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Dreams and Shadows: The Future of the Middle East

3.95  ·  Rating Details ·  340 Ratings  ·  69 Reviews
The transformation of the Middle East is an issue that will absorb-and challenge-the world for generations to come; Dreams and Shadows is the book to read to understand the sweeping political and cultural changes that have occurred in recent decades. Drawing on thirty-five years of reporting in two dozen countries-through wars, revolutions, and uprisings as well as the bir
Paperback, 480 pages
Published February 24th 2009 by Penguin Books (first published February 28th 2008)
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Petra Eggs
Can a book about the Middle East with a major topic of democracy really be taken seriously and called "authorative" as some reviewers have when it excludes both Saudi Arabia and Israel?

Saudi Arabia is the bankroller of a great deal of terrorism in the world, most of which emanates from the Middle East. This has resulted in certain nations having dreams of the future that excludes women and non-Muslims from any participation (just like Saudi Arabia) and calls for the implementation of a final sol
This book was published in 2008, and yet it foretells the Arab Spring of 2011 clearly. In the preface, Wright quotes a human rights activist:
“The despots in the Arab world are on their last gasp,” he reflected. “Just like any last-ditch battles, they will do a lot of stupid things and leave a lot of destruction. But these will be the last battles. People have already broken the fear barrier. They are as ready for change and democracy as East Europe was in the 1980s and as Latin America was in t
Pragya Singh
Oct 03, 2016 Pragya Singh rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I started this book two years ago, back in 2014 when the renewed hostilities between Israel and Palestine had sparked my interest in Middle-Eastern history. And then, as it so often happens, life got in the way of books and I didn’t finish it. Having found it engaging, informative and well-researched at the time, I was only too happy to pick it up again recently. During more than 30 years of coverage of the region as a foreign correspondent, Robin Wright ‘witnessed extraordinary transformations ...more
Ismail Elshareef
Robin Wright has always been my favorite reporter on Middle East affairs. The stories and accounts she has written in The Los Angeles Times and The New Yorker have consistently been impressive in quality and effortlessly impartial. Robin has a unique ability to leverage her vast network of resources to tap into the most intimate thoughts and feelings of that region and relay them uncensored to her audience. So needless to say, I was pretty excited to read this book to learn from her what future ...more
Apr 25, 2016 PaulESchilling rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“Dreams and Shadows” is a well written and remarkable example of scholarly journalism, combining her research and time in the field as a well-travelled news reporter. It is somewhat misnamed because she spends most of her time writing about the past and some time about her present (it was published in 2008) with little speculation about what she thinks the future holds.

