I really enjoyed this book. So often South America has been neglected in the news/media, often overshadowed by the plight and atrocities happening in...moreI really enjoyed this book. So often South America has been neglected in the news/media, often overshadowed by the plight and atrocities happening in the Middle East, Balkans, and Africa. Gerry Hadden writes a beautiful, raw, honest, and unbiased recollection of his time covering the elections in Haiti, his time in Mexico, and reporting for NPR all over Latin America. I appreciate the honestly with which he wrote this book, and the detail with which he described certain life events, his thoughts and feelings, and some of the characters. Once I got into the book, I really had a hard time wanting to put it down. I hope he writes many more books in the future. I appreciate the pictures (although not enough!) he added as an insert in the middle of the book. I wish he had included more! I highly recommend this book.(less)
"Wherever cruelty is a norm of life, no one can expect compassion and mercy, not even the weakest".
This phrase sums up Anna Politkovskaya's raw, hone...more"Wherever cruelty is a norm of life, no one can expect compassion and mercy, not even the weakest".
This phrase sums up Anna Politkovskaya's raw, honest, and unflinching memoir recollecting her time in and around Chechnya. Politkovskaya immersed herself in the Chechen life, living among the people and experiencing their lives on a daily basis. Her love for the people is obvious, as is her outrage at the atrocities which took place during her stay. These people don't know peace, stability, a life free from fear, war, death and many of the other "luxuries" and freedoms we experience-- "freedoms" and "freedoms from" which should be a right, and not a privilege. Living in such a precarious and dangerous place clearly has taken its toll on the citizens, and the only way to cope is to numb yourself to the immeasurable death and destruction all around you.
I most enjoyed her recollections of the time spent with certain people and families, recurring throughout the book. The impunity with which the "government" (and I use that term losely) and militia (and Putin) operate are disgusting. Granted, Politkovskaya was an ardent anti-Putin activist, never shying away from voicing her opinion of him. The fact that he could come to power again is terrifying.
You can still see the consequences of these wars; the destruction and uncertainty that has damaged a new generation, and devastated the old is apparent and still salient. It has been brutally thrown upon them with no choice but to pick up the pieces and try to survive, move on, start over, and try to forget. The effects are evident, and sadly will most like remain so, for the chasm runs deep, the hurt is vast, and the memories are still fresh. Although there isn't what one can consider a "war" now, the remnants, retaliations, instability and a palpable sense of precariousness still dominate much of Chechen life.
I really liked her various interviews with militia and government leaders. Hearing many sides of the conflict, and hearing what they believe the solution is and what the outcome will be is fascinating.
Anna does a good job of illustrating the futility and frustration of trying to ameliorate the situation; anarchy reigns, there is no authority that all factions respect and listen to, there are no laws, no regimes, and corruption and terror seem to be the only "rules of law" the masses have agreed to live by; it is necessary if they want to survive.
I have followed this region for a long time, and though Politkovskaya paints a bleak picture, glimmers of hope are noticeable throughout. One can only hope that in time, stability, democracy, peace, and most of all, forgiveness become the defining features.
Anna was an extremely brave woman, ultimately paying for her outspokenness and willingness to speak the truth and criticize those "in power" with her life. Reading this book now in 2012 struck me as foreboding and relevant, especially since Putin is once again (or rather, as usual, once again) playing the puppeteer in a fake regime posing as democracy, propelling himself into controlling the country and surrounding areas once again.
I would have loved to see what Anna would have written on the war in Iraq, the genocide in Darfur, the Middle East, and especially the "Arab Spring" and currently the horrors in Syria. It is a loss to the journalistic community-- she gave a voice to the weakest, and painted an unflinching portrayal of life as is experienced by the people.(less)
I first learned of this book while I was watching the Giller Awards (she was among the nominees for best book). After hearing the description of the b...moreI first learned of this book while I was watching the Giller Awards (she was among the nominees for best book). After hearing the description of the book, and hearing Kim Thuy (the author) speak, I immediately put it on my "to read" list. I am so glad I did.
It took me a while to really get into this book; each page is its own vignette or memory, for lack of a better description. Once I got used to her writing style, I was swept away by her beautiful prose. Truly an interesting and unique perspective of a Vietnamese immigrants journey. She writes beautifully and has a way with words.
A truly gifted author.
Edit: I should also note that this book is originally written in French, and translated by the extremely talented Shelia Fischman. A note of recognition should go to her, because she brilliantly captured the sentiment, beauty, and emotion of the words that Kim Thuy was trying to convey. She did a remarkable job and translated the words and story beautifully. (less)