The Woman Who Fell from the Sky: An American Journalist's Adventures in the Oldest City on Earth
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The Woman Who Fell from the Sky: An American Journalist's Adventures in the Oldest City on Earth

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3.64 of 5 stars 3.64  ·  rating details  ·  590 ratings  ·  129 reviews


"I had no idea how to find my way around this medieval city. It was getting dark. I was tired. I didn’t speak Arabic. I was a little frightened. But hadn’t I battled scorpions in the wilds of Costa Rica and prevailed? Hadn’t I survived fainting in a San José brothel? Hadn’t I once arrived in Ireland with only $10 in my pocket and made it last two weeks? Surely I could hand...more
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published May 11th 2010 by Broadway
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Christina Iturralde
The only redeeming anything to this book (because quality is not a word I would use for it) is that it is one person's picture of Yemenese culture, a culture I knew nothing about before reading it. However, being someone that has traveled quite a bit, I found her treatment of the culture and country shallow, especially for a reporter. I enjoyed when she spoke about the reporters at the newspaper, especially when she related her conversations with the women reporters and discussed how they came t...more
Katie
I really wanted to like this book. I just couldn't get past the author. I found her incredibly self-centered and shallow. When she returns from her first trip to Yemen, she despairs that her colleagues don't care to hear more about her trip. After all, she states, "I want to be found interesting." When her favorite Yemen reporter becomes ill, instead of expressing concern, she thinks, "Who will make me laugh when I'm feeling cross? Who will walk me to the Jordanian sandwich shop?" And, when she...more
Jeannie Mancini
In the land of pomegranates and grapes, amongst goat and cow herders, where desert sands swirl and shift and offer up frankincense and jasmine, Manhattan journalist Jennifer Steil is hired to give a three week seminar in newspaper reporting in Yemen's ancient capital city of Sana'a. Steeped in historic and biblical legend, Sana'a is said to have been founded by Noah's son Shem, and is one of the oldest cities in the Middle East. Yemen is a country consisting of a mixture of either desert people...more
Heather
This book was cruising along at about a three star rating for me until the end when the author unabashedly discusses an affair with a very married and very public man; the British Ambassador to Yemen. Curious, I read a few articles related to the book and the author and was even more disappointed/disgusted by her complete lack of concern for anyone but herself.

Throughout the book, I was also annoyed by her ego centric attitude towards Yemeni people. On one hand she criticizes their culture beca...more
Sarah
In The Woman Who Fell From the Sky, author Jennifer Steil recounts her engrossing adventure as an American journalist in Yemen working for an English-language newspaper. Throughout her memoir she explains various hurdles she’s encountered as a Western woman living in an Islamic country. While her intentions are to adapt to the culture as seamlessly possible, including wearing a hijab to cover her hair, Steil quickly learns that she is not able to hide her Western ways in both appearance and as a...more
Mia
I was really interested to learn about the state of "journalism" in Yemen, and hear the observations of an outsider living there. The author was a bit chatty and haw-haw for me, and she's pretty shallow in the cultural sensitivity and interpretation departments. Her beginning an affair with the married British ambassador, and then moving into the embassy as his mistress--in YEMEN--leaves one wondering about her veracity and wisdom in other areas and casts a little shadow of doubt upon the rest o...more
Juliana
Culturally fascinating, well-written, and at time absolutely hysterical

The Woman Who Fell from the Sky: An American Journalist's Adventures in the Oldest City on Earth is the memoir of Jennifer Steil, a 37-year-old journalist who goes to Sana'a, Yemen in 2006 to teach a three-week crash course in journalism to the reporters of the Yemen Observer ... and ends up staying for a year. Her time there will change the course of her life and she meets a cast of wonderful, exasperating, funny, interestin...more
Holly S. Warah
Top-notch memoir by a female American journalist who ran a newspaper in Yemen. A great story & totally authentic. No romanticized views or stereotypes here. Highly recommended.

After a three week stint to train Yemeni journalists, Jennifer returns to her job as an editor in New York City. Yet she finds herself yearning to for Yemen, as her Manhattan life now seems oddly dull compared to Sana’a. She longs to return to accept an offer to run the Yemen Observer for a year.

And so she does. Jenni...more
Suzanne Freeman
Full disclosure: I actually know the person who wrote this book. We went to Columbia Journalism School together, graduating in 1997. But no matter. Jennifer, you did a great job! I loved every minute of reading it and even had my book club read it. It was a hit at book club, as well.

