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Beyond Bullets: A Photo Journal of Afganistan


Stunning photos reveal an Afghanistan we rarely see.

Award-winning photographer Rafal Gerszak spent a year embedded with the American military in Afghanistan, where he used his camera to document everyday life in the war-torn country. While there, he developed a deep affection for the land and its people, and he later returned on his own. Despite the dangers around him, he continued taking photos, exposing the plight of that besieged country.


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Stunning photos reveal an Afghanistan we rarely see.

Award-winning photographer Rafal Gerszak spent a year embedded with the American military in Afghanistan, where he used his camera to document everyday life in the war-torn country. While there, he developed a deep affection for the land and its people, and he later returned on his own. Despite the dangers around him, he continued taking photos, exposing the plight of that besieged country.

Framed by journal entries that relate his experiences on two levels — as a foreigner looking for a deeper connection to a country that has stirred him and as a journalist looking for another side to the story — Beyond Bullets addresses the volatile situation in Afghanistan with sensitivity and profound insight. Through Gerszak's lens, readers can see the shattered aftermath of military attacks and dismal hospitals and refugee camps, but they can also experience the vibrant activity of life in the markets, at home and on the Muslim day of rest.

Featuring more than 40 of Gerszak's photographs and at once harrowing and heartrending, Beyond Bullets is as illuminating as it is riveting.

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Editorial Reviews

Quill and Quire - Nathan Whitlock
Gerszak's images and words are haunting.
US Review of Books
An artistic coup... both riveting and informative.
Resource Links - Christy den Haan-Veltman
Educationally informative and culturally sensitive...It will engage students to read and beyond that to think, ask questions and seek authentic answers.
Children's Literature - Greg M. Romaneck
Rafal Gerszak served in Afghanistan as a photojournalist embedded with coalition troops. In that role Gerszak was able to see the combat, routine patrols, camp life, and the interaction of Afghan civilians with allied troops. After a year as a war correspondent, Gerszak returned to Afghanistan and chronicled the lives of everyday Afghans. It is these experiences in a war-torn land that Gerszak presents to readers in this fascinating and thoughtful book. In telling his story Gerszak combines first hand anecdotes drawn from his travels with numerous photos he personally took. In this book readers will learn about the turmoil soldiers experience in an ambush, the physical cost of combat, the utter sadness of civilian casualties, and the psychological toll of war. This combination generates a moving story that realistically presents the nature of asymmetrical war in a nation that has seen strife for many years. This is a powerful book that youngsters thinking about military service should read. Reviewer: Greg M. Romaneck
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up—Gerszak spent more than a year embedded with troops on the front lines in Afghanistan, learning about and experiencing firsthand the war on terrorism. After this powerful experience, he then lived among Afghan civilians in order to explore the war from their perspective, learning to love and appreciate both the culture and the country that has been ravaged by multiple conflicts and invasions. Beautiful, provocative photographs are combined with explanations and journal entries to provide a complete portrait of his time in Afghanistan. The book does not shy away from sharing the darker side of war, with photos of injured soldiers, dogfights, and suffering civilians all included, and through detailed descriptions these potentially difficult images are given context and meaning. Having visited hospitals, individual homes, refugee camps, and much more, Gerszak enables readers to see a side of the war that is rarely shared in the media, and, even less frequently, in a book directed at young adults. The photos tell a story all on their own, but the added narrative draws readers in and gives them a front-row seat. Share or display this title with a variety of nonfiction and fiction titles about other American wars, such as Walter Dean Myers's Fallen Angels (Scholastic, 1988) or Philip Caputo's 10,000 Days of Thunder (S & S, 2005) as a means of humanizing war.—Jody Kopple, Shady Hill School, Cambridge, MA
Kirkus Reviews
Author/photographer Gerszak first went to Afghanistan to spend a year embedded with an American military unit documenting house searches, disputes with village elders and the aftermath of battles. He returned as an unaffiliated photographer without a military escort, determined to document civilian life. This "photo journal" features images from both trips to Afghanistan, accompanied by diarylike accounts of his travels. Gerszak's frank and descriptive observations effectively convey the ugliness, monotony and tragedy of war. Most compelling are descriptions of civilians he meets, encounters that put a human face on the conflict Gerszak was unable to experience as an embedded journalist. His powerful images never romanticize or sensationalize the war. There are scenes of bloody battles, wounded people in hospitals and dazed refugees, but also remarkable images of busy marketplaces and vibrant street activity revealing that life goes on in the midst of death and destruction. The snippets of Gerszak's observations often lack cohesion and context. Though good background information is provided throughout in sidebars on such subjects as the Taliban, Muslim traditions and ethnic groups, this book alone will not give readers insight into the complexities of the Afghan conflict. As one journalist's perspective, this stands as an excellent supplement to a more comprehensive overview. (maps, photographs) (Nonfiction. 12 & up)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781554512935
  • Publisher: Annick Press, Limited
  • Publication date: 8/11/2011
  • Pages: 128
  • Sales rank: 965,337
  • Age range: 12 - 18 Years
  • Product dimensions: 8.30 (w) x 11.10 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Rafal Gerszak's work has been published and exhibited internationally.

Dawn Hunter is an editor and the author of several books for young people, including Adventures on the Ancient Silk Road, winner of the Norma Fleck Award for non-fiction. She lives in Toronto.

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 17, 2011

    Great Book

    Before I joined the Army, I read a lot of books about soldiers and war. After being in the Army, I haven't really had an interest in that sort of thing anymore. Having lost battle buddies in the war makes reading about it a little too real. When I saw this book on Netgalley, I decided to give it a chance. It's almost like a picture book, so I thought I could handle it. Well, I'm really glad I did. Rafal does a really good job of showing the emotions of war. I wish I could post some of the pictures from the inside of the book, but trust me, they're gorgeous. Some of them are gut-wrenching. After finding out about the guy who is on the cover image, I found myself going back to that image over and over again, wishing that I could go back in time and talk to him. Working in Mental Health in the Army, I got to hear a lot about Afghanistan, and what it was like to be there. This book gave me images to go along with all those feelings. I rated this book 4 stars. I'm not going to give it 4 happy mamas like I normally would. This isn't a happy book, but it is a really good one. They say a picture is worth 1000 words. This book proves that statement true. I would definitely recommend this to anyone interested in seeing and learning a little bit more about the daily lives of soldiers and the people of Afghanistan.

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  • Posted September 24, 2011

    Moving pictures

    5 STARS
    This is not my typical type of book. Can't say I loved it but I do understand a little bit more about Afganistan and it's people. I wish their was no need for any war.
    Rafel Gerszak spent a year enbedded with American troups. He saw and photographed the war. Then later he went back to Afganistan on his own to see how the life was during war and what they were like.
    This book was filled with pictures he took. Also had his journal and what was going on. plus facts about the people,politics.
    He showed the struggle the people with injuries from war. Doctors treating people without the drugs and supplies we take for granted. Showed how the women are and told more because its hard to get photographs of women. Showed some changes, somethings stay the same.
    Told how after a year enbedded than comming back to see the everyday life than going back with same American troups how much he had changed too.
    I was given an ebook of this book so it was a little hard sometimes to see all I wanted to see. These photos moved me and make me appreciate the freedoms that I and my girls have. Hard to see the suffering but it's good that we know the cost of wars and freedoms.

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