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Night Draws Near: Iraq's People in the Shadow of America's War

Night Draws Near: Iraq's People in the Shadow of America's War

4.7 4
by Anthony Shadid

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From the only journalist to win a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting from Iraq, here is the riveting account of ordinary people caught between the struggles of nations.

Determined to offer an unfiltered version of events, the Washington Post’s Anthony Shadid was neither embedded with soldiers nor briefed by politicians. Because he is fluent in Arabic, Shadid&


From the only journalist to win a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting from Iraq, here is the riveting account of ordinary people caught between the struggles of nations.

Determined to offer an unfiltered version of events, the Washington Post’s Anthony Shadid was neither embedded with soldiers nor briefed by politicians. Because he is fluent in Arabic, Shadid—an Arab-American born and raised in Oklahoma—was able to actually disappear into the divided, dangerous worlds of Iraq. Day by day, as American dreams clashed with Arab notions of justice, he pieced together the human story of ordinary Iraqis weathering the terrible dislocations and tragedies of war. Through the lives of Sunnis and Shiites, men and women, American sympathizers, and outraged young men newly transformed into martyrs, Shadid shows us the journey of defiant, hopeful, resilient Iraq. Moving from battle scenes to subdued streets enlivened only by the call to prayer, Shadid uses the experiences of his characters to illustrate how Saddam’s downfall paved the way not only for democracy but also for an Islamic reawakening and jihad. NIGHT DRAWS NEAR—as compelling as it is human—is an illuminating and poignant account from a reporter whose coverage has drawn international attention and acclaim.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Born in Oklahoma and fluent in Arabic, journalist Shadid (Legacy of the Prophet) has the gift of a caricature artist, capturing personality in a few deft lines. In this set of reportage-based profiles from Baghdad pre- and post-March 2003, we meet Amal, a 14-year-old girl who moves from faith to fear to gallows humor in her diary; a long-married couple who bicker affectionately (the husband says George Bush is his hero; the wife wants to talk only about the lack of electricity); a Muslim cleric in Sadr City who has "the kind of swagger that a pistol on each hip brings." The portraits are intimate, often set in people's homes, and are rendered with such kindness they fall just short of sentimentality. Yet Shadid does not shy from the ugliness of violence, rendering the swollen corpse of a child left in the sun and the disarray of a bombed house, its front gate "peeled back like a can." The book, which moves among scenes and characters like a picaresque novel, is not only a pleasure to read but a welcome source of information. Shadid offers just enough history and context to orient the reader, and he includes the kinds of details-adages, prayers, lyrics from pop songs-that make a place come alive. In the end, Baghdad is the character he mourns most. Agent, Robert Shepard. (Sept. 7) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Foreign Affairs
Winner of the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for international reporting for his work in The Washington Post, Shadid, an Arabic-speaking American of Lebanese ancestry, offers a gripping account of just what the subtitle describes. His is not so much the story of why and how the United States got into this war, nor of the political dynamics in Iraq before and after Saddam Hussein. Those matters are there in the background, but Shadid's subject is the people of Iraq — what they thought and how they responded to their situation in the last days of Saddam's brutal reign, during the short, successful American invasion, and thereafter into the turbulent and insecure period of occupation. To tell such a story well one must be embedded in and accepted by the host society while being able to pick up its cultural cues. This Shadid accomplishes. He is wary of drawing lessons, coming closest in bemoaning "the inevitable divorce between war's aims and its reality." At least one other lesson is surely implicit: an alien invasion to overthrow even the worst of tyrants will not long be welcomed if the ensuing occupation cannot provide at least minimal public security.
Library Journal
Shadid, a Pulitzer Prize-winning correspondent for the Washington Post, brings to Baghdad a fluency in Arabic and an Arab American's perceptive understanding. Shadid's skill and sympathy thoroughly convey all levels of Iraqi opinions about Saddam Hussein, fellow Iraqis, and the American occupation. Yet the book provides much more than a collection of inspiring and sometimes tragic vignettes. Shadid's explication of political Islam is compelling. He interprets the "personality cult" of Shi'ite cleric Muqtada Sadr and the "Mahdi Army," along with Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the "one man who stood in his way." Shadid concludes amid the sheer confusion and violence during the elections of January 2005 in Baghdad, "a city where promise seems unending and loss keeps unfolding." Highly recommended for all public and academic libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 5/1/05.] Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Sharp-edged profiles of ordinary Iraqis, many of whom, tired of awaiting democracy, are practicing resistance. An Arabic-speaking Lebanese-American from Oklahoma, Washington Post reporter Shadid found it comparatively easy to move among the civilian population of Iraq, and among people who have been careful to guard their thoughts from officials of whatever uniform. Heralds of unintended consequences, American occupation forces in Iraq have made the country "an unwilling participant, drafted into a fight that it did not solicit"; the fall of Saddam, Shadid remarks, ushered in not the "liberation" that the administration held as a mantra, but instead confusion and indeterminacy. One bit of confusion is voiced by a bright Shiite woman named Yasmine, who wonders how it could be that the Donald Rumsfeld who came to Baghdad in 1983 full of praise for the Baathist regime of Saddam could return 20 years later with news that Saddam was a font of evil in the modern world. "Why didn't the American officials see Saddam for what he was years earlier?" Shadid writes, voicing her wonder. Saddam Hussein was widely loathed and reviled, and few in Iraq had problems with his absence per se; still, the longer American boots remain on Iraqi ground, the more the Iraqi resistance grows, and Shadid charts some unlikely alliances among Iraqis divided along every possible axis but who agree that the occupiers must go. Says one, a sheik often at odds with the regime and often imprisoned as a consequence, "When I was in jail, we thought about how Saddam could be overthrown. I told the other prisoners, ‘If Bush gets rid of Saddam, I'll paint a picture of him and hang it in my house.' " He adds that he will now do soonly when he is certain that the Americans are liberators, not occupiers-as no one now seems sure, with no end in sight to the fighting, and no resolution of all that confusion. Solid, eminently readable reportage that offers no comfort for readers on the lookout for that light at the end of the tunnel.
From the Publisher

