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I Have Iraq in My Shoe: Misadventures of a Soldier of Fashion
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I Have Iraq in My Shoe: Misadventures of a Soldier of Fashion

3.68  ·  Rating details ·  337 Ratings  ·  70 Reviews
"I am not moving to Iraq to teach."

How does a liberal American girl in red suede boots end up teaching English to conservative Muslim Iraqis in headscarves?

Gretchen Berg has met the recession: she has eaten cereal for dinner, given up the gym membership, and come face to face with looming unemployment. To cope, she decided to uproot her life and move to the Middle East. Sh
Paperback, 392 pages
Published May 1st 2012 by Sourcebooks
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Rating details
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Apr 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)
I wrote this, so I think I have to give it 5 stars. It's like voting for yourself when you run for president. Right?
Jan 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
As the author's mother, I had the privilege of reading an advance copy of this book. I was delighted to find that it was not only very funny (she is my daughter - I knew it would be funny) but also informative, interesting and showed a sincere compassion for the people and culture of Kurdistan/Iraq. I laughed and laughed and had tears in my eyes as I turned the last page.
Mary (BookHounds)
Apr 22, 2012 rated it really liked it

Just the other day, a friend asked me for a funny memoir about an American ex pat in a really foreign land. She said that France and Italy had been done to death and she wanted something exotic. Well, Gretchen Berg has the perfect book for anyone (especially those Sex and the City fans) looking for a fun read about sand in your designer shoes. Berg has a take no prisoners writing style much like Jen Lancaster and Laurie Notaro that is guaranteed to offend at least one person i
This book is about a woman who chooses to teach ESL courses to adults in Northern Iraq. Although the book had an entertaining beginning, I realized quickly that the light fluffiness was not going to be alleviated by insight or information into the Iraqi culture - and it never was. There was a great deal of information about the author's relationships with fellow teachers and the school's administration, but very little about living near and interacting with the people of Iraq. I appreciate a lig ...more
May 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
Full of humor, this book definitely perked me up during finals week. While it's probably not rated very high on the scale of a travel guide, if you're a Sex in the City kind of girl who has a passion for collecting shoes and toying with the idea of finding a soul mate in a foreign land, then yes, by all means, read this book. And for anyone looking for a travel guide, might I suggest giving up and reading this book instead? You'll laugh far more often, learn a couple cities' names, and multiple ...more
Holly Satterwhite
May 14, 2014 rated it liked it
While I enjoyed the writer's style of voice in the first part of the book, I got sick of her acting like a spoiled, whiny 23- year old. This woman 39, when these events took place in her life. What really annnoyed me was this school was paying her 70,000+ a year to teach English classes, and she complained because the Provost of the College wanted to stay the night, for 1 night in her villa.

I thought it would be a chance to learn about the Iraq culture from an American's perspective, but all sh
May 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I just finished this book yesterday and I loved it! Ms. Berg's memoir of her time in Iraq is witty, clever, informative, heartwarming, and laugh out loud funny. I couldn't put it down. If you have any interest in any of the following areas, you should definitely read this book: humor, travel, fashion, shoes, cultural studies, equal rights, memoirs.....
Jun 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
Thought provoking, yet laugh out loud moments!
Dec 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I saw a recommendation for this book on the website and I just had to read it. I am so glad I did! This book sucked me in at the begining and I had a tough time putting it down. Parts of the book made me laugh, and it sometimes reminded me a bit of Jen Lancaster's style of writing (3 parts witty, 2 parts sarcasm, and 1 part footnotes). This memoir is written all from the POV of Gretchen Berg - how she accepted a teaching job in Iraq, getting herself and her belongings t ...more
Jul 04, 2014 rated it it was ok
I am conflicted. On one hand I really enjoyed the book, she genuinely talks about her experiences, even takes the time to relate it to other context before judging. I too teach Iraqi students and found many of the stories relatable and sweet. However, on the other hand, the ending was abrupt, and she finished the book having still a very surface understanding of things. Teaching 2-12 students is pretty much a vacation in any actual teacher's book, and the constant stupidness of spending money on ...more
Carla Johnson
Nov 09, 2013 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: Noboday
Recommended to Carla by: Library, Download Depot
This books was about an unlikable ugly American. All she did was whine and complain about her co-workers, paying extra baggage fees on her many jaunts to Europe, and her lack "privacy" in her villa on a posh compound. She should have had to sleep on bunk in a shipping container on a US base like the military personnel who were over there risking their lives. This book is nothing but a vanity book written by a very shallow, entitled person. A complete waste of time. I'm thankful I checked it out ...more
Jun 08, 2012 rated it really liked it

