Ellie is a 19-year-old medic in the British Army on her first tour of Afghanistan. She is stationed at a remote outpost and must figure out how things work very quickly. This involves becoming one of the guys to the guys in her squad, dealing with the irrational commanding officer who happens to be the only other medic and woman and figuring out how to handle herself on patrols through hostile territory. On her first patrol she has to help a squad-mate who has stepped on an IED and she gets her first glimpse of the mysterious Aroush, a young Afghan girl who seems to show up when death is coming. On the next patrol the squad captures a young Afghan boy, Husna, who is a member of the Young Martyrs, a group of young boys who fight everyone from the Taliban to the Afghan security forces to the coalition forces. Ellie and Husna develop a friendship as she questions him to try and find out more about the Young Martyrs and a weapons cache they stumbled across. Then they set out into the mountains to find Husna’s village and the cache accompanied by a group of U.S. Navy Seals. But there is more to this mission then they are told and there is more to Aroush than anyone knows.
There were parts of this book I really liked. I liked the story of a young, naive, inexperienced soldier trying to figure things out in a war zone. Ellie’s reactions to the things happening around her seemed very appropriate for the most part. I actually enjoyed the conspiracy theory aspect of the mission as well. I especially liked the story of Husna and his village and his friendship with Ellie. I even thought the slightly supernatural Aroush worked with the story. What I thought was completely unnecessary was the budding romance between Ellie and the Navy Seal Lieutenant. The book only takes place over the span of about a week so the fact that this romance was even included in the story seems a bit farfetched. Every time Ellie got all dopey-eyed over the hotness of Ben I rolled my eyes. She seriously thought about his hotness while they were out on patrol and the Taliban were following them…really! I think the book could have been much stronger without this romance plot.
Wall Street Journal’s Middle East correspondent, Farnaz Fassihi, relates her interactions and interviews with the citizens of Iraq and how they are dealing with the affects of the US/Iraq war since 2003. She relates stories mainly from the ordinary working and middle class people she mets while living in Iraq. See the war through their eyes, everyone from a middle class art gallery owner to taxi drivers to radical teenagers.
With all of the negative media attention the Middle East has gotten lately, it is sometimes hard to separate the good people from the evil. Zahra’s Paradise, although fictional, is a good way to bring what is happening over there back into perspective. This story served as a representation of what many Iranian families went through during the revolution and are going through now under a corrupted Islamic Republic. Most of the Middle East we see in the media is a bunch of angry extremists yelling and marching and burning the American flag. This story is an attempt to show Iranians are a compassionate people (no matter their religion, age, or sex) and have a strong desire to live in freedom. Their leaders are the ones who have turned religion into a cover for gaining wealth and power. Not everyone in Iran likes their country, not even Muslims as the book reveals, but they are forced to, or risk possible prison time or execution.
Basically, this heart-wrenching story is about a mother and her son (the narrator) who journey together throughout Tehran in search of Mehdi, their son and brother. Along the way, the reader is introduced to the horrors of Iran. From prisons to hospitals, morgues to cemeteries, the reader is reminded that what is shown on American news is unrelated to what Iranians go through every day. Most have no time to “hate America” or protest in the streets about the Western world. The book actually makes light of this generalization at some point. Many, as we do here in the US, are simply trying to live. What this book does is show that humanity lies even in the darkest corners of the world despite the way it is represented as a whole.
The two authors withholding their names (for very obvious reasons) kind of makes the fear Iranians live in every day that much more realistic for me. In the end of the book is a large list of people who have died under the Islamic Republic. Kinda goes to show that as far as the effects of war on a country go, we haven’t even seen the tip of the iceberg yet domestically.
Marjane is back with her black and white drawings to tell the story of her growing up. It opens with her school experiences in Austria and eventually going back home to Tehran. It showed the struggles she went through knowing her family and friends were still in a war-stricken country while she was safe in Europe and the transition she had to go to when she got to Europe and then when she finally came home. Just as she got used to the fudamentalism of Iran she went to Europe where everything was open and more liberal. Then just as she got used to Europe, she had to go back to Iran where Islamic law was already in place. As Marjane understood more in this era of her life, it was a little more depressing than the first book. She knew what it meant to be under a regime and understood the consequences of disobeying it. Due to her experiences in Austria, Marjane is not a naive little girl anymore and is almost bitter when she returns to her home country. It was interesting to read a little more about Iranian history during the 80s and 90s and see how Marjane uses her experiences in a positive way to become the stronger and more independent woman she wants to be.
With simple black and white drawings, Marjane Satrapi explains a very painful part of her childhood. Persepolis is a memoir of what it was like for her growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution, while explaining what the country’s people went through during the war with Iraq and with the religious revolutionaries. It chronicles Marjane’s struggles from about the time she is 10, when the revolution begins, to age 14, when she moves away at her parent’s request from the dangers in Iran to live and go to school in Europe.
Although it was a little slow in some parts and the illustrations didn’t really intrigue me, Persepolis really did give me a quick glimpse of Iran in its early days before it became the country everyone knows now. Marjane explains very simply the major transitions Iran has gone through over the last 4 decades and how it has divided its people from one another and the country as a whole from the rest of the world. The thing I like most about graphic novels is how simplistic yet powerful they can be. If Persepolis was simply a nonfiction book, it wouldn’t have had the same impact for me as the graphic novel was able to give. Overall, a good, quick read with a bit of educational info about Iran.
Day of Honey is a celebration of food and a memoir of war and the death of many people. It is written about Ciezadlo’s life in Lebanon during its internal sectarian conflicts between Sunni and Shia muslims. I am personally interested in all information that deals with Middle Eastern countries, so I was quite excited to read this book and had particularly high expectations for it as well. Ciezadlo describes Iraqi and Lebanese people as folks not unlike Americans. She shows how, despite hardship and death, the Lebanese people have always found comfort in food. With all of the negative media portrayals of the Middle Eastern countries right now, I thought this book was another great piece of literary work to help people in the US and other parts of the world understand the war torn Middle East and its people.