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Barefoot in Baghdad: A Story of Identity-My Own and What It Means to Be a Woman in Chaos

3.67  ·  Rating Details  ·  687 Ratings  ·  123 Reviews
An intimate look at the heartrending struggle for freedom and identity in Iraq, from a female American Muslim aid worker who witnessed the chaos firsthand
ebook, 0 pages
Published August 1st 2010 by Sourcebooks (first published July 9th 2010)
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[Note: the copy I read was titled Barefoot in Baghdad.

Barefoot in Baghdad is going to be a hard book for me to review because I have very mixed feelings about it.

First, let me make it clear that I applaud the author for the work she was, and is, doing. I have nothing but respect and admiration for that.

The author, who describes herself as an Arab, an American, a Palestinian, a Southerner, a Muslim, and a woman, traveled to Iraq as an American aid worker. In addition, she chooses traditional dre
Tara Chevrestt
I was actually unable to finish this, but I paid ten dollars for it so I am stating my opinion.

I hated it. It is very anti American. I'm surprised Sourcebooks picked it up because they have normally chosen their publications very well.

You got a woman, born in Saudi Arabia, of Palestine descent who has had the opportunity to live the American dream. While she has been living comfortably in America as a citizen with all the benefits, Iraq has been under Saddam and living in oppression and with fea
Apr 15, 2014 Nancy rated it it was ok
Manal is an American Muslim who follows Muslim traditions and chooses to wear a veil. She seeks out opportunity to return to Iraq, a country she fell in love with years ago and becomes the director of a small organization to assist women in Iraq; the women who are primary breadwinners but unskilled, widows, divorced women, and others.

The story begins with Manal attempting to assist Kalthoum, a 16 year old girl who was married off at the age of 13, raped and abused, and escapes to the streets to
Dec 13, 2010 Jennifer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed the book and disagree with those who consider the book anti-American. It is not a requirement to blindly agree and follow the government or military, but I digress.

While I do wish that the book had information regarding the women that Ms. Omar met I still found the book to be a compelling read regarding some of the atrocities that happen to the people of Iraq. I believe the book provided a personal element to what can sometimes be just an impersonal piece of news to some of us h
Sadaf S.
Dec 06, 2015 Sadaf S. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: to-buy
"Barefoot in Baghdad" for me, is possibly one of the best books I've read.

When I first grabbed this book from my library, my first thought was "Probably another war book...with fictional characters trying in to reenact people in their situation." Reluctantly I began reading, immediately regretting my first thoughts.

I've always known about the Iraq war, a war which started because the US believed it had "weapons of mass destruction" and always felt neutral about it like any other war. Like, "What
Jan 24, 2013 Rockprincess96 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Barefoot in baghdad has been successful in creating pathos and touching my heart greatly. It is probably because I myself am a muslim living in a country torn and vindicted by war. Although I am not being affected directly by it but the overall tension and atmosphere of distrust is heartwrenching. I think this novel by Manl Omer is a very small part of the picture she is trying to build. I dont think anyone could write about the atrocities and harsh difficulties faced by the iraqi civilians. The ...more
Oct 15, 2010 Deb rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
totally disappointing! I forced myself to finish this book in hopes the author would shake herself out of the self justification of why she felt she needed to prove to everyone she was not really an American but not really Palestinian; not really supportive of the US military until she had no other options; proving that whining is a sure way to wear down your superiors and family; why escaping from a war zone at the last possible moment, putting your friends at risk to humor your self imposed im ...more
Aug 14, 2010 Nancy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was a page turner from day 1. I kept on finding creative ways to sneak away for "just one more chapter!" Very well written and gives the reader an eye opening look at the life of an aid-worker in Iraq during the Iraq war. My heart went out to every one of the female characters Manal tried her hardest to assist. I found myself engulfed in tears when she recounts how she made Yusuf and the others turn the car around to go back to the orphanage, knowing she couldn't bear leaving her there ...more
The author is a Palestinian-born woman who has lived in the US since childhood, but maintains a Moslem religious & cultural lifestyle, including the wearing of the veil. In her 1st exposure to Iraq as a journalist, she is smitten with the country & its people, and some years later returns as a member of an NGO devoted to rescuing women in distress- widows, abandoned & abused women of all ages. She helps to set up a mechanism for this but is confronted by the deteriorating situation e ...more
Sep 01, 2015 Olivia rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, memoir
I enjoyed reading Omar's perspective on the war in Iraq. She is a Arab-Muslim-American who went to Iraq to work for Women to Women International. She went with a firm political ideas about the war, but soon realized that things weren't quite as they appeared. She saw the Iraqi people welcome the Americans as liberators after the terror of Saddam and then watched their attitude change as the CPA (Coalition Provisional Authority)were unable to maintain basic infrastructure, mainly electric power. ...more
May 12, 2015 Victoria rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thought-provoking, eyeopening, and well written. The book centres Manal Omar's experiences working in Iraq to provide relief to women in dire situations. Additionally, it discusses Omar's personal story of identity of being an American-Palestinian Muslim woman choosing to wear the hijab in a war torn country.

