A Thousand Farewells

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A Thousand Farewells recounted Nahlah Ayed’s story from her parents days to her own childhood and then continues on to tell the story of how she became a reporter covering the on goings of the middle east. After finishing the book there were a few thoughts that first came to mind.

I liked the way Ayed gathered perspectives from both the Middle East and Canada that are pro-war, anti-war, traditional, and modern as it helped .

To me, the inclusion of Arabic translations seemed to add a certain air of authenticity to what the author is relating to the reader.

Some parts of the book feel a little dry or slower than others and I think it mainly had to do with how much back story she had to provide before jumping into what was actually going on. As the writing instructors might say: “more showing, less telling.”

I realize that Ayed’s book is a memoir of sorts and that it doesn’t really need an underlying message beyond that but I think a greater message would have been nice to kind of tie all of the sections together. It would have also been nice to hear more of her actual opinions earlier on in the book but you still manage to get a fairly clear picture of who her family is.

A journalist might be able to pick up some of the necessary precautions to take when traveling to countries in the midst of protests. A lesson Ayed learned that she shared is that even journalists aren’t safe. Once temples start exploding everyone is fair game. She also stresses the importance of focusing your reporting on people and not the events or environment.

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The Universe Within by Neil Turok was another non-fiction book I read recently and it was styled somewhat similarly in the sense that the author was recounting his experiences over the years to explain a deeper story. The biggest difference between the two books was how A Thousand Farewells primarily focused on the stories of people, and how they saw the world, to give a view of the bigger picture. The Universe Within did cover the lives of several prominent scientists and artists but usually to illustrate a more theoretical point or explain an advance in science or art. There weren’t as many personal experiences in Turok’s book as Ayed’s but it felt a lot more heavily researched.

For me, reading a Thousand Farewells definitely added a more human aspect to the protests happening in the Middle-East. I found it interesting to hear the opinions about the Americans from some of those in the Middle-East that just because America was against Iraq they must be on the other side. I finally understand the differences between Sunni and Shia muslims a little better now and I’d always been curious about what those were. I was definitely shocked to find out that women in Iraq weren’t allowed to fly by themselves until 2003.

Overall the book provided several cultural insights into different traditions and was a decent tale of early journalistic endeavors. I wonder what Ayed will do next?

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