“Remarkable. . . . [Barker] has written an account of her experiences covering Afghanistan and Pakistan that manages to be hilarious and harrowing, witty and illuminating, all at the same time.” —Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
“The Taliban Shuffle isn’t like any other book out there about Afghanistan and Pakistan. It’s witty, brilliant, and impossible to put down.” —Rajiv Chandrasekaran, author of Imperial Life in the Emerald City
“The Taliban Shuffle is part war memoir, part tale of self-discovery that, thanks to Barker’s biting honesty and wry wit, manages to be both hilarious and heartbreaking.” —Chicago Tribune
“What you’d hear if the reporter never turned off the voice recorder between interviews—brilliant firsthand outtakes that wind up telling us more about the Afghan debacle than any foreign policy briefing.” —The Seattle Times
“At once funny and harrowing, insightful and appalling. . . . The Taliban Shuffle will pull you in so deep that you’ll smell the poppies and quake from the bombs.” —The Minneapolis Star Tribune
“If you’re looking for a window on the challenges facing Afghanistan and Pakistan today—from a resurgent Taliban to American incompetence to Afghan and Pakistani corruption and nepotism—Barker provides a sterling vantage point.” —San Francisco Chronicle
“Kim Barker gives a true and amusing picture of hellholes and the reporters on assignment in them. But she breaks the journo code of silence and reveals a trade secret of the hacks who cover hellholes: The hell of the holes is that they’re kind of fun.” —P. J. O'Rourke
“The Taliban Shuffle gives us an insider’s perspective of Afghanistan and Pakistan—their fascinating cultures, unstable governments, and burgeoning terrorist groups. . . . With dark, self-deprecating humor and shrewd insight, Barker chronicles her experiences as a rookie foreign reporter and the critical years when the Taliban resurged amidst the collapse of the Afghan and Pakistani governments.” —The Daily Beast
“Politically astute and clearly influenced by Hunter S. Thompson, Barker provides sharp commentary on the impotence of American foreign policy in South Asia after the victory against the Taliban. . . . Fierce, funny and unflinchingly honest.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Reveals many enduring truths. . . . Novel both for its humor and for its perspective . . . it rises (or sinks) to levels of seriousness that will be remembered long after the po-faced analysis of other writers has been forgotten.” —The National
“Brilliant, tender, and unexpectedly hilarious.” —Marie Claire
“Candid and darkly comic. . . . With self-deprecation and a keen eye for the absurd, Barker describes her evolution from a green, fill-in correspondent to an adrenaline junkie.” —Publisher’s Weekly
“The Taliban Shuffle is Scoop meets Dispatches, remixed with a twenty-first-century Bollywood soundtrack. Laugh-out-loud funny, it is the true story of what it is like to be a female journalist in one of the world's most exotic war zones, while telling the reader much about what is really going on today in Afghanistan and Pakistan.” —Peter Bergen, author of The Longest War: The Enduring Conflict between America and Al-Qaeda
“[An] immensely entertaining memoir.” —The Boston Globe
“Yes, there are bombs. And there is carnage. And all sorts of mayhem. But mostly there are people, human beings even, with appetites—for life, for adventure, for riches, for love. Ms. Barker offers this world—the human world caught in the crosshairs of history—with a vitality rarely seen in accounts of the war. A compelling read that offers readers a glimpse of the goings-on behind the byline.” —J. Maarten Troost, author of The Sex Lives of Cannibals
Barker, a journalist for ProPublica, offers a candid and darkly comic account of her eight years as an international correspondent for the Chicago Tribune in Afghanistan and Pakistan, beginning shortly after September 11. With self-deprecation and a keen eye for the absurd, Barker describes her evolution from a green, fill-in correspondent to an adrenaline junkie who gets hit on by Nawaz Sharif, former Pakistani prime minister, and becomes adept in "how to find money in a war zone, how to flatter a warlord, how to cover a suicide bombing, how to jump-start a car using a cord and a metal ladder." Barker reveals how profoundly the U.S. continues to get Afghanistan wrong—that American personnel in the country live in a bubble, rarely dealing with Afghans, that they trample on local customs by getting routinely and "staggeringly" drunk despite Islam's prohibition of alcohol, and throw offensive costume parties at the Department for International Development (DFID). In equal measure, Barker elucidates the deep political ties between Pakistan and Afghanistan, the U.S.'s role in today's "whiplash between secularism and extremism," and blasts Pakistan's leaders for destroying their nation through endless coups and power jockeying. (Mar.)
A memoir of the five years the writer spent reporting from Afghanistan and Pakistan after the overthrow of the Taliban in 2001.
Before her first trips as a fill-in correspondent in South Asia in 2001, current ProPublica reporter Barker had little overseas experience.But her life changed in the aftermath of 9/11, when she presented herself to theChicago Tribuneas an ideal candidate for reporting work in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Unmarried and childless, she was "expendable." By the time Barker became the bureau chief of theTribune's Delhi office in 2004, she was a confirmed adrenaline junkie, always looking for her next "fix" of riots, bombings, kidnappings, assassinations and natural disasters.Of the half-dozen countries for which she was responsible, only Afghanistan gave her the "high" she craved. With its "jagged blue-and-purple mountains, and bearded men in pickup trucks stocked with guns and hate for the government," the country seemed a hallucinatory version of her native Montana. Equally at home embedded with troops on the front lines or interviewing Taliban warlords and political elites like Hamid Karzai and Benazir Bhutto, Barker witnessed violence, death and governmental corruption on a daily basis. But unexpected absurdities, such as the attempts of an ex-prime minister of Pakistan to offer the writer choices—himself among them—for romantic "friends," offered occasional comic relief. Her work—and a social life in Kabul that resembled a surreal cross "between a fraternity party and the Hotel California"—became a way she could escape from the relationship failures, which she chronicles with the same candor and edgy wit that characterize the rest of her bold, slightly chaotic narrative. Politically astute and clearly influenced by Hunter S. Thompson, Barker provides sharp commentary on the impotence of American foreign policy in South Asia after the victory against the Taliban. "We had no stick," she writes. "Our carrots were limp after almost eight years of waggling around."
Fierce, funny and unflinchingly honest.