Her chapter on Iraq is about American mistakes and those on Palestine and Lebanon are critical of Israel, but for the rest of th
Jun 24, 2010 Jen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This really helped me understand the Middle East situation a whole lot better. It's written so that I, without a lot of background in the Middle East conflict, could understand it. But it also had information that would be good to know for someone who wanted to enhance their education on the matter rather than start learning about it.
Peter Kempenich
Mar 19, 2011 Peter Kempenich rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Robin Wright's book is an excellent read. It was very informative and provides a very good description of recent events in the middle east. I thoroughly enjoyed it!
C.G. Fewston
Oct 24, 2013 C.G. Fewston rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Dreams and Shadows: The Future of the Middle East (2008) by Robin Wright is a 464-page collection of historical and firsthand accounts up to 2007 of Palestine (and Israel), Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Iran, Morocco, and an Iraq influenced by the United States. What is fascinating is that several of these countries imploded into a revolution (Syria's turmoil is still ongoing) after this book was published. By reading Wright's accounts of these hostile environments the reader can get a detailed glimpse ...more
May 22, 2017 Kathy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: current-events, iran
Current events in Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, Yemen and Bahrein make this a timely read. Wright has traveled and lived in these areas, and has had access to political and religious leaders. The chapter on Iraq was hard to read, because it made me feel angry, helpless, and hopeless. I read this with a current events book, and was glad that I had people to discuss it with.
Mar 19, 2017 Annie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating read especially in light of how many momentous, unbelievable things have happened in the Middle East in the decade since this book was written.
Mar 26, 2013 Louise rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: middle-east, iran, egypt
This is a survey of the current political status in Palestine, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Iran, Morocco and Iraq. Through recent events, author Robin Wright sees hope for change in the region. She warns that the movements she cites are nascent and fragile, and steps backward sometimes follow steps forward. She also notes that she may be putting too much emphasis on the undercurrents. The book ends with the regressive effects of the US's democracy mission in Iraq. Despite all her disclaimers, as even ...more
Tina Ye
Jan 14, 2010 Tina Ye rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was a comprehensive and thoughtfully composed overview of recent Middle East events and history. I picked it up to help me gain a better understanding of all that is happening in the Middle East, and as far as this goal is concerned, the book did a great job. From the budding efforts of a mother agitating for fair elections in Egypt to the blunders of American foreign policy in Iraq, this book touches upon the political theaters in several major Middle Eastern countries (Syria, Lebanon ...more
Mar 30, 2009 Jack rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Peace in the Middle East" and even "Democracy in the Middle East" are starting to become cliched phrases, lacking the cultural, political and historical background to fully comprehend the difficulties of reform. Looking over the Middle East's broad landscape, Robin Wright attempts to outline the players and reformers in a few representative Middle Eastern states. She does omit a few nations, most notably Saudi Arabia, but does include Egypt, the Palestinian Territories, Syria, Lebanon, Iran, th ...more
When I started this book, reading the Prologue, I feared I was beginning a book that took a very Pollyannish view of the prospects of change in the Middle East. I could not have been more wrong.

Ms. Wright, who has evidently covered the Middle East as a report for many years, has produced a masterful analysis of the prospects of progress in major countries of the Middle East, including Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Iran, Morocco, Egypt and Iraq. She interviewed many democratic activists and included
Sep 19, 2011 Ray rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Robin Wright is an excellent author, knowledgeable of the history and people of the Middle East, and it's a pleasure to read her analysis of the affairs of that region. This book, Dreams and Shadows, while becoming outdated since it was written prior to the "Arab Spring", still offers interesting insights into the turmoil in the Middle East at that time.

The author gives the reader insights into the history, the leaders, and key events which shape the countries in the region, specifically the Pa
May 30, 2008 Ann rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I saw Robin Wright interviewed on MSNBC a few months ago when this book came out and decided to read it in hopes of getting some clue about what's going on in the Middle East and who the players are.

An amazing tour de force by a woman who has been covering the Middle East for over 30 years. The title comes from a lament by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who molded today's Turkey from the ruins of the old Ottoman Empire: "Neither sentiment nor illusion must influence our policy. Away with dreams and shad
Jul 12, 2008 Lisa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was an informative and well-written analysis of the current state of affairs in a number of countries in the Middle East. Robin Wright has covered the Middle East for many publications over the past few decades, including The Los Angeles Times, The Sunday Times of London, CBS News, The Christian Science Monitor, The New York Times, The International Herald Tribune among many others. She currently writes for the Washington Post (I believe). Wright was able to interview leaders from all of th ...more
Jun 22, 2009 Kim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Nice overview of the Middle East. She has extensive experience in the area (over 30 years, I believe she said) and has interviewed many key and sideline players. It seems well balanced and thoughtful. It covers a lot of territory - yes, pun intended - and is not I guesss the word is a 'comprehensive' history of the Middle East, but it is an excellent starting point in understanding some of the important issues, peoples, religions, and arguments involved in this area. She discusses the Palestinia ...more
Patrick Farrell
Aug 30, 2009 Patrick Farrell rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: middle-east
The title of this book is very apt; it details the dreams of the future in the Middle East along with the shadows cast over the present. While major parts of the book are filled with optimistic stories from the ground in places such as Lebanon and Morocco, you can’t help but come away with the notion that the shadows may not recede for a long, long time to come. This book is highly readable and informative for both the novice and expert of Middle Eastern geopolitics.

