Review: A New Voice for Israel: Fighting for the Survival of the Jewish Nation

cvr_a-new-voice-for-israel-fighting-for-the-survival-of-the-jewish-nation-by-jeremy-ben-amiA New Voice for Israel: Fighting for the Survival of the Jewish Nation by Jeremy Ben-Ami

MY RATING: 3/5 Stars

FTC NOTICE: Purchased Book

REVIEW: The first half of “A New Voice for Israel: Fighting for the Survival of the Jewish Nation,” by Jeremy Ben-Ami, seemed to have a good energy to it and began with an intriguing sentence: “My great-grandfather was a bootlegger, my grandfather was a card shark, and my father was a terrorist” (3). This thesis statement served as the lead-in for the author’s family history as well as providing great historical information on the Russian pogroms and how European Jewry immigrated to Palestine.

Challenges to immigration and Israeli statehood were covered with the concept of a two-state solution being core to the original plan for the former area of Palestine. The plan changed due to war and other dynamics; and, the author contended that “the roots of today’s conflict lie not in ancient religious hatred but in the clash of national aspirations of two peoples unfortunate enough to stake a claim to the same small piece of land. Their subsequent struggle for land, resources and control echoes other global conflicts that have been successfully resolved” (80).

While the text started in a realistic manner, it seemed to dissolve into a collection of generalizations and over-simplified ideas. The reader came to the conclusion that the purpose of the book was solely to address the President of the United States versus convincing an American public (or any other audience) of the strategies necessary to achieve a two-state solution in order to bring the Arab-Israeli conflict to an end and achieve peace in the Middle East (as though the entire region’s stability depended solely upon the two-state solution!). The book held so much promise but culminated in a disappointing position.

Review: Face to Face with Jesus: A Former Muslim’s Extraordinary Journey to Heaven and Encounter with the God of Love

cvr_face-to-face-with-jesus-a-former-muslims-extraordinary-journey-to-heaven-and-encounter-with-the-god-of-love-by-samaa-habib

Face to Face with Jesus: A Former Muslim’s Extraordinary Journey to Heaven and Encounter with the God of Love by Samaa Habib, Bodie Thoene

MY RATING: 3/5 Stars

FTC NOTICE: Free Review Copy from the GoodReads Giveaways Program (in exchange for an honest review)

REVIEW: ”For many believers, particularly in the West, persecution is a foreign concept and experience–limited to unpleasant exchanges in the office or over social media. However, for many other believers, from Indonesia to Africa, in North Korea and throughout the Middle East, persecution is common. They suffer in many different ways, from social and economic exclusion to torture, rape, imprisonment and martyrdom for their belief in Jesus”(13).–Mike Bickle, Director, International House of Prayer

Face to Face with Jesus: A Former Muslim’s Extraordinary Journey to Heaven and Encounter with the God of Love,” existed as the story of a young, Egyptian female and her conversion from Islam to Christianity. The author, Samaa Habib, received an invitation, from one of her friends, to attend a Christian Orthodox Church service. She was fortunate to have parents who, despite being Muslim and deeply religious, were also open-minded about learning, seeing how others practiced their faith(s), etc. While there, she learned that the God of Christianity valued and loved females equally as much as males. This surprised her; because in Islam, females were worth half or less than that of their male counterparts.

Face to Face with Jesus” covered the wide-spread progression from Samaa’s Egyptian family living under a communist government, to displeasure of it and people’s desire to convert to generalized Sharia Law, and ultimately to being ruled by the cleric-mandated Sharia law. As things changed, her worth to her family also became devalued. Nonie Darwish, also a native of Egypt and whose father worked in the field of military intelligence under Gamal Abdel Nasser, noticed these extreme changes as well and shared them in her book, titled “Now They Call Me Infidel: Why I Renounced Jihad for America, Israel, and the War on Terror.”

In Samaa Habib’s case, it was the first time that she witnessed how religion became a divisive weapon: to “tear personal lives apart and divide and destroy nations” (51). She also saw “cruelty for the sake of cruelty ” (52). “In Muslim countries, women without male chaperones are targets of assault” (109), and she witnessed some of the terrible acts. One could easily understand how this girl’s new-found faith (in Christianity) made her feel protected and helped her to fight back against some fellow Egyptians who became her attackers.

At first, I thought that the “International House of Prayer” was unfairly targeting Egypt’s female population, using “free self-defense classes” as a way to gain recruits and converts from Islam to Christianity; however, the reality was that they did provide an undeniably valuable and life-saving service and skillset to the populace, which also saved the lives of this girl and her friends on multiple occasions. Not everyone would convert to Christianity, but they would convert from intended victims of sexual assault and other crimes to their own personal heroes.

