel, Afghanistan, Egypt, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, etc..; and she is in the greatest danger when in Lebanon. She is in every sense a soldier with a pen as her weapon. Her prose is penetrating, eloquent, and haunting. This book is hard to read in one sitting. It eats at you much like war. You need to pause and perhaps try to forget some of what you just read. Or maybe you need to reread it so you won't forget. Hard to believe she has not been awarded the Pulitzer.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Julia

    This book was simultaneously difficult to read and difficult to put down. Stack's portrayal of the people she encountered was very human, even when the characters were highly unsympathetic. My favorite chapter was the one in which she spent time in Libya, for its description of the ongoing tension of being there. I also really appreciated the theme about how it is possible to simultaneously survive and not survive. Ultimately, I subtracted a star because by the end of the book I wasn't sure what This book was simultaneously difficult to read and difficult to put down. Stack's portrayal of the people she encountered was very human, even when the characters were highly unsympathetic. My favorite chapter was the one in which she spent time in Libya, for its description of the ongoing tension of being there. I also really appreciated the theme about how it is possible to simultaneously survive and not survive. Ultimately, I subtracted a star because by the end of the book I wasn't sure what its theme or main argument was; nevertheless, the vivid reporting painted a new picture of the Middle East for me.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Alex Rogers

    Very good! I am no longer reading much about Middle Eastern current affairs, I find it just too depressing and repetitive. But I picked this up for some reason, and was simply hooked - Stack carries off that rare trick of marrying objective journalism with a strong flavour of culture and place, tied together with excellent writing. You feel her reaching for optimism and touches of beauty, and then feel for her as she is overwhelmed by ancient hatreds, misogyny, and calculated cynicism from all p Very good! I am no longer reading much about Middle Eastern current affairs, I find it just too depressing and repetitive. But I picked this up for some reason, and was simply hooked - Stack carries off that rare trick of marrying objective journalism with a strong flavour of culture and place, tied together with excellent writing. You feel her reaching for optimism and touches of beauty, and then feel for her as she is overwhelmed by ancient hatreds, misogyny, and calculated cynicism from all parties engaged. Not a happy book - but a very good one. I'm keen to see what else she has written.

  24. 5 out of 5

    David

    The author does a great job of letting the various people of the Middle East (Afghanis, Jews, Palestinians, Iraqis, Yemenis, Lebanese) voice their perspective of everyday life in their countries in times of war and occupation. It's very interesting and revealing. The author is clearly part of the stories she tells but it's never really about her. My only quibble is her prodigious use of metaphors. Edit - “No Good Men Among the Living” by Anand Gopal is also very good and worth reading.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Melanie Cowley

    This book was so well written, and so educational. She takes the reader to all of these middle eastern cities, and I loved the way she made me feel that I was there. Every night I would dream of the sights, smells, people, and food that she would describe. I loved that she volunteered to cover all of these stories, it made me feel so incredibly lucky to be born in the USA.

  26. 4 out of 5

    PDXReader

    This book should be required reading for any US politician or general even considering meddling in other countries. Stack provides a first-hand report of what it's like to live in a war zone, concentrating on the human costs of US policies regarding the Middle East. Moving, heartfelt, painful, and unforgettable.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Amy Murphy

    I never would have picked this book for myself, because I don't usually read non-fiction, and don't feel well-informed enough to judge political writing. But the book didn't push any agenda, just displaying the entire range of human reactions to war and violence. I'm surprised it's on so many English curriculums, I haven't come across any students who have enjoyed reading it.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Miranda

    I was surprised to find out how much I didn't know.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Erin