As an aside, while reading Dr
Terry Earley
Mar 09, 2009 Terry Earley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I listened to Robin Wright on a panel discussing Iran--US relations this morning on the Diane Rehm Show.

It reminded me how much I enjoyed her very informative book, Dreams and Shadows: The Future of the Middle East and her refreshing, and deeply informed comments on middle east issues.

She details in this book just how unique each government and culture is in the middle east. They each must be approached in a unique way.

If you want a good, foundational und
Mar 08, 2008 Gloria rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Can a nonfiction book [another book!] about the Mideast be a page turner? Yes indeed, this one is so far [I'm only 30 or so pages into it]. The author, recipient of the MacArthur genius grant, longtime journalist in the Mideast and all around Very Impressive woman opens by reporting that most Arab countries are heading, however glacially, toward democracy.

One of her points is that the mideast region is now the most stereotyped, and we need to see the reality, the diversity there.....the reason
Bookmarks Magazine

Plenty of books are published on the Middle East each year, but critics describe few as "optimistic" or "balanced." Wright earns such praise from nearly every reviewer. Even those who clearly disagree with some of her conclusions assert that Dreams and Shadows is one of the best recent books on the region and its struggles. The most common complaint is that Wright did not devote enough attention to a particular topic

Syed Abdullah
Overwhelmingly journalistic view-point is the characteristic of the respective book. Robin Wright builds her story telling, and not analysis, on the factual situation and rise in the conservative rightist constituencies in the pre-Arab Spring scenario. The book takes you through the peaking frustration of the Middle Eastern populace leading to a radical change in the near future - not that the geography might be able to absorb it or not.
Dec 10, 2008 Matthew rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very interesting look at the sprouts of democracy throughout the Middle East, country by country. The only flaw seemed to be a pervasive assumption that progress toward full democracy is inevitable. Although history may seem to vindicate this assumption, I can't help but think that there could be a nation at some point that bucks this trend.

Regardless, I am much more knowledgeable about the Middle East's democratic actors than I was before.
Aug 29, 2008 Andrew rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Superblious coverage of the most contemporary political atmosphere in the middle east. Country by country, she tells stories of the primary political players, unraveling their ambitions and giving them human faces. She makes every situation understandable, reminding the reader at every step of what we ought to know from personal experience, that politics in these countries is both far more familiar and FAR more complex than we tend to portray them in the west.
can i just say that the many folks who ignored my plea a couple years ago to read this book about the rumblings of democratic movements in the middle east might be regretting it in these heady days. and of course a fair amount would be out of date by now. which doesn't change the fact that almost every chapter gave me goosebumps.
Joe Reap
Dec 09, 2015 Joe Reap rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bought this book after the Arab Spring to learn (in hindsight of course) about seeking out and trying to understand indicators and warnings of future conflicts. While not a perfect gauge for predictive analysis, her thought provoking conclusions, based upon her observations, can serve as a guide for others.
John Kaufmann
Mar 02, 2016 John Kaufmann rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Borderline four-stars. Good book, and well-written. Just too much detail/information. I began skimming, and never quite finished it, because of the overload of info. But Robin Wright knows the Middle East - she is an authoritative source for its recent history - whether it be Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Iran, ... etc.
Glenn Robinson
Sep 13, 2012 Glenn Robinson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Extremely informative and while written in 2006-2007 has shown true to some of the recent events such as the Arab Spring and aftermath. The author, Ms. Wright, went over to each of the country and interviewed a wide slection of people to present a very true gauge of what was going on and where the region is headed. Very impressive.
Oct 09, 2008 Becky rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a very sensitive, insightful narrative of the nature of democracy and how it has manifested, struggled, fallen, and been revived throughout the middle east. It leaves with you for a yearning of more, more narratives, more personal histories, and for these determined people to succeed in their quest for their countries.
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