Tuesday, January 30, 2018


A memoir that reads like a thriller; I think this is an important book for anyone trying to make sense of the cycles of violence and hatred in the world (particularly in the Middle East/Europe/the US). The author, born and raised in Germany, and a free-lance reporter for Der Spiegel, the Washington Post, and the NY Times, is a Muslim, with one parent Shia and one Sunni, and she speaks four languages. Partly because of this both/and background, she is able to build rapport with people from many cultures and backgrounds--including those Muslims who have been radicalized. She speaks her own truth--she's the daughter of a Turk and a Moroccan, both of whom went to Germany to work at menial jobs; she acknowledges her own frustration and hurt and anger at the prejudices she faced there, as well as explaining how the models her parents provided enabled her to transcend them. But she also gives a voice to many people who are still angry and hurting. At age 25, in the wake of 9/11, she started going in to war zones to find the answer to a question someone asked her: "Why do they hate us so much?" The answer, which she spins out in a series of well-written and suspenseful chapters, is complex and nuanced, but seems often to have to do with people feeling like they don't belong--in their families, in their communities, in their chosen countries. Brene Brown's most recent book is about how powerful our need is to feel we belong, and this book reads like a companion piece--and a warning about what happens when people are made to feel like outcasts and "other." My favorite line: "The world is not facing a clash of civilizations or cultures, but a clash between those who want to build bridges and those who would rather see the world in polarities, who are working hard to spread hatred and divide us."