Ms. Wright writes with authority, drawing on her decades of experience reporting for publications like The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times and The New Yorker, and in these pages she uses her intimate knowledge of the region to look at how much-covered recent events (like the role an obscure Tunisian street vendor played in inciting the Arab Spring and the popular revolt that led to the fall of Egypt's longtime president Hosni Mubarak) are related, and to situate them within a larger historical and political context.
The New York Times
To tell the story of the new world order forming in many Islamic nations, Wright begins in Tunisia, where the self-immolation of fruit vendor Mohamed Bouazizi inspired his angry fellow citizens to oust President Ben Ali in what is now referred to as "The Jasmine Revolution." Just a few weeks later, bloggers and activists in Egypt used Facebook and Twitter to organize protests against the government of Hosni Mubarak. Similar protests broke out in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Syria, Yemen, and other countries. Wright posits that the Muslim world is currently experiencing a sentiment of counter-jihad, "a struggle within the faith itself to rescue Islam's central values from a small but virulent minority." In Part Two of the book, Wright examines the cultural significance of anti-extremism, from the lyrics of the Tunisian hip-hop artist El General, to the feminist interpretations of the Koran by Amina Wadud. Maz Jabroni and other comedians on the Axis of Evil Comedy Tour are "waging their own often quirky campaigns against extremism," and creating alliances across cultural and religious lines. Part Three sums up what is at stake for these nations in turmoil and questions the Obama administration's wavering policies in addressing these international uprisings. Wright is an expert on the subject and this book is an accessible and riveting account for readers looking to learn more about the post-9/11 Islamic world.
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Praise for Rock the Casbah
“[Wright] provides invaluable context for what she rightly terms ‘the epic convulsion across the Islamic world’ by listening to voices we don't usually hear....Anyone seeking deeper understanding of the Arab Spring needs to read Wright's formidably well-informed book ….Wright's richly textured portrait of ancient cultures in the throes of wrenching but liberating transformation makes it quite clear that Muslims themselves will decide their future.”
— Los Angeles Times
“…Wright is an expert on the subject and this book is an accessible and riveting account for readers looking to learn more about the post-9/11 Islamic world.”
“…Wright is one of the most capable observers of the Middle East….her chronicles of counter-jihad, anti-militancy, and women's mobilization are a timely contribution.”
Praise for Robin Wright’s
Dreams and Shadows
“Wright has long been one of the best-informed American journalists covering the Middle East, and her reputation is born out here. . . . Her book will be essential reading for anybody who wants to know where it is heading.”
The New York Times Book Review
“Only Wright could have written Dreams and Shadows because only Wright has traveled so widely, interviewed such diverse leaders, and brought so much wisdom to analyzing the region’s many-sided puzzles. This volume, full of mesmerizing detail and large truths, sets a new standard for scholarship on the modern Middle East.”
Madeleine Albright, former Secretary of State
“If there is such a thing as a pinnacle in the landscape of international journalism, Robin Wright surely stands atop it.”
The New York Review of Books
“Robin Wright is well aware of the complexities, paradoxes and the seemingly insurmountable dilemmas facing the Middle East today. She reminds us that in facing these challenges we need not resort to military force and violence or resign ourselves to compromise with extremism and tyranny.”
Azar Nafisi, author Reading Lolita in Tehran
“The best of all possible worlds: An old hand guides us through the changes in the post-9/11 Middle East, and is able to sort out in a sober, smart way what is really going on.”
Thomas Ricks, author Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq
You've heard this complaint before: Why don't Muslims challenge the violent extremists among them? Well, they do, explains Wright—and she should know. An Overseas Club and UN Correspondents Association Gold Medal winner for her coverage of foreign affairs, she's reported from 140 countries, with a special focus on the Muslim world; her most recent book was Dreams and Shadows: The Future of the Middle East. Here she cites the clerics, comedians, and rappers who challenge al Qaeda violence; the women who are launching liberation movements; and the former jihadists who openly reject violence. These Muslims all want to build a better Islam—on their own, not Western, terms. Relevant and engrossing; I want this book now.
In one of the first of a flood of books that will inevitably follow Osama bin Laden's death and the Middle East uprisings, Wright (Dreams and Shadows: The Future of the Middle East, 2008, etc.) delivers the stirring news that jihadism is fading, and Arab nations are finally entering the modern world.
Touring the region, reporter and scholar the author interviewed participants and recounts these changes, often through their eyes. Early chapters recap recent, familiar events—revolutions in Arab states, unrest in Iran, defections from al-Qaeda and increasing efforts within the Islamic world to discourage violence. Half of the narrative consists of magazine-like essays on Islamic culture, ranging from the predictable (the struggle for women's right, Islamic television) to the exotic (Islamic rap music, Islamic comedians, Islamic satirical theater, popular TV preachers). An astute observer and no Pollyanna, Wright delivers a jolt in her conclusion—even the successful revolutions have made matters worse by destroying the only thriving industry, tourism. Too many Middle East nations, oil rich or not, are economic basket cases on the level of sub-Saharan Africa with massive unemployment, widespread poverty, dreadful infrastructure and no tradition of democracy or even honest leadership. More than $1 trillion from the United States has produced unimpressive results in Iraq and Afghanistan, and there is no chance these nations will receive a fraction of that. Achieving freedom solves their easiest problem.
More journalism than deep analysis, the book paints a vivid portrait of dramatic changes in the Islamic world that may or may not end well.