    "Here is the truth: It matters, what you do at war. It matters more than you ever want to know. Because countries, like people, have collective consciences and memories and souls, and the violence we deliver in the name of our nation is pooled like sickly tar at the bottom of who we are. The soldiers who don't die for us come home again. They bring with them the killers they became on our national behalf, and sit with their polluted memories and broken emotions in our homes and schools and temp "Here is the truth: It matters, what you do at war. It matters more than you ever want to know. Because countries, like people, have collective consciences and memories and souls, and the violence we deliver in the name of our nation is pooled like sickly tar at the bottom of who we are. The soldiers who don't die for us come home again. They bring with them the killers they became on our national behalf, and sit with their polluted memories and broken emotions in our homes and schools and temples. We may wish it were not so, but action amounts to identity. We become what we do... You can't build a wall and expect to live on the other side of memory." The title of this book is misleading. I've worked with dozens of refugees, many from these areasand I was reluctant to open this book and start reading, wondering what trite parodies of the men, women and boys from some of the world's most dangerous places a young American journalist might arrive at. Thankfully, there is sufficient nuance behind the title - what it is that makes people less than direct with foreign journalists, what it is to typecast a people in such a way - and the text itself shows a depth of understanding and humanity which was not immediately apparent from the title. I was pleasantly surprised at the humanity and insight shown by Stack, not least because she sets her writing amongst the wars which America brought to the Middle East following September 11, as a foreign correspondent on the ground. The tension of being an American in these places, at this time, where America's foreign policy has torn into and ripped apart the lives and cities of the people she meets, is skilfully rendered. She allows them to tell their stories through her, rather than telling stories about them. She talks about the people she is meeting and what their lives are like - she does not exoticise, or make the story all about her own perspective, what it is to be a twenty-something female journalist in these places. In so doing, the experiences of the Iraqi, Afghani, Lebanese, Egyptian, Yemeni and Pakistani people she meets are allowed to speak for themselves. She is able to portray some of the horror and danger of life under the threat of war without drawing narrow parallels to September 11th, with an understanding that in war it is always the most vulnerable who suffer, not the people who make the decisions, and not the people who profit from them. This is a writing style and a collection of narratives that I think will likely stay with me, echoes of the stories we so often are not told about the war on terror. But up close the war on terror isn't anything but the sick and feeble cringing in an asylum, babies in shock, structure smashed. Baghdad broken. Afghanistan broken. Egypt broken. The line between heaven and earth, broken. Lebanon broken. Broken peace and broken roads and broken bridges...Children inheriting their parent's broken hearts, growing up with a taste for vengeance. And all along... America chasing phantoms, running uphill to nowhere in pursuit of a receding mirage of absolute safety."

  30. 4 out of 5

    Kkraemer

    Today, much of the money you paid in taxes will go to support the War on Terrorism. As a cipher, this is fine; however, this book helps you wonder what, in fact, you are trying to accomplish with your regular contributions to this effort. Megan Stack was a reporter for the LA Times when she took her first war assignment in Afghanistan in 2011, and she finds death, destruction, gallows humor, and inconsistencies...lots of inconsistencies, beginning with the question of who, exactly, is the enemy. Today, much of the money you paid in taxes will go to support the War on Terrorism. As a cipher, this is fine; however, this book helps you wonder what, in fact, you are trying to accomplish with your regular contributions to this effort. Megan Stack was a reporter for the LA Times when she took her first war assignment in Afghanistan in 2011, and she finds death, destruction, gallows humor, and inconsistencies...lots of inconsistencies, beginning with the question of who, exactly, is the enemy. Men have grievances against each other. Families have grievances. Tribes have grievances. Sects have grievances. Religious groups have grievances. Ethnic groups have grievances. Everyone has grievances against each other, against those who invade their land, their space, their remembered way of life. Who's the enemy? Through essays on Afghanistan ("Changing Ghosts"), Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and Lebanon, Stack tells of the people she meets. She tells their stories, writes observations, tries to sum things up in conclusions that make sense. In Yemen, though, she begins to lose this comfortable structure: she still tells stories and writes observations, but the summation -- the conclusion -- eludes her. Bombs fall. Families are destroyed. People babble. She begins to lose all sense of purpose, of what -- exactly -- the point of all this might be. Toward the end, she recounts an anecdote about one evening, after a long day of meeting, observing, interviewing, writing and went for a run: "One night there was a middle-aged man. He looked worried and decent. His hair was thinning and he had the quiet posture of an engineer, or maybe a schoolteacher. His daughter's frilly dress was streaked and rumpled, and he was walking her down a quiet street, holding her hand, as darkness thickened under the twined fingers of the trees. I say them coming from a long way off, and knew from their slow, heavy steps that they had nowhere to go. I had been to the shelters, where old men slept on filthy pads on school playgrounds where the toilets overflowed and babies screamed and the smells of food and sweat and heat could knock you down. Even the worst shelters were full, and refugees slept skin to skin in city parks, under bushes, on sidewalks. I met the father's eyes as I jogged past and felt sure they have been sleeping in such a place, and that he wanted to distract his little girl, to walk with her in the fresh air and tell stories under the trees. Their feet fell like steel onto the concrete. He looked back and me, wooden and humble, and I saw myself through his eyes, my clean cotton clothes and running shoes springing light off the sidewalk. Saw myself there and not there, slogging untouched through the murk of desperation, moving past, and I had to keep running because I was drowning in shame." America. Israel. Saudi Arabia. Iraq. Iran. Yemen. Libya. Lebanon. Afghanistan. and all those people, all those families, all those resentments, all those guns/bombs/mines. She is a wonderful writer. This is an important book to read.

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