Posts Tagged ‘culture’

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.)

The Sari Shop Widow by Shobhan Bantwal

Shortly after the release of “The Sari Shop Widow” this summer, it appeared as one of the free specials for the Kindle, so I bought it (because I loooove free stuff!).  I would say that it was one of the better books I’ve read lately, I really got into the story and liked the writing style of Shobhan Bantwal.

The story is of a Indian woman, Anjali, who was raised in New Jersey and becomes a widow when she’s only in her 30′s.  In order to break out of her funk, she decides to open an Indian clothing boutique with the help of her family.  Her rich uncle comes to visit from India to provide financial support and he brings along a friend.  As you can imagine, there is a love story twisted in there too, but I don’t want to go into too much detail and ruin the plotline!

The book gives a glimpse into an Indian family that is semi-Americanized (what I mean by this is that her parents were born and raised in India, but she and her younger brother were raised in the US and around American culture) and what the struggles are around merging the two.  Of course I liked the relationship part of the story (what girl doesn’t?) but I also liked reading about Anjali’s quest to open and manage a high-end boutique store as well as how she manages her relationship with her uncle and the new stranger he’s brought into her life.

Shobhan Bantwal has two other books out that are also based on the Indian culture: “The Dowry Bride” and “The Forbidden Daughter“.  Her books touch on issues such as arranged marriage and the importance of male children in the Indian culture.  I personally enjoy reading stories about women in other cultures and learning about what they have to go through (I’ve read a few other books similar to this that I’ll talk about another time!).  It makes me truly grateful for the freedom and everything else that I have in my life.

2012 Reading Challenge

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