Gretchen Berg's experience in the Middle East is not really one that I would ever experience for myself, but it sure is fun to read. As I was reading the book there were several times that I thought, I sure wish there were pictures, and what do you know, there are pictures! I really enjoyed Gretchen Berg and her wits, wisdom, and observations. If you are an "Armchair traveler" like myself, check it out and visit Gretchen in the Middle East.
Sep 24, 2012 rated it liked it
It made me laugh out loud. The book is not about an American experiencing a year in Iraq so much as it is a book about someone who went to Iraq and learned how to survive it, avoid it, and flit along its peripheral edges. It is sort of Elle Woods does Iraq. And Legally Blonde did not make me laugh out loud (or at all.)
Donna Quathamer
Feb 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: five-stars
Gretchen Berg kept me smiling all day long as I read I Have Iraq in My Shoe. The images she creates gave all of my senses good exercise . . . Even my nose. In the end the lesson of seeing what all of humanity has in common is what keeps us all together, trying to be our best selves. And, Gretchen's mother cheering her on with Pom-poms in hand is the quintessential image of moms at their best.
Amy Westal
Mar 29, 2014 rated it it was ok
cute and funny. I was really wanting to read more about the PEOPLE of Iraq. Also, could have done without the sexual content.
Apr 26, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
An often-amusing (I sometimes found myself laughing out loud) account of a woman's trip to Iraq to teach English, the book trailed off in its second half.
I Have Iraq in My Shoe: Misadventures of a Soldier of Fashion by Gretchen Berg Berg relay's her experiences in Iraq with humor and it makes for a fun read. If you are looking for a book about the culture and customs of Iraq from a Western perspective, keep looking. This is a memoir and not a commentary on someone else's culture. While Berg does go out in town occasionally and does interact with her local students, she doesn't treat this as a reason to learn everything there is to know about the ...more
May 16, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: sociology, funny
I thought I'd like this because I liked "Kabul Beauty School"by Deborah Rodriguez. This is also about a woman who goes to the Middle East with very little knowledge about the region. It also has a light-hearted tone. The memoirists in each case are "girls' girls", smart enough in their fields, but also a little annoying in certain ways (which makes them kind of relatable, I guess)

Unlike Rodriguez, Berg did not exactly immerse herself in the culture. I felt sad that by the end of her stay, she ha
Aug 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
I think I'm supposed to mention I won this book in a Goodreads give-aways. There, it has been mentioned, but I can say honestly that I would have gladly parted with the cover price.

Speaking of honesty, that is what touched me the most about this book. Some commented that the book wasn't particularly insightful or illuminating of the culture of Iraq. I feel a point was missed: right there in the title is a good clue that this book isn't about Iraq, it is about a woman whose life directed her to
Sara Palacios
Nov 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I Have Iraq In My Shoe follows Gretchen Berg (author) as she gets hit head on by the recession. We watch as she hilariously goes about what used to be her life (gym membership, shopping addictions, Diet Coke lover) as she comes face to face with unemployment. What will she do? Well, what she decides will completely take you by surprise (and I know it took her by surprise as well). Gretchen decides to uproot her life as she knows it as she moves to the Middle East to teach English to conservative ...more
Feb 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
If you’ve ever been tempted by the promise of seeing the world by teaching English overseas, you’ll enjoy this honest account of just one such adventure. And although the book covers the requisite ground of self-examination through the lens of immersion in a foreign culture, “honest” is really the key word as it pertains to Ms. Berg’s reflections on her experiences in Iraq. She resists the all-too-common urge to celebrate every cultural idiosyncrasy and stand in constant awe of the beauty of the ...more
Samantha Hoffman
Oct 31, 2012 rated it liked it
An interesting, sometimes funny account of Gretchen Berg's adventure teaching English in Iraq. I couldn't imagine doing something like that (unless it was in Paris), and it gave me a good sense of what the experience was like.
The book starts out very engrossing but loses momentum about halfway through. Surprisingly, she goes into great detail about a relationship with a student (making it read more like a diary than a memoir), and she recounts many snits she got into about her lack of privacy a
Sep 05, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ebook, library
This was a very fun read - surprisingly so because I expected to dislike the "soldier of fashion" super-shopper. I didn't though. Even though she and I seem to have, few if any overlapping interests, Gretchen was a fun person to spend a few hours with.