Steil is one of the world's great adventurers and I envy her the ability to leave it all behind for the next new adventure. 'The Woman Who Fell From the Sky' is more than an adventure story, however. It offers an in...more
Joanne
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Judy
Fascinating memoir/ethnography of an American journalist who takes on the task of becoming managing editor for the Yemen Observer, an English language newspaper headquartered in Sana'a, the capital of Yemen.

Because the author is already a talented journalist, the writing is clear, engaging, and pulls the reader in with just the right amount of description and observation. Not only is this book a great example of *honest* travel/culture writing, but also it's a great read for anyone interested i...more
Rachel
Interesting description of the city and people, and that Yemeni consider western women a "third sex". But I find it appalling that she judges someone for having affair, then caused an international incident herself by having an affair with the British ambassador, breaking up his marriage, moving in to the ambassador's mansion, and having a child out of wedlock in this very conservative country. I had a hard time liking or even finishing the book when I learned about that.
Jennifer Abdo
I enjoyed both the journalism/ newspaper story as well as her "foreigner in Yemen" part of the story. Her openness to adventure and the culture made this a great read and a glimpse into a state I didn't know much about. There is some about the politics and government, but also a lot about culture and people, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I enjoyed that the Yemeni woman who got the fellowship in Mississippi said it wasn't so different from Yemen. Before anyone takes offense, I rather take it as som...more
Ashland Mystery Oregon
Not a little scarey, Jennifer Steil writes of her time in Yemen as an editor for a government newspaper. Steil struggles to instill fundamentals of journalism and grammar in her staff as she comes to understand the fundamentalism that governs their culture.

Steil's straightforward narrative of gender assumptions are unsettling, while her work to bring some equity to the small part of Yemen she inhabits are satisfying. As an American, Steil is neither male nor female and can move between both gen...more
Zaira
Jun 24, 2014 Zaira rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who hate themselves.
There's this thing called white-savior complex, and this woman has it.

I thought this book would be an interesting West meets East type story, but instead it was just three hundred and something pages of the author looking down at another culture, shamelessly describing her affair with an ambassador and singing her own praises. This woman has a very big head. She was constantly talking about how everyone at the newspaper loved her so much and how every man in the vicinity could not keep their...more
Zaynäb  tyty Quadri
Initially when I started this book, I thought oh woow! finally a book about how nice and awesome yemeni people are. I even went to my instagram page to encourage people to get a copy. it thought me a big lesson, never judge a book by its cover or by the author's name.

what a very disappointing book, and I did noy learn any frigging new thing about journalism for me and besides she had an affait with a married man? an affair with a married man?

I cant deal, a one star please.

on to the next book.x
Mona  AlvaradoFrazier
This book had everything I look for in a 5 star read: great writing, fully fleshed out characters, and settings that are described through the five senses plus emotion or reaction from narrator or protagonist. The other quality of the book is that the pace is quick and it's hard to put down because you want to stay in the story.

The author was 37 years old when she left New York as a successful journalist and accepted a three week assignment teaching wanna be reporters for a small Yemen newspape...more
June
I always hope that travel writers will afford at least a peek into the local culture of the place they visit. Jennifer Steil goes way beyond the usual gloss-over in The Woman Who Fell From the Sky. In 2006, Steil was invited to give a three-week journalism training session in the ancient capital city of Sana'a, Yemen and then she was persuaded to act as editor in chief for the following year of the Yemen Observer, a weekly English newspaper. She worked with a skeleton crew of reporters who had...more
Roberta
This just leapt into my hands, nudging The Miss Dennis School of Writing: And Other Lessons from a Woman's Life aside for a few days.

Finished this yesterday. I really enjoyed her writing style and the story itself is engrossing since I knew nothing about Yemen before and now I'd love to see some of the places she describes, especially Soqotra Island.