SPOILER ALERT
As the chapters progressed, especially in the “Epilogue,” the soft-sell for Christianity became a hard-pushing one, and I found myself skimming the last parts. The hard-sell became distracting from the author’s amazing life story and the good deeds of her church. It seemed that the sole purpose of the book was to be a religious conversion piece, which varied greatly from what its synopsis conveyed to me; as such, this well-written book and amazing story lost some of its integrity, causing a reduced star rating.

Review: Unveiled Threat: A Personal Experience of Funamentalist Islam and the Roots of Terrorism

cvr_unveiled-threat-a-personal-experience-of-funamentalist-islam-and-the-roots-of-terrorism-by-janet-tavakoliUnveiled Threat: A Personal Experience of Funamentalist Islam and the Roots of Terrorism by Janet Tavakoli

MY RATING: 4/5 Stars

FTC NOTICE: Free Review Copy from Author (in exchange for an honest review)

REVIEW: Do not allow the small size of this book fool you into believing that it is not big on content. This is the first piece I have read by Janet Tavakoli, MBA, who utilized this work as a delivery vehicle to share her experiences when she found herself suddenly trapped in the middle of Iran’s Islamic Revolution. In one day she went from being an Iranian man’s, American-born, wife to becoming his property under that nation’s newest laws. “Unveiled Threat: A Personal Experience of Fundamentalist Islam and the Roots of Terrorism” delved into the author’s experiences, connected religious institutions to terrorism, and expounded upon the issues that developed due to the creation of a politically-correct world that began producing a global, fundamentalist, terrorist threat to the United States of America (USA).

Unveiled Threat” began with a focus on Iran and touched on tangentially-related topics in other countries due to their effect on the USA. Prevailing themes included the following:
1. “Poor men want to be rich” (1)
2. Political hypocrisy.
3. Hypocritical use of chador.
4. “Stalkers for Islam” (43)
5. Honor killings.
6. Female genital mutilation (FGM).
7. Islamic rule.
8. Muslim apologetics.
9. Sex abuse scandals.
10. Freedom of artistic expression and speech.

Ms. Tavakoli gave one example that specifically dealt with Muslim outrage pertaining to freedom of artistic expression/speech; I felt that it lacked sufficient context, causing me to be in disagreement with her. The story’s lack of details pertained to the year 2006, when a Pakistani cleric issued a death fatwa on a cartoonist who drew satirical images of Mohammad. I did not find their context to be fatwa-worthy nor good cause for riots. The situation created by the editors appeared repulsive and malicious. I associated this example with the Charlie Hebdo incident, though it was not clearly defined in the book.

The incident involved artistic representations of tied-up Muslims being raped by dogs (as had reportedly occurred to incarcerated people of the same faith). Dogs were utilized because due to their consideration as being the most disliked, lowly creatures in Islam. Other highly-inappropriate, disgusting, and insensitive illustrations went to print. I could not begin to imagine the uproar that would take place in a Westernized nation if, in the same context, there was a contest to draw a likenesses of God, Jesus Christ, or any other holy icon, in order for them to be printed amongst cartoons of children being raped by religious or other authority figures. In this situation, described as artistic expression and/or freedom of speech, moral and philosophical boundaries melted.

Unveiled Threat made for a compelling read that, at its core, focused on personal boundaries being legally melted by changing societal norms. This book contained elements of stories shared by Nonie Darwish, in her book titled, “Now They Call Me Infidel: Why I Renounced Jihad for America, Israel, and the War on Terror.” Plus, Ayaan Hirsi Ali stressed similar warnings in the three pieces I have read of hers: 1.) Nomad–From from Islam to America: a Personal Journey Through the Clash of Civilizations; 2.) Infidel; and, 3.) The Caged Virgin: An Emancipation Proclamation for Women and Islam.

Tavakoli’s book made me hold my breath quite a bit. At times I felt my eyes racing from one sentence to the next because of the energy that the author’s writing style created. The reading enjoyment factor caused the book to easily earn five stars; but, what I thought were minor historical discrepancies did cause me to reduce the work’s overall rating by that of one star. These minute differences in no way diminished the author’s experiences nor intensity of the situations covered in the piece. The most important factual fabric of this book maintained its integrity.

Groupie Moment: Countdown to Kinzer (Part Two)

the-true-flag-theodore-roosevelt-mark-twain-and-the-birth-of-american-empire-by-stephen-kinzerThank goodness that I recently joined the Twitter-verse (@StreedsReads)! It was there that I quickly became a follower of one of my favorite authors, Stephen Kinzer (@StephenKinzer), resulting in something I had dreamt of, but never thought would happen: meeting him. On the eve of one week ago, I just happened to be on Twitter late at night…such a romantic thing for a wife (who adores her husband) to do…don’t you think? Instantly I saw the transformative tweet from Kinzer, about his newest release, “The True Flag: Theodore Roosevelt, Mark Twain, and the Birth of American Empire.” If you missed it, details were posted in: Groupie Moment: Countdown to Kinzer.