This is a lightweight, silly, short book. It turned out to be perfect for sitting the airport and my flight because it was such a breezy, easy read. There is a shockingly small amount of Iraq/Kurdistan and Iraqi/Kurdish characters in this book for
ِEiman Jafar
Jun 27, 2015 rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 20, 2012 rated it really liked it
This memoir follows Gretchen Berg, an American woman, through a year of teaching, shoe shopping, cultural assimilation, debt pay down, and the search for a soul mate all while living in English Village in Erbil, Iraq.

Gretchen is a very relatable thirty-something woman who is open minded enough (and far enough in debt) to set out on an adventure in a war torn region based on the gross exaggerations promised to her by her friend who worked at the school in Iraq.

I enjoyed following Gretchen’s que
Aug 12, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir
This was a cute, fun read, although it did leave me wanting more at times. Ms. Berg has a friendly, light-hearted voice and a healthy sense of adventure, despite maybe seeming like a 'girly-girl' with her love of high fashion and expensive shoes. I liked that she didn't turn this into a bitch-fest about what she didn't have, and that she chose to make something positive about almost every difficult situation she faced. I also appreciated how she didn't make this a political message in regards to ...more
Aug 31, 2013 rated it really liked it
This was a lot of fun to read. It was fluff, but with a great voice. My knowledge of "The Iraq" (and the Middle East in general) is pretty limited. Like Miss Teen USA of 2007 limited. (If you're unfamiliar with that rambling quote - look it up! The book opens with her cringe-worthy words.) The memoir was an interesting peek into the life of an ordinary woman and her experiences teaching English to the Kurds, and her frustrations with co-workers, foreign culture, and over-sized baggage. While the ...more
Dec 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 6-1-12-to-6-1-13
Thank you Gretchen Berg for writing about a region the people of the US should know WAY MORE about but don't, and doing so in a more light hearted manner and in the honest voice of someone not claiming to know it all (or anything!) but being open to learning, meeting and living in a new culture with new people, and having the grace to see more than just stereotypes, deep revelations, but real connections - real laughs - real people.
Dec 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2012
If you're looking to insight into The Iraq and picked up this book, maybe you didn't look at the cover? Notice the punny title? Skimmed over the intro quote by Miss South Carolina?

As someone who's both taught abroad and worked with Muslim students (her voice for her "kids" is delightfully on point), this was a light, giggle aloud read that I could relate to, despite my indifference to her shopping habit.
Nov 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I LOVED this book! It was well-written, very funny and sarcastic, observant, self-depricating, and just plain interesting! In fact, I had a hard time putting this book down and read it in just a couple of days. Why isn't this book more well-known? Glad she took it on, experienced it all and got back safe and sound with a LOT of shoes in the closet! Wow that must have been like coming home to Christmas x10. I highly recommend this book!
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Gretchen Berg is a writer with a Bachelor’s degree in something completely unrelated to writing. Her parents both encouraged her to pursue writing in spite of the fact that her early diary entries read like this: Today was Monday. It was cold. We played in the snow. Somewhere along the way she learned to add adjectives and flesh out characters. Gretchen is a Cancer, with Scorpio rising, who was bo ...more
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