Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Non-fiction Review: Sisters in War by Christina Asquith

Author: Christina Asquith
Published: September, 2009 (Random House)
Length: 352 pages
Source: Local Library
Author Website

Personal Enrichment Factor: 4.5/5

I've noticed since I gave up the notion of reviewing every book I read that I now tend to shy away from reviewing non-fiction.  I think this is because I don't feel like a have much expertise in certain subject matter (especially politics!) and I feel like I'm still at a stage of objectively gathering information, rather than forming arguable opinions.  But every once in a while I come across a book that I just want to share, one that I think others would find enriching as well.  I decided I would format my non-fiction reviews in a way that I think will torture my brain a bit less by focusing on the things I would personally most want to know about when choosing non-fiction titles.  So here goes:

What made me want to read this book:  It was a book club selection.  I hadn't even heard of it until it was chosen.

Short synopsis:  Sisters in War is the story of  four women in Iraq during the U.S. occupation and the chaos of the insurgency--two Iraqi sisters, one U.S. soldier and a U.S. aid worker–whose experiences show the challenges that Iraqi women face in attempting to gain basic rights in a time of upheaval.

My own personal background with the subject matter:  I have a very general knowledge of the time-line of events during the Iraq war, and have previously read the book Reporting Iraq, which contains several personal accounts of journalists covering the various stages of events.

Readability:  Very easy to read without seeming too basic.  One of the book club members said that she remembers Asquith saying in an interview that she purposely wrote it at a level that could be read by junior high/ high school students as well as adults. 

What I liked most about the book:  I really appreciated the fact that the author did not make herself a part of the story. The focus is on the four women, so some of the irritations I feel when reading memoirs were not an issue.  I also liked the details of women's lives, and got a better sense of what it's like to be a woman living in a war-torn country:  "With a decade of experience in aid work in the Arab world, [Manal, the  Muslim-American aid-worker] knew the first casualties of war were the most essential ingredients to women's freedom--security and stability.  Without these things, women couldn't even leave the house." 

(Picture of author with a family in Basra, Iraq from the book's website.)

How this book changed me/affected my life:  I'm not a very opinionated person--I can usually see both sides of an issue and I have a hard time taking a stance one way or the other.  But when it comes to women's rights, I can get pretty riled up, and although this book isn't sensational at all, it did increase my desire to do something to help.  I visited the Women for Women International website, an organization mentioned in the book, which provides information and ways to help.  I've signed up for the newsletter and "connected" with  the organization on Facebook.  A baby step on the road to activism, but it has to start somewhere, right?

Author on YouTube:  I almost always check out YouTube for author interviews when reading newer non-fiction books, and find them very enlightening  This one is actually a talk given by Asquith at Northeastern University.  It's quite lengthy but well worth the time, especially if you don't plan on reading the book:

Would I personally recommend this book?  YES!

Other review(s)Rhapsody in Books


  1. This sounds really good. I love it when a book inspires something inside you like that!

  2. I think I would really enjoy this book. Thanks so much for bringing it to my attention Shelly.

  3. I like this review format a lot - I'm glad you decided to write about some nonfiction even if it's not as comfortable.

    This book sound really interesting - thanks for bringing it to my attention.

  4. This one sounds really interesting, I've shied away from reading anything about the current war, but think this is one I should pick up.