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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 ·  921 ratings  ·  148 reviews

"Walk barefoot and the thorns will hurt you…" —Iraqi-Turkmen proverb

A riveting story of hope and despair, of elation and longing, Barefoot in Baghdad takes you to the front lines of a different kind of battle, where the unsung freedom fighters are strong, vibrant—and female.

An American aid worker of Arab descent, Manal Omar moves to Iraq to help as many women as she can r

Kindle Edition, 269 pages
Published (first published July 9th 2010)
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Average rating 3.67  · 
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Susan (aka Just My Op)
[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
Dec 09, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Sep 09, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 22, 2010 rated it did not like it
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
Cynthia Sillitoe
Mar 04, 2018 rated it liked it
This is a great story, but it needed to be better edited. It's weighed down with unnecessary detail and then main themes aren't completed. ...more
Aug 14, 2018 rated it it was ok
I really REALLY wanted to like this book. After all it got great reviews, the description was beautifully written, the topic/premise sounded gripping, and it may or may not have been on sale at my local library. Not to mention that every chance I get I jump on the opportunity to learn about other cultures (hi fellow Americans), so I was even more excited to read about Iraq.

I was sourly disappointed.

The writing style is one of two huge problems I had with this book. It wasn't engaging, didn't fl
Jan 18, 2021 rated it liked it
An eye-catching title, this isn't one of your fiction infused war accounts with a happy ending. While the story is slightly slow, you do end up connecting with the characters of her story. The author gives an honest insight into her 'work in progress' towards the betterment of women in war-torn Iraq as an Arab American aid worker; reflective of the many women and their efforts and struggles through and post-war zone. I particularly liked how she tries to find normal even amidst the chaos. ...more
Jan 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Sadaf S.
Aug 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
"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
Sep 19, 2016 rated it liked it
I liked this book better then I thought I would. It's a memoir of Manal Omar as she went to Baghdad to work for an international aid group trying to help Iraqi women get a better life. She is very candid about the struggles of being a Muslim-American who doesn't seem to be accepted by either side very easily. She was very honest about her struggles, her prejudices, and how some of her decisions didn't prove very effective. I liked that she was able to admit her failures just as much as her succe ...more
Apr 21, 2016 rated it did not like it
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
Aug 14, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 08, 2011 rated it did not like it
i tried. honestly. i WANTED to feel moved by this woman who chose to help other women in a war-torn country. I'm giving up 1/2 way through - I'm so tired of her running into her preconceived attitudes and opinions, and hearing her strive to see past "the war we should never have been in", that the voices of those she meets get buried. there are dribbles of interactions rather than having those be the meat of the book. this was more of a 28 year old woman's odyssey to discover that the multi-cult ...more
Feb 04, 2015 rated it it was ok
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
Sep 04, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I tried to get into this book but I just couldn't make it past the second chapter. I was not a fan of the author's writing style. There are so many other, better written, more engaging books in this genre in my opinion. ...more
Elizabeth B
Aug 23, 2010 rated it did not like it
I normally consider myself open minded but after reading complaints and jabs about the American military for several chapters I'd had enough. I was too offended to continue reading. ...more
Sep 05, 2012 rated it did not like it
This was a horrible book. It was written so poorly. Dry, uninteresting, anti-American. Wish I hadn't of spent money to buy it! ...more
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... ...more
Imen Amimer
Feb 16, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned-books, 2021
Barefoot in Baghdad takes its title from a popular Iraqi-Turkmen proverb that says, "walk barefoot and the thorns will hurt you." It is often used as a warning to those who challenge societal norms.

Manel Omar is an American Muslim Palestinian and Southerner who tells her her story in a midst of chaos. She traveled to Iraq as a co-worker to work among an organization called Women for Women which supports maltreated and tortured women during the Sadam regime and after war.
Her traveling was re
Becki Basley
Jun 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I really liked this book. I appreciated the author's candid style in telling not only her experience but the climate of which she found herself. I think it took remarkable courage for her to go to Iraq but I believe part of the reason she was able to feel such a draw and a sympathy to the women in this country was her experience here in American as a Muslim woman.

I am not Muslim but I am a woman and I can not help but notice the "stink eye" that some Muslim get when they were their at times stu
I really enjoyed this book, maybe for mostly personal reasons. I mean, most people enjoy (or don't enjoy) things for personal reasons :) But in this case, I am an Iraqi American lady, the daughter of immigrants, so I could relate to Manal Omar in a number of ways. Not all the ways ... she's a practicing Muslim and I'm a non-practicing Catholic. But I still saw a lot of my own upbringing in her description of her own family life.

It was also interesting to me to read about what it was like in Ira
Sandi Dickenson
Aug 26, 2019 rated it liked it
The best I can say about this book is that she is a confused young women dealing with tradgedy and guilt.

She can pick up a phone in Iraq and call a women in Washington DC for language translation but she can't bring herself to call a women in Iraq who was a dear friend to her and express condolences for the loss of her husband.
I suspect she wrote the book as part of her journey to better understand herself and reach closure.

She talks of strong Iraqi women and then changes to them not succeedin
Victoria Cryer
May 20, 2018 rated it liked it
I had 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, b
Apr 16, 2018 rated it liked it
Manal Omar is an American-Muslim of Palestinian heritage. If that wasn't complicated enough, she decided to be an aid worker in Iraq during 2003/04 after the fall of the Saddam Hussein regime. "Barefoot in Baghdad" is a title derived from an Iraqi-Turkmen proverb which essentially means that if you decide to challenge societal norms (aka walk barefoot) be ready to face the thorns. That is exactly what the book is about: about her struggle to be a woman and help women in Iraq from the plethora of ...more
Dec 08, 2018 rated it it was ok
I wanted to love this book for a few reasons. I felt it would be empowering for women and I love learning about other cultures and traditions. I agree with several of the other reviews. Manal seemed very anti American Military until she needed something. I found a few of her stories intriguing but she just grazed the stories making the writing feel amateur and the stories feeling shallow. Much of the writing was repetitive. I was disappointed in some of her decisions and putting so many at risk ...more
Aug 27, 2019 rated it liked it
It was interesting hearing her perspective as an aid workers in Iraq, a lot of insight into the situation from someone sympathetic to the Iraqi people. It definitively feels like it goes from yes women in Iraq gaining more of rights to feeling pretty hopeless, but this was written awhile ago but definitely hard to see silver lining and perhaps there wasn’t any. It was hard to visualize the places though sometimes people weren’t described until later in the book.
Jul 04, 2017 rated it liked it
This book offers a detail account of an aid worker who goes to Iraq soon after the invasion by the US military in 2003. She recounts events in detail and gives the reader insight into the dangers of working in a war zone. I did NOT find it to be anti american as she writes about the transformation of the military from liberators to occupiers. It is a reality that many do not want to hear.
Gail Williams
Nov 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
The only reason I gave it 4 stars is bc the beginning was a little slow & Omar did not capture my interest with her explanation of all the political organizations she talked about. At times a bit confusing bc too many organizations discussed but in all I really enjoyed this book. I recommend if you have interest in all the unrest/war/corruption in the Middle East - which this focuses on Iraq.
Mar 05, 2018 rated it liked it
It was a tough book to relate to since the author seemed intent on self promotion throughout. I think she was doing an amazing act in going to help. It’s simply hard to relate when her every mistake was against her better judgement. And so much of the story seemed to be missing I never fully understood the goals of her organization.
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