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Book 43 Completed

July 16, 2010

So, I found this book really intriguing and I was able to Riverbend’s year of blogging quickly. It helped that I crawled into bed at eight, wrapped myself in a big blanket, and read until Matt joined me for an ill-fated game of Blokus at eleven. I’m not going to elaborate — let’s just say: It wasn’t my finest game-playing hour and there were tears. (Mine, of course.)

Some books, when I’m done reading them, I don’t have much to say about them. And other books — like this one — I feel like I could write (I want to write!) a giant essay. I’ll try to write how I felt about this book in a shortened version…I’m only able to scratch the surface here. (I’m also trying to keep my own bias out of this blog. I’m sure it will seep through anyway.)

Baghdad Burning: Girl Blog from Iraq is 100% worth reading. Read it. Absolutely. I was blown away by the anonymous author’s perspective. Her rants get annoying and even more bitter as the blog progresses, which was a turn-off, but, whatever: It’s a blog! (I’ve been known to get a bit ranty here and there — it is, after all, a blogger’s prerogative. There is no blogger-code that you need to be objective.) “Riverbend” induced some eye-rolls from me from the tone she writes with when responding to dissenters, however. It felt a little bit like her credibility is shot when she devolves into an angsty 24 year-old (who knows she’s smarter than a lot of people — and, in her defense, she is) and takes pot-shots and ends her blogs with hate-filled one-liners. And really Riverbend — making fun of Fox News watching, blind-Bush supporters is like shooting fish in a barrel.

It’s just me. I like my social and political criticism served up in a jokey Jon Stewart way — keeps my blood pressure down. (For the record, I don’t actually substitute the Daily Show for my news. I have a friend(?) who doesn’t actually watch the news or read newspapers, but thinks he can stay informed on Comedy Central alone. It takes all kinds, I guess.) So, this angry-angry-girl thing is hard to take at long intervals. Might have been better if I had the luxury to read the blogs slowly or over a longer stretch of time. Right. Like they were written originally — a few blog posts every other day.

With all of that said, I don’t think Riverbend is lying or exaggerating her situation. Her stories, her emotions are raw and authentic. Her cousin was kidnapped and held for ransom — she talks to mothers who lost all of their children in bombs and raids. Sad. And hurtful. Sadder still that this breeds contempt for America. And the saddest thing of all? I understand why.

I think the picture she paints is real and I think more Americans should be informed about this side of the war. I wasn’t entirely sure where she was getting her information. That struck me as interesting. She’s EXCEPTIONALLY well educated about the political happenings in America and Iraq — but I can’t imagine she’s getting all her information from Al-Jazeera. Word on the street? Off the internet? She does admire several other prominent Iraqi bloggers and cites their sites on occasion. But she’s a million times more informed than the average American (I know that doesn’t surprise anyone), but she never says why/how she knows all this stuff. (Primarily, information about the governing council of Iraq and Paul Bremer.) Riverbend occasionally gets things wrong too — she’ll publish rumor and conjecture. But, she’s good to follow-up when its proven she’s been mistaken. (Case in point: Two girls dead in a field. Riverbend accuses the American military of killing them. Turns out they were murdered by family members and dumped there.)

The book is put together very well. When Riverbend links to other bloggers or newspaper articles, the publishers have included those other blog posts and articles in full. Also, James Ridgeway, an American investigative journalist, interlaces his own objective commentary on what is happening in the US and Iraq related to the war to fill in some gaps for readers and provide background.

I think you have to take this book for what it’s worth. One perspective. A personal narrative. I’ve read lots of books on this challenge that were biased and had agendas. It’s fascinating to me how quickly I accepted those author’s points of view…but how I struggled a little bit with Riverbend’s because her bias was against ME. (The general disdain for Americans — the tendency to lump us all as ignorant assholes — was hard to read. I’m a public school teacher…no one has better access to the ignorant assholes of America other than us. But what do you think we’re trying to do here? ) Anyway, my own reluctance to  feel the same amount of sympathy for her that I did for the authors/sufferers in A Long Way Gone or We Wish to Inform You was eye-opening. Once I realized that, I was able to read her blogs differently and appreciate them. And, in a nutshell, her blogs are: Not to be ignored.

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