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Baghdad Burning: Girl Blog from Iraqby Riverbend
Third prize winner of the Lettre Ulysses Award for the Art of Reportage
Nominated for the 2006 Samuel Johnson Prize
Synopses & Reviews
In her riveting weblog, a remarkable young Iraqi woman gives a human face to war and occupation.
In August 2003, the world gained access to a remarkable new voice: a blog written by a 25-year-old Iraqi woman living in Baghdad, whose identity remained concealed for her own protection. Calling herself Riverbend, she offered searing eyewitness accounts of the everyday realities on the ground, punctuated by astute analysis on the politics behind these events.
Riverbend recounts stories of life in an occupied city — of neighbors whose homes are raided by U.S. troops, whose relatives disappear into prisons, and whose children are kidnapped by money-hungry militias. The only Iraqi blogger writing from a woman's perspective, she also describes a once-secular city where women are now afraid to leave their homes without head covering and a male escort.
Interspersed with these vivid snapshots from daily life are Riverbend's analyses of everything from the elusive workings of the Iraqi Governing Council to the torture in Abu Gharib, from the coverage provided by American media and by Al-Jazeera to Bush's State of the Union Speech. Here again, she focuses especially on the fate of women, whose rights and freedoms have fallen victim to rising fundamentalisms in a chaotic post-war society.
With thousands of loyal readers worldwide, the Riverbend blog is recognized around the world as a crucial source of information not available through the mainstream media.
"Iraqi women's voices have been virtually silent since the fall of Baghdad. Yet four months after Saddam's statue toppled in April 2003, the pseudonymous Riverbend, a Baghdad native then 24 years old, began blogging about life in the city in dryly idiomatic English and garnered an instant following that rivals Salam Pax's Where Is Raed? This year's worth of Riverbend's commentary — passionate, frustrated, sarcastic and sometimes hopeful — runs to September 2004. Before the war, Riverbend was a computer programmer ('yes, yes... a geek'), living with her parents and brother in relative affluence; as she chronicles the privations her family experiences under occupation, there is a good deal of 'complaining and ranting' about erratic electricity, intermittent water supplies, near daily explosions, gas shortages and travel restrictions. She rails against the interim governing council ('the puppet government') and Bush and his administration — and is sardonic on Islamic fundamentalism: as Al Sadr and his followers begin to emerge, Riverbend quotes the Carpenters's 'We've Only Just Begun.' But Riverbend is most compelling when she gives cultural object lessons on everything from the changing status of Iraqi women to Ramadan, the Iraqi educational system, the significance of date palms and the details of mourning rituals. Just as fascinating are the mundane facts of daily life, like her unsuccessful attempt to go back to work — no one would guarantee the safety of a woman in the workplace. The blog continues at riverbendblog.blogspot.com; like this book, it offers quick takes on events as they occur, from a perspective too often overlooked, ignored or suppressed. First serial to Ms. Magazine. (May 2)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"[A] vivid account of occupied Iraq....Feisty and learned: first-rate reading for any American who suspects that Fox News may not be telling the whole story." Kirkus Reviews
"[T]he greatest accomplishment of this intriguing book lies in its essential ordinariness. Riverbend is bright and opinionated, true, but...she provides an urgent reminder that, whichever governments we struggle under, we are all the same." Booklist
"Riverbend demonstrates deep familiarity with Iraqi culture and fills a great proportion of her posts with detailed explanations of local customs and traditions....If she is a fake, she is doing tedious research." San Francisco Chronicle
An anonymous Iraqi woman presents eyewitness accounts and political analysis of life in the war torn and occupied city.
Anonymous Iraqi woman's blog gives a human face to war and occupation.
About the Author
Riverbend is the pseudonym of a woman in her twenties who in 2003 began writing a blog relating her first hand experiences of the U.S. invasion and then occupation of her native Iraq. Once a computer programmer in a modern, secular state, Riverbend discusses with honesty and acute political awareness the changes that resulted in the rise of religious fundamentalism.
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