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The Woman Who Fell from the Sky

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3.68  ·  Rating details ·  1,016 ratings  ·  163 reviews
The author, who had been a senior editor at The Week in New York, recounts her year in Yemen teaching journalism to the staff of The Yemen Observer in Sana'a, the capital, where she now lives.
ebook, 239 pages
Published May 11th 2010 by Broadway Books
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Average rating 3.68  · 
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Petra-X
Mar 31, 2020 is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
The author is teaching American-style journalism to a class of Yemenite male and female reporters. She is trying to remember who the women are as she can only see their eyes. This one has bushy eyebrows, this one has glasses, this one ties her burkha at the back. She thinks burkas and niqabs aren't a bad thing, after all why should strange men not her husband be able to look at her face and body? Why does she not realise it's not just charms, or perhaps it's not charms at all, but the erasing of ...more
Christina Iturralde
Jun 26, 2012 rated it did not like it
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
Jul 23, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Heather
Sep 16, 2011 rated it did not like it
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
Mia
Oct 22, 2010 rated it it was ok
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
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
Sarah
Apr 22, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Kate
Jun 06, 2016 added it
This is one of those books that I buried myself in and lived vicariously through. It hit all my sweet spots: an American woman who writes, travels, and experiences the highs and lows of navigating a culture very different from her own. I especially appreciated the blend of personal experience and political and social insight.

It's intriguing to read about the way Jennifer took the helm of a faltering newspaper in Yemen and attempted to turn it around. I loved the personal and political newsroom d
...more
Lynne
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.
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
Holly S.
Jun 03, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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. Jennifer’
...more
Suzanne Freeman
Feb 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Alecto
Oct 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
...more
Amanda
Jan 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
...more
Johara
A book about an American journalist in her one year assignment in Yemen.
Beautifully written, with special and artistic details about one of the oldest cities in the world, Sana'a.
I could relate so much to the book, and felt in a way that Jennifer Steil was speaking my mind on how amazing Sana'a is, since I have visited the place twice in my life.
The writer's way of being as informative as she could with regards to the culture, religion, and freedom of expression makes this a well-worth reading,
...more
Rachel
Mar 31, 2014 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.
Jane Lee
Oct 26, 2017 rated it liked it
I enjoyed this book. I'm not particularly interested in journalism and could have happily skipped a number of the passages about how Steil tried to improve the newspaper. However, I was fascinated by her account of life in Yemen and the people, particularly because there are many similarities with Egypt... also a number of differences.

An easy and enjoyable read for the "environment".....
Grada (BoekenTrol)
Reading the book, I liked it. After all it is a kind of memoir about how a person experienced living and working abroad. And that's what I liked most about the book.
When you're born & raised in a western society, you can't just look with different eyes to the world you've entered. Just like the female reporter with a scholarship in Missouri can't shed her eastern look on the western society she's living in.

Describing differences, things that catch your eye or that you find strange is something
...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
...more
Joanne
Sep 26, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sarah
Sep 23, 2014 rated it liked it
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
...more
Jennifer Abdo
Aug 28, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: yemen, journalism
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
Anne Serandour
Nov 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I absolutely loved this book. Wonderful memoir of an American women who wanted to make a difference in a country with strong patriarchal tradition. A great book to discover Yemen & its rich cultural heritage. ...more
Laura Cobrinik
Jul 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Jennifer Steil's amazing book, "The Woman Who Fell From The Sky: An American Journalist's Adventures in the Oldest City on Earth," brings us to Sana, Yemen, where Ms. Steil arrives after she had receiving her MS in Journalism from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, and a MFA in writing from Sarah Lawrence College, and having had small jobs as editors at such Newspapers as Morris County, NJ's "The Daily Record" to become the Editor-in-Chief of "The Yemen Observer."
Steil's boo
...more
Yuliya
Jul 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
I'm kind of torn on what to think about this book. It is no doubt a valuable source of information about Yemen, a country few people including myself know anything about. It's a richly detailed account of a female American journalist's one year running a Yemeni English-language newspaper. Jennifer Steil is an incredibly outgoing person able to make friends with locals (both females and males) and expats alike, and is obviously talented at writing. It was fascinating to read about such details as ...more
Christine
Jan 25, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: kindle-to-read
Maybe 3.5*
The good news is this book taught me more about the country of Yemen and its culture. And while I appreciate that, I really didn't love the book. The book frustrated me at every turn, perhaps because the author was too open and honest throughout her Yemeni adventure. I just really couldn’t relate to her as a woman, a journalist, or a professional.
What I got about Yemeni culture is that Yemeni women are all gems who are treated as second-class citizens and segregated from the men (exce
...more
Molly Phillips
Dec 25, 2017 rated it it was ok
I desperately wanted to like this book more than I did! I adore the descriptions of Yemen and the Yemeni people when they are described objectively. However the authors viewpoint and often judgements tainted the story she was trying to tell, for me at least. That being said I did enjoy the book and it definitely painted Yemen itself in an excellent light. It also offered an interesting light on western interpretation of life in the Middle East. Unfortunately for me the last chapter was beyond di ...more
Kayla Tornello
Jan 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, adult
I really enjoyed learning about Yemen through this book. It was interesting to see Yemen through the eyes of an American. I also liked the journalism aspect of the story. The press in Yemen is certainly much different than the press in more developed countries! Some people are upset by this book because the author didn't make the best life choices, but that's what happens in real life. The book is still a unique look into life in Yemen.
Stephanie Katz
Sep 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
An incredible memoir rich with detail, heart, humor, and never ending challenges. Beautifully written. It presents Arabic culture in a completely different light than Americans typically hear about and challenges so many pre-conceived notions about Islam, middle eastern culture, and the struggle of a country’s budding democracy. Loved every page of this gripping tale.
Debbie Branch
Aug 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
The author shares her journey in a country most of us know little about. The world would be a better place if more people like Jennifer Steil were willing to leave comfort and security of the known for the unknown, and embrace another culture and people.
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Jennifer Steil is an award-winning novelist and memoirist who lives in many countries. She left the United States in 2006 to take a job as editor of a newspaper in Sana’a, Yemen, where she lived for four years. Her first book, The Woman Who Fell From the Sky, was inspired by her Yemeni reporters. She began writing her first novel, The Ambassador’s Wife, after she was kidnapped when pregnant with h ...more

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