by Robin Wright (2008)
Understanding the Middle East is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. Every time I pick up a new book (new for me) on the subject, I’m putting another piece of the puzzle together. I may never feel like I have the entire picture in front of me, but I certainly feel I have a much clearer picture now after my reading over the past few years.
Robin Wright’s book gave me a very important part of the puzzle which I hadn’t seen in other books. She focuses on the recent history leading up to the Arab Spring, and her canvas includes the Palestinians, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Iran, Morocco, and Iraq and the United States. The cover jacket summarizes it the best.
Dreams and Shadows captures the Middle East in the midst of a historic transition. It draws on thirty-five years of reporting—through wars, revolutions, and uprisings as well as the birth of new democracy movements and a new generation of activists—in two dozen countries.
Dreams and Shadows is a tour d’horizon to probe what lies ahead. Drawing on firsthand interviews, the book is animated by the characters whose stories give the region’s transformation its human immediacy and urgency—from the region’s emirs and kings to the leaders of Hamas and Hezbollah, from political prisoners to street protesters, from the autocrats to the theocrats, and most of all a new generation of activists redefining the political debate at great personal risk. It is also rich with the history that brought us to this point. It is a masterpiece of the reporter’s art and a work of enduring insight. The transformation of the Middle East is the issue that will absorb—and challenge—the world for at least the next generation.
The author’s lifetime of experience living and reporting from the Middle East has given her tremendous access to the key players. Her ability to share their stories with objectivity, and also put these events in the context of what’s occurring in the greater Middle East must place her among the best of the best in professional journalism. I’m going to look for her latest book — Rock the Casbah (2011).