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Book 43 of 80

July 15, 2010

Okay. This book is pretty polarizing — it’s a guaranteed knockdown, drag-out fight between people in my life who choose Bill Maher vs. Fox News. Because, honestly, what is more argument-inducing than discussing the war in Iraq.

Baghdad Burning, written by an anonymous blogger who calls herself “Riverbend”, is a personal narrative about one woman’s experiences in war-time Iraq. Her perspective is an important one, especially for Americans who have two ends of a divided spectrum from which they can gather their news. For Americans who want to believe that May 2, 2003 was a day where the Western armies went in and liberated a country in need of our assistance, this woman wants to shed light on what this “occupation” feels like — what she sees, what she hears.

This is her war.

Not the war that we can see from newsreels and articles.

The book is a year’s content of blog posts — taken and published as they were published on her blog. Which, is still up and in existence (, but she hasn’t posted anything new since 2007 when she moved from Iraq to Syria. It’s a blog. It’s not monitored, it’s anonymous; she can write whatever she wants. From what I can gather, Riverbend’s informed and educated. Her opinions are valid and should be valued, but they also should be seen for what they are: a blog. A personal narrative. A diary of sorts. (Although…NOT a diary actually. Because when you write a blog and you write for an audience you don’t write the same way you would if you were writing for yourself. For example, if I didn’t have an audience for this, I’d probably swear more.)

One thing is certain. Riverbend is angry. ANGRY. She’s full-on bitter, all full of pent up rage. Wartime Iraq is no picnic, but it would appear (from 50 pages into this book), that Riverbend and her family (and women, it general, it seems) had it better under Saddam Hussein. Who wouldn’t be angry? When you go from having a successful career to not being allowed to work. When you go from a decent home and standard of living to no running water or electricity on any given day. When American troops conduct raids that kill children and the elderly.

There’s a lot to be angry about.

You can hear that anger when she refers to the events of September 11th. “I am constantly reminded of the 3,000 Americans who died that day…and asked to put behind me the 8,000 worthless Iraqis we lost to missiles, tanks and guns.”

So. Yeah. There’s some powerful writing here.

I’m 50 pages into this already and I’m still processing how I feel. My entire personality likes to stay away from overly antagonistic and heavily political ranting of a personal nature. However, Riverbend’s insight into females in Iraq is especially interesting to me. Also, I teach an entire unit in my Beginning Journalism class about online journalism and the role of bloggers. This blogger is a witness to this war and her story should be told. More Americans should be open to understanding the Iraqi perspective — I’m taking ownership of that and starting with Baghdad Burning.

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