Based on other reviews I came across for this book, some were convinced Manal Omar was anti-American. It is clear that for those who have this conception did not actually read the book. Man
Oct 15, 2014 Amy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Barefoot in Baghdad tells the story of Manal Omar, an American woman of Arab descent who leaves behind her prosperous job in the United States in hopes of making a difference in Iraqi women's lives. Bravely she stands at the front line of change and in the faces of people who want to see her fail. They threaten her life with every reform she attempts but it doesn't deter her love for the people or her beloved adopted country.

Readers will fall in love with Manal's spirit as each time she's forced
Apr 23, 2016 Sheri rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I really tried to finish this book, but just couldn't do it. It's like a movie that you only want to finish because you started it, but then when it ends you wonder why you didn't just stop watching it. I stopped and went back to this book too many times. I kept thinking it would get better and really have something to say, but it just rambled on and on without much direction or point that kept my interest.

The story of Women for Women International I think could have been good, but it was just
Jan 27, 2014 Vic rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have mixed feelings about this book. I felt that it had a lot of potential to be amazing and I liked the way Manal wrote, but I don't think it quite got there for me.

I felt like she seemed to jump around a bit; from one thing to another and sometimes I couldn't quite tell what the connection was. I feel like she was trying to touch on too many different aspects of her time spent in Iraq and maybe she should have gone into more detail on fewer topics she covered.

I felt like it was slow moving,
Mar 23, 2014 Vicki rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book a while back and have started to write a review a few times, but always ended up not finishing. Why? I don’t really know, maybe it’s because the book didn’t grab me the way I thought it would.

The author didn’t flesh out what was going on like I wanted. I wanted more of what was happening to the people, and less of the government/organizations. I wanted to get to know her better and find out what she was thinking and going through on a deeper level. That never happened. I still d
As a student doing research on Iraqi women experiences during the war, this book added almost nothing to my knowledge! not much about women's struggles in depth...
Sayekti Ardiyani
Jan 15, 2015 Sayekti Ardiyani rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Saya selalu tertarik membaca kisah-kisah perempuan yang berjuang di negeri yang carut marut, dalam konflik, atau perang. Menarik sekali membaca kesaksian dan perjuangan perempuan tersebut. Saya bisa mengetahui kondisi sebuah negera dari sisi subjektif seorang 'saksi mata'. Seperti dalam novel ini, dari kisah Manal M. Omar, saya diajak melihat kondisi Irak dalam kegelapan paska tumbangnya Saddam Husein. Saya mendapatkan gambaran yang selama ini tidak saya ketahui dari media mengenai invansi Ameri ...more
Feb 07, 2015 Hawley rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I promised myself that this year I would finish every book that I start, but I sure would have liked to put this one down much earlier. I thought the book would be more about the women of Iraq, their stories and triumphs but instead the author talks about her own difficulties in working for a NGO in a worn torn country. I found her depressing and the book uninspiring, however I did some research on Women for Women International and like what they do, so I have signed on to support them in their ...more
Mar 22, 2012 Melissa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir-biography
I always enjoy memoirs. I enjoy stories, of people. People who are living out their passions and finding a side of a bigger story most people don't have the privelege of knowing. Manal Omar's Barefoot in Baghdad provided me a personal, emotional story of the not only her life but the life of many admirable woman from Iraq and the world over as well as a number of admirable men who mutually understand the value of women. At times, I wish there were more details of her experiences but enjoyed the ...more
Jeannie Mancini
Manal Omar's memoir titled Barefoot in Baghdad is a book I just couldn't finish. Three quarters of the way through I simply had to just throw in the towel, willfully giving up. I am a reader of many travel narratives and women's memoirs of this type and found this account extremely boring and lackluster right from the beginning few chapters, continuing on up to the point I couldn't read one more page. The writing style is very dry and factual. The narrative without flow, leaving a very disjointe ...more
Jun 09, 2011 Ari rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2011
I thought this book was oddly devoid of what Ms. Omar DID exactly in Iraq. It all seemed very vague, she talked about setting up women's centers but mostly this book focused on the difficulties aid agencies faced working in Iraq. Which was disappointing to me because I had hoped the story would be specifically about what Women for Women International did in Iraq or even touch on what NGOs in general did in Iraq. Instead (and I guess it makes sense since this is a memoir) the story very much focu ...more
Jun 11, 2011 Jenny rated it it was ok
I received this book by accident from the publisher. I tried to get into this book but I just could not get past the third chapter. I believe that the author had been through a lot as she helped women. I was put out by the author mentioning that this was not a politically motivated book but then throughout the first part of the book there were many mentions of the errors of the US government.

