Author: Souad Mekhennet
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Summary: Of the three memoirs I’ve read by female journalists in the Middle East, this was by far the best, in part because it had the most cohesive framework for understanding the region.
I wanted to review this with the two other books I read about female journalists in the Middle East, but I’m glad I didn’t finish it in time. It was less similar than the other two books. It was also by far the best book of the three and I’m happy to devote a post to it. Author Souad Mekhennet is a Muslim German woman who has experienced the bigoted behavior that many of the terrorists that she interviews say started them down that path. She’s able to leverage her identity to make contacts and enter spaces not available to other journalists. She does this bravely and at incredible personal risk. Her mother is a Shia Muslim and her father a Sunni Muslim. The author is able to talk to them to give a more personal perspective as she covers sectarian conflict in the Middle East.
Although the author has faced bigoted comments about her ability to be unbiased, I think she was as objective as the other journalists I read (both of whom came from countries involved in wars in the Middle East). I also thought her work was a strong argument for allowing people to cover communities that they’re close to. The other two journalists that I read were incredible, but I felt like I was getting quick snapshots of many different stories. They parachuted in for a specific conflict and moved on to the next one. Mekhennet, by contrast, passionately and consistently follows stories connected by the question of what makes people become terrorists. She also thoughtfully challenges our ideas about Muslims and the political situation in the Middle East. I felt like she had a cohesive framework for viewing the stories she wrote. She was able to share that framework with the reader, so I learned a lot more from her book than the other two. I also thought her personal connection to the stories she told made the combo personal/career memoir approach work particualrly well. The parts felt better integrated.