Ironically. for a book that was at least partly about writing, this book needed a better edit. It bogged down in places and became repetitive. I got...more
Alice
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Peggy
This was a fascinating book. Jennifer Steil left a reporter's job in New York City to become the editor of the Yemen Observer. I see that choice as amazing and courageous. She agrees to stay one year to train the Yemen staff how to be professional journalists. This proves to be an enormous undertaking during which she learns just how difficult it is for her female reporters to be women in Yemen. I found it so telling that as an American woman, she was largely exempt from the punitive restriction...more
Starlet Laura
Excellent memoir and a great look into another culture. An important read for those who just want to know about some of the mores of men and women in work, love and general life in a Muslim country…..especially a well-written memoir from the viewpoint of an intelligent, very Anglo Saxon woman's experience as an editor of the local Yemenese newspaper, Not many of us are so daring as Steil that we could take a trip like this, but reading this book really allows one to “feel” it. through the fascin...more
DubaiReader
Editing a newspaper in Yemen.

In 2006, American journalist, Jennifer Steil was asked to visit Sana'a for three weeks to improve the local English language newspaper. The paper was in serious need of upgrading and her initial three weeks eventually became a year's employment.

Although her presence was initially viewed suspiciously by the male staff, the women accepted her immediately. Dealing with the female staff involved finding ways around their restrictive lifestyles. They came from traditional...more
K2 -----
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sharazade Sharazade
I had mixed feelings about this book. I'd have to agree with previous reviewers that I would have preferred more about Yemen and less about the author, but then she never really purports to be writing more than a personal recount. That said, since she's a journalist... I would have liked more info about where she was.

I both liked and didn't entirely respond to her style. She's very open and forthcoming, even when it means portraying herself in a less-than-flattering light, and I appreciated her...more
Obisbooks
Jennifer Steil a journalist goes to Yemen to teach a 3 week class on journalism, when it’s all over she is offered the job of being editor-in-chief (in all but name since a foreigner can’t hold that position) . The Woman Who fell from the Sky shares her experiences during this time. For the most part it’s an interesting story but sometimes I got a little annoyed with the author. It’s a great look at the workplace and the running of a newspaper in a country that doesn’t have the same view of jour...more
Robin Massey
Jun 15, 2013 Robin Massey rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Highly recommended. Women are probably going to be a little more taken with this book.
Shelves: travel
I relished reading this book. I loved reading about Yemen a country I knew nothing about, getting to know this woman who was prepared to work incredibly hard to further a cause close to her heart – improving the quality of journalism via the Yemen Observer. While Jennifer does travel a little within Yemen, the bulk of tale is set in the capital, Sana’a. I should acknowledge that I read this work from a similar world view to Jennifer’s, that is, in alignment with quality Western journalism and fo...more
Sarah Bringhurst
I haven't read a book that made me laugh so much in a long time. Jennifer Steil left behind her New York life to spend a year in Yemen, editing a Yemeni newspaper. I've never been to Yemen (and what we hear about it in the American press is generally not good), so I was interested to hear a firsthand account. Steil had her share of trials and tribulations in Yemen, as well as a lot of fascinating and wonderful experiences, and writes about it all hilariously.

For example:
Faris has promised me an
...more
Louise
Jennifer Steil accepts an invitation to Yemen to teach US reporting methods to the staff of an English language newspaper. The temporary teaching job turns into a managing job and Steil becomes immersed in Yemeni life.

She shows the difficulty of producing a quality newspaper in authoritarian country. Besides not questioning what they are told, reporters do not distinguish fact from opinion. The women are reliable and ready to learn, the men are late, disappear to chew qat and are quick to dispar...more
Alecto
Memoir of a year as Yemen Observer's managing editor. She's never lived abroad before and goes through all the shades of adapting and trying to fit in such a different culture and society without giving up herself, finally finding a new personal dimension as well as love.
What did I like most of this book? EVERYTHING, it's such a treasure. It has all I always look for in a memoir and travel book: insight on people's daily life,country politics, history and culture all objectively considered by th...more
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Jennifer Steil is the author of The Woman Who Fell From the Sky, An American Woman’s Adventures in the Oldest City on Earth (2010, Broadway Books/Random House), a memoir of the year she spent as editor of the Yemen Observer newspaper in Sana’a, Yemen. The book received critical acclaim in The New York Times, Newsweek, and the Sydney Morning Herald among other publications. The Minneapolis Star-Tri...more
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“People have the wrong idea about the hijab,: said Zuhra with a toss of her glossy hair. "I wear it because I respect myself. And when the beauty is hidden the more important things rise to the surface.” 3 likes
“How does one develop compassion for someone with a completely different set of values without reading something from their point of view? Books are one of the ways in which we can truly get into the heads of people we would never meet in our ordinary lives and travel to countries we would otherwise never visit.” 2 likes
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