The author has me tuned out when she continued to include her strong opinion about the mistakes of the go
Jul 18, 2013 Gea rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The author of this book is in love with Iraq, her status as a Muslim American of Palestinian background. She is an idealist and we all need to read books of those whose idealism is lived out. The book is basically similar to a diary but she fleshes it out with narratives, thrilling adventures, if you can call getting in and out of Iraq an adventure.
As she begins the story she is toying with living and working in Iraq to help the women rebuild their lives. This is her focal point and it is one s
Jun 19, 2011 Marahm rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Manal told this story in a conversational tone. True to most conversations, she wove in and out of it, introducing diverse elements easily and leaving them just as easily. I would have appreciated more consistency and more focus upon her actual work.

The narrative picks up drama towards the end, when Manal's safety becomes untenable and she must evacuate.

I would have liked to hear more about the women she helped. Much of the book is wasted on prolonged accounts of her moves into various apartme
Apr 17, 2011 Amy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
As an avid supporter of Women for Women International, I was excited to read a first hand "boots on the ground" account of one of the key players for this program in Baghdad. While I admire Omar's courage for starting the Baghdad program without her families blessing and amidst extremely dangerous conditions, I was disappointed that there were very few details as to where my sponsorship $'s went. I was craving an anecdotal account of a true success story (or really i just wanted to read a letter ...more
Dec 15, 2010 Lois rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Despite her family’s opposition to Omar’s assuming the position of country director in Iraq with Women for Women International, a group that helped female survivors of war to rebuild their lives, she quickly took up the reins of such a position, proving her worth in her many encounters with those women whom she helped free from a life of degradation and fear. The dichotomy of her status, as both Arab and American, born in Saudi Arabia to Palestinian parents and raised in the American South, as a ...more
My Review: War. It’s brutal; it’s ugly; few would argue that it is utterly and unilaterally devastating. War is one of the most terrifying creations of humankind and, as such, it is arguably one of the best teachers. (If we’d all agree to learn from it, that is…) Indeed, war reflects an exaggerated version of society as a whole; the way we communicate with one another, the way we view and treat our allies and foes, and even the way we see ourselves and our role within a broader societal context. ...more
Aug 12, 2011 Shaima rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
it's 4:49 in the morning and i just finished reading this book and thought i better review it when it's still fresh in my head. this book is everything i wonder about when i meet someone new at school and i hear they just moved from iraq. i usually just avoid looking at them, not because i think war is infectious like that, but because my curiosity could be seen disrespectful and insensitive. the book tells stories of iraq, the women of iraq more specifically. the author seems to be taken in by ...more
Susan Lacey
Having heard Manal Omar speak at Georgetown SFS in Qatar, I had high hopes for this book but I was left feeling unsatisfied. It is the story of her time in Iraq in 2003/4, when she worked for an NGO called Women for Women International. She had to fight hard to have her family's blessing for her to go there, a difficult task for an unmarried Arab American woman for whom her father had right of veto on whether or not she could go.

The book touches on the many difficulties she faced in her work, p
Sep 21, 2011 Jamie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Manal Omar is an Arab-American woman with liberal ideals and a humanitarian spirit. In 2003 she travels with the non-governmental organization Women for Women International that goes into war-torn countries and begins rebuilding communities, from the women up. Manal had been to Iraq years before, and remembers it for it's history, beauty, and resilient people. This is her story of what it was really like to live in Iraq from 2003-2005, what the people were really like, as well as stories of the ...more
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