Flirting With Danger: Confessions of a Reluctant War Reporter

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Former star correspondent for CNN, Siobhan Darrow covered the world's hottest war zones over the last two decades, reporting from the front lines in Moscow, Chechnya, the Balkans, Albania, Israel, and Northern Ireland. Her fearless pursuit of stories placed her in countless life-threatening situations, prompting Darrow to wonder what about her character so attracted her to adrenaline, and so alienated her from the family life a part of her longed for. Darrow approaches this question with the same honesty-and ...
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Overview

Former star correspondent for CNN, Siobhan Darrow covered the world's hottest war zones over the last two decades, reporting from the front lines in Moscow, Chechnya, the Balkans, Albania, Israel, and Northern Ireland. Her fearless pursuit of stories placed her in countless life-threatening situations, prompting Darrow to wonder what about her character so attracted her to adrenaline, and so alienated her from the family life a part of her longed for. Darrow approaches this question with the same honesty-and seat-of-the-pants courage-that established her reputation as a premiere reporter, and the answers she arrives at form this riveting memoir of a woman assigned to cover history in the making, even as she chases down the most elusive "get" of all: her own happiness.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The words "love" and "disaster" should have found their way into this illuminating but uneven memoir's title: in her account of her years as a CNN correspondent in flash points around the world, Darrow is nearly always in (or searching for) the former and nearly always on the brink of the latter. Darrow covered civil wars in Georgia and Chechnya, the Soviet "dis-Union" of the early 1990s and the troubles in Northern Ireland, and did so with remarkable, bullet-dodging courage; she also found herself struggling with difficult family relationships and a host of lamentable boyfriends. Sometimes such strikingly different subjects don't fit comfortably into a single narrative, but Darrow tries admirably (if not always successfully) to explain each in terms of the other. Russia in the 1980s "felt like one giant dysfunctional family. I was perfectly at home there," she writes; later, in the Balkans, she muses that it may have been because of the dynamics in her own family "that I felt so drawn to trying to understand the less popular views [such as those of the Serbs] around the world." Darrow's tale contains plenty of similar and mawkish revelations, but it also offers memorable snapshots of life on the front lines: when Yeltsin's tanks shoot missiles at the Parliament building in Moscow in October 1993, women pushing strollers stopped to watch the fireworks; hospitable Georgian rebels called temporary cease-fires to feed CNN reporters; Darrow herself got a spa manicure while listening to exploding shells in the Croatian streets. These moments are the book's best they feel sharp and real, on the one hand, and on the other, they're a lot less familiar than the usual workaholic's quest for love and inner peace. (Jan. 8) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-Darrow offers an intimate, revealing description of her life not only as a war correspondent, but also as a woman searching for her own happiness. Born into a dysfunctional family, she re-created unhealthy patterns over and over in her life. As a teenager she was a quiet honor student, and a smoker, drinker, and shoplifter. As a university student in Russia, she married a Russian fashion photographer even though she knew that it would "entangle her in a green card marriage with a man who was not really in love with me." From her descriptions of the nearly empty food stores with only slightly edible food to the maternity wards of Moscow, the author captures the haunting despair and dysfunction of everyday life in Communist Russia. She recounts reporting from the front lines in Chechnya, Serbia, Northern Ireland, Israel, and Albania. In Chechnya, "they [the CNN crew] lived like animals, the way most people live in a war," working 18 to 20 hours a day to produce a 2-minute story. With the same courage and honesty that she reported events on the front line, Darrow also reports on her own constant search for love and companionship. Students will gain insight into foreign cultures and the slow maturation of a courageous woman in search of herself. A compelling mixture of love and war in exotic settings.-Jane S. Drabkin, Chinn Park Regional Library, Prince William, VA Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Swinging from tales of war zones to reminiscences of the men she met in them, former CNN reporter Darrow takes the reader on a 20-year trip through Russia and assorted hot spots around the globe. In 1980, five years before perestroika transformed the Evil Empire, Darrow was a visiting university student in Moscow. Russia, she says, acted "like a narcotic." Participating with the locals in their all-absorbing quest for subsistence, Darrow came under the thrall of life on the edge, fell in love with the Russian soul, and picked up a handsome husband who wanted a green card. Following the tumult, the urge for a normal job led her to Atlanta in 1986 to take a position as a tape logger at the fledgling Cable News Network. At the time, CNN was operating out of a former plantation, and "anyone with the desire to advance could do so with a bit of perseverance and hard work and willingness to work through weekends and holidays." Darrow had the requisite attributes. Estranged though not divorced from her Russian husband, she stayed in Atlanta just long enough to have an affair with Ted Turner, discreetly discussed here, but was soon back in Russia as a field producer. She covered the civil war in Georgia, dashing through no-man's-land with Christiane Amanpour to enter the besieged Parliament building. After that it was on to the bombing in Chechnya, where "the Chechens were getting most of the arms from the Russian soldiers they were gearing up to fight, trading bottles of vodka or food for their kalashnikovs." She moved on to the Balkans and then Israel, alternately covering battle scenes and jumping in and out of relationships with a series of unsuitable men (who nonetheless make for interestingreading). Warm and engaging: a piquant slice of a colorful life.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781860498169
  • Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group Limited
  • Publication date: 1/1/2000
  • Pages: 1
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 0.71 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Former star correspondent for CNN, Siobhan Darrow covered the world’s hottest war zones over the last two decades, reporting from the front lines in Moscow, Chechnya, the Balkans, Albania, Israel, and Northern Ireland. Her fearless pursuit of stories placed her in countless life-threatening situations, prompting Darrow to wonder what about her character so attracted her to adrenaline, and so alienated her from the family life a part of her longed for. Darrow approaches this question with the same honesty–and seat-of-the-pants courage–that established her reputation as a premiere reporter, and the answers she arrives at form this riveting memoir of a woman assigned to cover history in the making, even as she chases down the most elusive “get” of all: her own happiness.
Read More Show Less