“Incisive and eloquent . . . A harrowing portrait of life in postwar Iraq and the fallout that the American war has had on ordinary Iraqi civilians . . . A riveting narrative . . . Provides a damning account of the Bush administration's failure to prepare adequately for the postwar occupation . . . Sobering and revealing.” —Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

“Shadid breaks new ground in offering us a much-needed look at the human face of the Iraqi people, as well as an acute analysis of the variegated cultural and historical forces that ultimately are going to decide the political fate of Iraq. . . . Through Shadid's eyes, we see clearly the chasm between occupier and occupied. . . . As a piece of reporting on the forces that are shaping today's Iraq, this is as fine a book as one could hope to read.” —James Webb, The Washington Post Book World

Night Draws Near is unique in its breadth, its supremely elegant writing, and in the biography of its author. . . . [Shadid] understands Iraqi culture better than most U.S. journalists. . . . Everyone should read this book, especially the White House and members of Congress. It will open their eyes.” —Aaron Glantz, San Francisco Chronicle

“Told exclusively from the perspective of regular Iraqis, these are the war stories we never hear. . . . [A] definitive work.” —Naomi Klein, The Guardian (U.K.)

“This book should be read for its keen analysis of the events in postinvasion Iraq as much as for its thoughtful and precise storytelling and portraiture of Iraqis trying to make sense of their radically changed country. . . . [A] tour de force.” —Anthony Swofford, Columbia Journalism Review

“It is Shadid's rare achievement to have recorded and restored the voices of those most directly affect by the war in Iraq: the Iraqis themselves. . . . He converses equally easily with the Texas private and the Islamic insurgent, crossing the divide between Sunni, Shiite, and American, to extract the individual stories that give human contour to the chaos. . . . Gripping, gritty, and heartbreaking.” —Ben Macintyre, The New York Times Book Review

“An important event, a ray of light . . . Informed, scrupulously observed, elegantly written and deeply compassionate, Night Draws Near is a classic not just of war reporting but of what we might call frontline anthropology.” —Gary Kamiya, Salon.com

“First-rate reporting . . . An intimate and essential book which reveals why America failed to win over hearts and minds, in spite of toppling Saddam . . . Night Draws Near reveals that this war might have gone a different way--especially, it would seem, if we had listened to the people of Iraq as Shadid did from the beginning.” —John Freeman, The Courier-Journal

“Mr. Shadid . . . who speaks Arabic like a native and writes English like an angel, has put his best reporting into this book.” —The Economist

“Shadid won a Pulitzer for his work in Iraq, and his account of the invasion and its uncertain aftermath is both stark and profoundly humane. . . . Shadid's concern isn't Pentagon policy but the interior life of the occupation, where the goals of the American mission remain, for the Iraqis he meets, tragically abstract.” —The New Yorker

“A colorful and moving account.” —Bruce Ramsey, The Seattle Times

“Masterful . . . [Night Draws Near] may be the most important writing to come out of the war so far. . . . The book is full of historical background and subtle observations that help explain the mindset of the Iraqis. . . . [Shadid has] written a complex, sympathetic, and dark portrait of a people we still understand all too poorly. It's a book that every soldier, war planner, and policy-maker should read.” —Garrett M. Graff, The Washingtonian

“Shadid's stories are always affecting, sometimes uplifting, much more frequently heart-rending. . . . [An] unflinching depiction of wartime life.” —Chris Toensing, The Nation

“In Night Draws Near, Shadid moves deftly between revealing, exemplary, close-up personal stories and a wide-angled historical analysis that is remarkably engaging and accessible.” —Tom Montgomery-Fate, The Boston Globe

Night Draws Near is perhaps the most nuanced, informative, and moving recent book about the Iraq conflict. . . . Essential reading for Americans.” —Brian Palmer, Newsday

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Macmillan Audio
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Read an Excerpt

Night Draws Near

Iraq's People in the Shadow of America's War
By Shadid, Anthony

Henry Holt and Co.

