IraqiGirl: Diary of a Teenage Girl in Iraq. Haymarket (Consortium, dist.), $13 paper ISBN 978-1-931859-73-8
In 2004 in Mosul (the third largest city in Iraq), a 15-year-old girl started a blog detailing her life in the midst of the Iraq War. Her journal encompasses the day-to-day trauma the American invasion has caused her city, her family and friends. “Today is like every day in Iraq. No electricity, no fun, and no peace,” writes Hadiya (all Iraqi names in the book are pseudonyms). Her struggle against helplessness is agonizing, though her view modulates somewhat over time (her blog is still active, but the book covers her writings only through 2007). “I sense that my country is still beautiful in spite of everything that has happened to it,” she says during a hopeful moment. Poems and photographs accompany her thoughts on her academic struggles, Islam and growing up in a war zone; comments from her blog are interspersed, and Hadiya responds to others in several entries (“Another anonymous said, ‘You certainly don’t deserve this life.’ I want to ask you something—is this really a life?”). Hadiya’s authentically teenage voice, emotional struggles and concerns make her story all the more resonant. Ages 12–up. (July)
If you happen to be in the San Francisco area this week, please consider heading to Modern Times independent bookstore this Thursday, July 30, at 7 PM. IRAQIGIRL’s developer (i.e., the guy who discovered the IraqiGirl blog, had the idea to make it into a book, and assembled the initial manuscript), and former human shield in Baghdad, John Ross, will be talking about how the book came to be and reading some selections.
Small presses, big books
Essays by Arundhati Roy and Wallace Shawn, plus reflections on the contemporary world by Noam Chomsky and Breyten Breytenbach. Top picks from a big New York house, right? Wrong. These authors are all being published this fall by Chicago-based Haymarket Press, truly a small press that thinks big and my top find of the convention. Roy’s Field Notes on Democracy: Listening to Grasshoppers (Sept.) argues that Hindu nationalism and economic reform are thwarting India’s democratic efforts, turning the country into a police state. Shawn’s Essays (Sept.), his first collection and ranging over his entire career, move from the act of playwriting to considerations of privilege, while Breytenbach’s Notes from the Middle World (Nov.) considers the artist’s role in a shrinking global environment. Chomsky’s Hopes and Prospects ponders political activism in the Western Hemisphere.
And now I am going to stop bragging. For this week, anyway! Real posts coming up.