Reading Group Guide

1. Darrow spent her childhood and adolescence in a household torn apart by poverty, anger, and bitterness. Were the clashes between her parents inevitable, given their different cultural and religious backgrounds? To what extent was her father's inability to persuade his mother and sister to accept his Gentile wife and children responsible for the disintegration of his marriage? What responsibility, if any, did Darrow's mother have in creating the rift between the children and their father?

2. At college, Darrow writes, "I began my infatuation with Russia, the place of my father's origin. I wanted to know the enemy. I couldn't know my father; it would have been too much of a betrayal of my mother. So I took a circuitous route to find him, crossing the ocean, the world, and enemy lines, to Russia" [p. 17]. Does the need to understand her father and his origins color her feelings about the Soviet Union and the people she comes in contact with? Does it enhance or diminish her ability to draw an accurate portrait of a society many Americans considered the "evil empire"?

3. How do Darrow's everyday experiences as a student in Moscow mirror the dualities that defined her life growing up in New Jersey? In what ways is her fascination with Dima [p. 19] similar to her mother's attraction to her father? In what ways does it reflect emotional qualities Darrow shares with her father?

4. "My marriage felt like a sham. But that was the model that was familiar to me; that was what my parents' marriage had felt like. It felt uncomfortable, but it was a discomfort to which I was accustomed" [pp. 35-36]. In light of this comment, is Darrow's willingnessto accept the lack of emotional connection in her marriage (as well as the constant physical separation) surprising?

5. What impact did Darrow's affair with Ted Turner have on the way she perceived herself? Did it change her views on the nature of love and the meaning of intimacy? To what extent was Turner not only a lover, but also a "father figure" who fulfilled her lifelong fantasies of having a strong, caring protector? Darrow's next lover, Alessio, was almost ten years younger, but she writes, "Of the two of us, in many ways he was the older and wiser"[p. 63]. When she returns to Moscow after the collapse of the Soviet Union, she falls under the spell of the handsome, exciting, and blatantly unfaithful Trevor. How do these relationships illuminate Darrow's confusion about what she wants from a man and what she thinks she deserves?

6. "Women covering war often feel they have to be braver and tougher than their male competitors, just to prove themselves" [p. 79]. As a reporter, did Darrow face greater challenges than her male colleagues? Did her gender allow her certain advantages as well? How does she protect herself from being overwhelmed by the horrors she sees?

7. In several places, Darrow describes her attraction to war reporting as an addiction. How valid is this assessment? What evidence is there in the book that this is common among war correspondents? Have you read other books or articles that support this view?

8. Television news has often been criticized for numbing viewers to the terrible realities of war and other tragedies. What techniques does Darrow use to convey both the emotional impact and the objective reality of the scenes of devastation she writes about in Flirting with Danger?

9. In recalling her experiences in Chechnya, Darrow says, "I struggled to find the right words to give meaning to what I was seeing. I hoped, mostly in vain, that reporting on this desperate situation would somehow help improve it" [pp. 101-102]. Has Flirting with Danger influenced your thoughts or opinions about current world events? Does it suggest new ways of looking at the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the war in Afghanistan, the rise of terrorism, and other dangerous situations caused by ethnic or religious differences?

10. How would you describe the tone of Flirting with Danger? In what ways does Darrow's career as a journalist come through in the way she tells her own story? How does the style of the book differ from other memoirs you have read?

11. Darrow has lived a highly unusual life and faced dangers few people ever encounter, but not all of her experiences are completely unique. To what extent are the issues and concerns Darrow explores common to most women today? Does Flirting with Danger offer insights relevant to your own life?

12. "Sometimes we sleepwalk through events in our lives, only to understand how they fit into our particular cosmic weave much later" [p. 28]. How did the skills and personality traits Darrow developed as a child shape her approach to covering war zones around the world? In what ways did her experiences as a correspondent change her perceptions of her mother and father and help her come to terms with the mistrust and anger that pervaded their home?

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