Copyright © 2005 Shadid, Anthony
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0805076026

On the road to Diyala, the exodus had begun before dawn, as American troops broke through Iraqi defenses near the Shiite holy cities of Najaf and Karbala. Into rickety flatbed trucks, battered orange-and-white taxis charging sixteen times their usual fare, beat-up Volkswagens and minibuses plastered with signs that read, "God is greatest," people piled the artifacts of broken lives. There were colorful mattresses and coarse blankets, pots and pans. There were bulging
suitcases and black-and-white televisions.

There were sacks of flour, jerry cans filled with gas, and ovens for baking bread perched precariously in trunks. Most abundant, there were the long gazes out windows, as thousands leaving Baghdad stared out the windows of their vehicles at their uncertain city. Long before dawn, the procession had snarled the main road out of Baghdad to northern Iraq, with bumper-to-bumper traffic stretching as many as five miles. Most people were headed to Diyala, a relatively tranquil province of farms irrigated by a river that shares its name and renowned for its groves of oranges. Many said they would find houses, hotels or share space with relatives already there. How long before their return was a question no one waswilling to answer." When it's calm, we'll come back," Osama Jassim told me, his face drawn. "Maybe tomorrow, maybe a week, maybe a month," he said when I asked him when he expected to go home.
"It all depends on God."


Excerpted from Night Draws Near by Shadid, Anthony Copyright © 2005 by Shadid, Anthony. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

ANTHONY SHADID has reported from throughout the Middle East for a decade, first as Cairo correspondent for the Associated Press and then for the Boston Globe where he drew attention for reports from the West Bank and other fronts. His first book, Legacy of the Prophet drew praise from the late Edward Said. At the Washington Post his stories have appeared daily on page one. For his work in Baghdad he has received the Overseas Press Club Award (his second), the Michael Kelly Award, and last April was given the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting. He currently lives in Baghdad and Washington.

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Night Draws Near 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Anthony Shadid is a brilliant Pulitzer Prize winning journalist who has been covering the Iraq conflict since its beginning. And while much of his reportage of this tragically misguided effort on the part of the US to 'spread democracy around the globe' has either knowingly or unknowingly to us been from his pen (he writes for the Washington Post), here in this book he adds those elements of the war that have been either censored or edited so that at last we have an intelligent observer's report of what has happened. This is a story that will disturb and enlighten. Shadid divides his book NIGHT DRAWS NEAR: IRAQ'S PEOPLE IN THE SHADOW OF AMERICA'S WAR into five sections. In the first section he surfaces the anxious dread of a people under the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein. In the second he mirrors the people's terror of the attacks by the American troops with the bombings of precious places as well as homes. In the third section he addresses that part of calamity that follows calamity - the criminal looting and destruction of museums and mosques and public facilities that most Iraqis viewed with embarrassed disgust. The fourth section raises the curtain on the debased hopes of a people told they were being liberated while instead they were erratically captured, questioned, disenfranchised and were deprived of the basic amenities of living. The final section studies the insurgency, the terrifying extremes to which the Iraqis have embraced such as suicide bombings, retaliation, guerilla warfare - all of those ends to which these people have been thrust as a means to regain dignity and identity. Shadid has been there, has interviewed countless Iraqis, and has written a book that is jarring and shocking and insightful. What drives a man, woman or child to become a 'martyr'? Shadid talks with the families of these martyrs in an attempt to understand how these people have the courage to stand against the seemingly insurmountable odds of an army of Americans. This is a philosophy wholly foreign to us and it is well to remember that the writer is a Lebanese American, born in Oklahoma, fluent in Arabic and Arabic culture: Shadid is an informed reporter and writer and humanist. Though unfortunately America's War on Iraq is not over, this brilliantly written book should be required reading for all of us. It is only when we have both sides of the picture of a conflict that we can begin to analyze our country's position and hopefully urge a rapid end to the Iraq error, a mirror of the Vietnam error. Highly recommended. Grady Harp
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
Embedded reporting showed the American victory in Iraq as a liberation. This book reveals the terror and frustration of being on the receiving end of an un asked for 'liberation.' The book is illuminating, but I can't say if it is fairly representitve. You don't get much sympathy for America expressed. I think Americans need to realize that Iraqis can love their country 'right or wrong', just as much as Americans love America. Iraqis resent foreigners fixing their country. This book expresses that feeling admirably.