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A thousand complaints.

February 15, 2013

I heard a whole lot of grumbling from my fellow Crecommers about having to read Nahlah Ayed’s A Thousand Farewells.

I’ll be the first to say that it is not the greatest book in the world. It suffers from no real pacing, and I got a sense of being a kite drifting free in the breeze, the way Ayed carries us along with her. To be fair, a lot of that can be blamed on her job consisting of doing her own thing in a country until something blows up somewhere else, but presenting her journey less organically and more structured might of helped.

What I don’t understand is some people saying it is boring. Perhaps I’m far too close to this stuff, (I’ve been following the strife in the Middle East since I entered high school) but I had no trouble parsing out the various motivators behind the factions Ayed describes in her travels. It’s impossible for me to say I would fully understand without that background knowledge, but I think she did a wonderful job giving overviews of who’s who and why they matter.

Perhaps some of my classmates found it boring because they have no basis to imagine the things Ayed describes. I know when I was reading through it, I remembered grainy camera feeds of bombs going off in streets, photographs of rebels or soldiers firing into a black haze of smoke and death, videos of funeral processions turning into firefights through the eyes of a handheld camcorder. It’s one thing to hear such things described, another to have the visual memory that goes along with it.

Maybe I just thought that a communications course would have more news junkies in it.

Whatever the case, many of my classmates are deficient in their international knowledge. Who doesn’t know that Damascus is in Syria? That Beirut is in Lebanon? That Hosni Mubarak was followed by Mohamed Morsi of the Islamic Brotherhood? That the Kurdish people lack a state of their own and are ethnic minorities in every nation they live in?

To me, these facts are background information. To many of my classmates, perhaps being introduced to these facts turned A Thousand Farewells into more of a textbook than a informative novel.

That saddens me. Ayed’s story deserves better than to be treated as a learning exercise.

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One Comment
  1. I thought it gets better when she was in Iraq and her travels in Middle East. I liked it.

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