Fractured Lands – How the Arab World Came Apart

Scott Anderson (2017)

While I was reading this book, a very strong sense of Déjà vu gripped me, to the point that I considered the possibility of early symptoms of Alzheimers. Nevertheless, I kept reading because I was genuinely interested in these gripping stories from Egypt, Iraq, Libya, Syria and elsewhere.

Fractured Lands

Scott Anderson traveled throughout the Middle East for sixteen months, spending considerable time getting know the individuals whose stories he shares in this book.

He’s a veteran war correspondent, no timid pencil pusher, and knows how to distill the essence of complex lives and complex, war torn lands down to a very digestible book for the average American who may not have a strong grasp of the recent history of the region.

Dr. Azar Mirkhan is a Kurdish Peshmerga warrior who is also a practicing urologist.

Wakaz Hassan is a young Iraqi with no apparent interest in politics or religion but couldn’t refuse the offer made by ISIS gunmen when they showed up in his village.

Laila Soueif, a name I recognized from the Egyptian revolution in 2011, comes from a professional, upper class family in Cairo. Her family paid dearly for their activism.

Majd Ibrahim finished his studies in Syria and then his family sent him away rather than be forced to take sides in the deadly civil war.

Majdi el-Mangoush grew up in Misurata, Libya and had a very difficult decision to make after he enlisted as a cadet at the national air force academy.

Khulood al-Zaidi, a young Iraqi woman, caught the eye of Fern Holland, a human rights adviser for the Coalition Provisional Authority, who encouraged Khulood to become a leader for women’s rights.

The author weaves their stories into the larger conflicts occurring in each of their countries.

I believe it’s easier for many Americans to develop empathy and an appreciation for world events, such as the turmoil in the Middle East, when they are introduced to these events through personal stories of some of the people actually impacted by these events. That’s why I hope many will pick up this book.

And I wasn’t losing my mind after all.

In the Acknowledgements, the author divulged that much of what was in this book (not all) was first published in the August 14, 2016 issue of The New York Times Magazine.  I thought I knew these people’s stories!