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Baghdad Burning: Girl Blog from Iraq

Baghdad Burning: Girl Blog from Iraq

4.7 3
by Riverbend, James Ridgeway

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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


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.

In a voice in turn eloquent, angry, reflective and darkly comic, Riverbend recounts stories of life in an occupied city—of neighbors whose homes are raided by US troops, whose relatives disappear into prisons and whose children are kidnapped by money-hungry militias. At times, the tragic blends into the absurd, as she tells of her family jumping out of bed to wash clothes and send e-mails in the middle of the night when the electricity is briefly restored, or of their quest to bury an elderly aunt when the mosques are all overbooked for wakes and the cemeteries are all full. 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 Ghraib, 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 postwar society.

With thousands of loyal readers worldwide, the Riverbend blog is widely recognized around the world as a crucial source of information not available through the mainstream media. The book version of this blog will have “value-added” features: an introduction and timeline of events by veteran journalist James Ridgeway, excerpts from Riverbend’s links and an epilogue by Riverbend herself.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
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) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Riverbend is an Iraqi woman of 24 who "survived the war. That's all you need to know," she wrote on the first day of her Weblog, August 17, 2003. "It's all that matters these days anyway." Throughout this vivid account of occupied Iraq, though-seen here in a literal transcription of her first year's worth of blog entries-we learn a lot more: we learn that in Baghdad, you wake up either in a jolt, after a scream or a gunshot, or slowly, fuzzily, pulling out of a hazy sleep in which you struggled against some horrific specter; that our blogger can't go outside her home without a male escort, unless she wants to be insulted, leered and jeered at, possibly kidnapped; and that though she practices Islam, she does not want an Islamic government. Riverbend excoriates Bush and the "puppets" he has put in place to rule Iraq. She comments on everything from the financing of reconstruction and the shenanigans at Halliburton to the feasibility of a Kurdish state and the impact of Islamic Shari'a law on women. She also charts an ordinary life-ordinary, that is, in decidedly unordinary circumstances. While en route to visit an aunt, for instance, she decides not to wear sunglasses, lest she attract "undue attention" at a checkpoint. Meanwhile, she's determined to correct what she perceives as bigoted ideas about Iraq: Iraq is home to many engineers and other professionals, she insists; Iraqis have computers (apparently, when her blog first started, some naysayers charged that Riverbend couldn't possibly be Iraqi, because Iraqis don't have or know how to use computers, let alone how to write in Riverbend's polished English), and Iraqis will happily watch American films and drink American sodas. Theysimply don't want to die at American hands, or live under American rule. Feisty and learned: first-rate reading for any American who suspects that Fox News may not be telling the whole story.

Product Details

Feminist Press at CUNY, The
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Meet the Author

Riverbend is the pseudonym of a woman who in 2003 began writing a blog relating her first hand experiences of the US 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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Baghdad Burning: Girl Blog from Iraq 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
Having just stumbled across the actual Riverbend blog online...I have no words. Unbelievable - yet so real. I am not an avid reader but urge everyone to research all they can into the occupation of Iraq by America. It makes your trials of day to day monotony simply insignificant. Open your eyes.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Don't start reading this book unless you have nothing to do for the next few hours because you will not put it down. Riverbend gives us the story of life in present-day Iraq without sparing any feelings or taking any sides. She allows herself to speak out over the internet to inform yet provide wit and candor (and certainly a fair amount of skepticism) about the Iraqi psyche and the ever-changing rules under which she and her family live. This book should be required reading in any secondary school or college history class, next to the Diary of Ann Frank and other first-hand accounts of the human side of war.