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

3.66  ·  Rating Details  ·  780 Ratings  ·  141 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
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published May 11th 2010 by Broadway
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(showing 1-30 of 1,884)
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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
Aug 18, 2010 Katie rated it did not like it
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
Oct 19, 2011 Jeannie Mancini rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 12, 2012 Heather rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 06, 2010 Sarah rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir
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
Oct 22, 2010 Mia rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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 Philippa
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
Holly S. Warah
Dec 19, 2011 Holly S. Warah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: cool-covers
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
Suzanne Freeman
Jun 30, 2012 Suzanne Freeman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 26, 2010 Joanne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 29, 2013 Alecto rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: beloved
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
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
Mar 29, 2016 Amanda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So obviously Jennifer Steil is a sketchball (though I'm amused by the extent that the British press - true to form - blames her for being, like, a temptress, rather than blaming Torlot for stepping out on his wife), but I enjoyed this. Yemen is a really interesting place, and as someone who worked for a newspaper, it was interesting to see the differences (and similarities - we had a guy who smoked in his truck all afternoon instead of working) between journalism there and here.

I continue to be
Mar 31, 2014 Rachel rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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.
This was running at a three star book for most of the book. I'd never read anything about Yemen, so I was interested. I didn't realize that the author had had a very public affair until I got to that part. After reading it, I dropped one star off of my rating because my dislike of the author took away from my enjoyment of the book.
Sep 23, 2014 Sarah rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a transporting summer read. It gave me the thrill of traveling to Yemen, a country I knew little about, but now believe it to be quite beautiful. I appreciated Steil's honest reactions and efforts to balance between being herself and blending into a very different culture. That said, her style is journalistic, I guess, in that I wasn't emotionally invested or really surprised at any point - certainly not "riveted" as the cover quote would suggest.
But I was happy to finish it - in fact
Jennifer Abdo
Aug 28, 2011 Jennifer Abdo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: yemen
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
Rogue Reader
Apr 06, 2014 Rogue Reader rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 01, 2015 Kristy rated it really liked it
I loved reading a first hand account of an American living in Yemen. The author wrote in such a way that I felt immersed in the culture and it reminded me of why I fall in love with books that are set in a completely different time/country/cultures/etc. I also loved that I was rooting for (or against) characters that were living, breathing people still around today. It's a testament to the writing that I was drawn in that well. I couldn't give it five stars, though, because the author is so...fu ...more
Jun 09, 2015 Jess rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The premise of the book is interesting and it starts off well... and then goes downhill. The story was much more about the author than it was about Yemen. I would have liked more history and more day-to-day life, and less of her quest to save the paper from bad journalism. The worst part was the romance at the end - the book cover says she meets the love of her life; it fails to mention that she has an affair with the married British Ambassador in front of his wife and teenage daughter. Seeing h ...more
May 31, 2015 Madison rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The Woman Who Fell From the Sky. Who hasn’t felt like that at some point? There are moments like falling in life,even if you have gone nowhere, changed nothing, when you brush dust from your eyes and find everything’s different. Jennifer Steil doesn’t let life change around her. She takes herself to Yemen. That wouldn’t be my move, but whatever, that’s what her book is for.

The author is hired to rework the Yemen Today into an “American” newspaper. Meaning democracy, meaning free speech, meaning
Jun 24, 2014 Zaira rated it did not like it  ·  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
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
Oct 13, 2011 June rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 10, 2012 Peggy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 22, 2012 Starlet Laura rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
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
Aug 26, 2012 DubaiReader rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ew-pm-bk-grp, 2012, kindle
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
K2 -----
Jun 28, 2010 K2 ----- rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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Jennifer Steil is an award-winning American writer, journalist, and wandering expat currently living in La Paz, Bolivia. Her debut novel, The Ambassador’s Wife, was published by Doubleday on July 28, 2015. The Ambassador’s Wife won the 2013 William Faulkner-William Wisdom Creative Writing Competition Best Novel award and has received considerable critical acclaim, notably in the Seattle Times, Pub ...more
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“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.” 6 likes
“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.” 6 likes
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