by Kim Barker
Find out more about this book and author:
NPR Interview with author about film (here)
re-release date: February 23, 2016
Genre: Memoir, South Asia
Paperback: 320 pages
I had always wanted to meet a warlord. So we parked our van on the side of the beige road and walked up to the beige house, past dozens of skinny young soldiers brandishing Kalashnikov assault rifles and wearing mismatched khaki outfits and rope belts hiked high on their waists.
The weeks ticked down to the Afghan presidential election, which I viewed with the kind of anticipation that others reserved for cultural events like a new zombie movie.
From tea with warlords in the countryside to parties with drunken foreign correspondents in the “dry” city of Kabul, journalist Kim Barker captures the humor and heartbreak of life in post-9/11 Afghanistan and Pakistan in this profound and darkly comic memoir. As Barker grows from awkward newbie to seasoned reporter, she offers an insider’s account of the region’s “forgotten war” at a time when all eyes were turned to Iraq.
Candid, self-deprecating, and laugh-out-loud funny, Barker shares both her affection for the absurdities of these two hapless countries and her fear for their future stability.
Reading this story provided some insight into some of the political and social things going on in Afghanistan and Pakistan from the limited view and access that a woman could get at the time. This story had nitty gritty moments with lots of details and experiences shared.
From the state of things mentioned in this book, there is a slow, very slow progression for change in both countries government systems.
The colorful cast of characters Kim met during her travels were at times amusing and frustrating. But, a couple remained loyal and friendly through the end of her stint overseas.
The concept of an addiction to a place also comes into play in this story which was something interesting to ponder.
side note: I found that the movie version of this book went off on its own with only certain key incidents that appeared. It had a focus on partying and romantic relationships which the book did not.
About the author:
She served as the South Asia bureau chief from 2004 to 2009 before being awarded the Council on Foreign Relations Edward R. Murrow press fellowship.
Barker is currently a reporter at ProPublica and lives in New York City.
* previous title: The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan
* review copy courtesy of publisher