Barefoot in Baghdad by Manal Omar

As I’ve said many times before, I like to read books about other cultures.  I feel like I learn so much.  This was a recounting of the author’s humanitarian efforts trying to help Iraqi women during the height of the War in Iraq.  I’ve read another book, From Baghdad with Love, which was about a US Marine adopting a dog during his time in Iraq.  While neither of these books focuses directly on the war, the author’s opinions about the war, etc., they both give you some insight on that “side” of the war and what is going on.  Plus, isn’t the book cover so beautiful?

Barefoot in Baghdad” is told in the first-person of Manal Omar, an American-born Muslim of Palestinian descent.  Even though she was born and raised in the US, she chooses to wear the traditional veil.  In 2003, after graduating from college and securing a great job in DC, she chooses to accept a job with Women for Women International, providing aid to women in Iraq.  Her family does not want her to go and begs her not to.  Manal feels so strongly about this cause that she finally convinces her family that she is going.

When Manal arrives and begins her work, she is paired up with three Iraqi males, who are disappointed that she was not a “traditional” American woman as they imagined in their minds.  She begins to forge a relationship with them and helps teach them English as they help her navigate through Iraq.  Manal’s goal is to help Iraqi women get on their feet and provide for themselves when their culture tends to shun them for certain reasons.  Manal is enjoying time in Baghdad, the culture and the people, until the war begins to take its toll.  She is afraid for her life – several business contacts have been killed or kidnapped and she is forced to change her routines and business in order to stay alive.  All the while, her relationship with one of her Iraqi coworkers becomes stronger despite all of the challenges they face.

I so enjoyed this book.  While it was a difficult topic, I thought Manal did a great job of detailing her experience in Iraq.  She writes at the beginning of the book that the book is NOT about the war or her opinions, etc., but about her experience helping women.  She explains several “cases” she is assigned to and you learn how difficult women really have it over there.  You also hear more about the Iraqi culture and the people.  It gives you a much different perspective on what you hear in the news and on TV.  While some might read too much into things and still see this as controversial, I learned so much about what the Iraqi women are going through and it really opened my eyes.

If this story really connects with you, you can sponsor a woman in one of the countries that Women for Women International supports.  (I am in no way affiliated with or have a relationship with this organization.  Just wanted to share a way for you to help.)

2012 Reading Challenge

2012 Reading Challenge
Jaci has read 1 book toward her goal of 35 books.

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