The next day, I called Vroman’s to reserve my copy of “The True Flag.” No way was I going to risk not having one for the event. Plus, that bookstore’s policy stated that with the purchase of said book, attendees could bring up to three other Kinzer works from home library for the author to sign–YIPPEEEEEE!

But, just one problem: the “Kinzer Groupie” status was achieved by borrowing books from my local library system. The time had come for that big word—“C-O-M-M-I-T-M-E-N-T:” It was the only way to prove my groupie worthiness by purchasing some of the author’s books. My husband revealed that he was already one step ahead of me, because he intended to take me to the local (for us, but not in a corporate sense) bookstore so that we could pick up other Kinzer titles for the event.  Finally, I would officially have Kinzer-esque bragging rights!

The store had only two other Kinzer books:
1. All The Shah’s Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror (I read this one years ago, having reviewed it on my Goodreads and LibraryThing profiles at the time; recently, I posted it to this blog as well.)
2. The Brothers: John Foster Dulles, Allen Dulles, and Their Secret World War (I planned to read this one upon its release in 2016 but allowed myself to be lured into temptation by other books…even though they kept their covers on. Shame on me! What kind of Kinzer fan am I?)

My husband and I got dressed up for our date night, because nerds-at-heart do things like this for excitement. We really do! We left our home to allow two and one-half hours for the commute and arrived in approximately 90 minutes…relieved by the lack of normally-heavy Los Angeles and Inland Empire traffic.

2017-02_kinzerbooksfortrueflagauthoreventOnce inside the store, I immediately purchased my book, bringing my “To Be Autographed” set to three pieces; so, I knew I could relax a little bit.  I realized that I was in a special place…feeling as though no outside world existed.  Endless aisles of texts surrounded us, as well as anything that a book nerd/aficionado would want to couple with reading: luxury pens and high-end stationary sets, fragrant candles and exotic incense, cosmopolitan coffees and unusual teas plus specialty cups/mugs to enjoy them, themed socks and aprons, plus more, more, more. We entered the adjoining cafe and ate a light meal together, not wanting to chance a growling stomach interrupting Stephen Kinzer’s lecture. My husband opted to have some coffee and work for a little bit while I walked around the store…with less than a half-hour left in my “Countdown to Kinzer.”

I’ll never forget what happened next…as I was looking at books in the “Military History section, I heard HIS voice. Not to confuse anyone…it was not GOD’s voice. It was that of the man of the hour (other than the one of every hour, who is my husband) Mr. Stephen Kinzer. I turned toward the voice, and there he was! Adenaline coursed through me, causing my heart to race. For an instant I froze, like a little girl caught with her hand in the cookie jar. The next second I came to my senses, slowly took a deep breath and sauntered away.

How rude of me to walk away, right?  I moved calmly, as though seeing Kinzer was an everyday thing. Then, when I rounded the corner, I doubled by pace and raced to get to my husband, back at the cafe. I leaned toward him and in an excited whisper I said, “He’s here!” And, my totally calm and cool husband smiled and said, “That’s why we’re here, right?”

Of course that was why we were there! But why did I walk away from one of my favorite authors, especially when I had been wanting to meet him for years? YEARS!!! My reason was simple. Despite my excitement, I wanted to be respectul of the fact that the man was not “On Stage” or “On Duty” yet. His personal time was his own; so, what possibly appeared to be rudeness or indifference was really about my effort to respect boundaries.

I spent the remaining time just perusing the opposite side of the store taking pictures. Then I began to feel more like a tourist or a really bad wanna-be spy. After two non-covert and very obvious snapshots were taken, I realized I had snapped the most important pre-event images anyway (except a display of “The True Flag“): Scrabble and Shakespeare, and I’ll tell you why.

My husband and I played Scrabble on our first date. We had agreed to meet for coffee; but I brought Scrabble, a Scrabble Players’ Dictionary, and Boggle. He had never played Scrabble before; and, wouldn’t you know it? They guy won the game and the girl!

Shakespeare was a man who snuck into my teenage daughter’s bedroom in a way that I never would have guessed. A while back, my teenage daughter began disappearing to her bedroom and only coming out for meals, school, and quick chores. I was growing concerned; so, one night I tip-toed to her door (wanna-be spy mode, again) and suddenly knocked. She immediately responded for me to come in. That was when I found her in bed with Shakespeare. I was proud to discover that she was disappearing because she did not want to stop reading books. Later I learned that she had been giving her younger brother lessons in Shakespeare, which really warmed my heart. That was why I took a picture of the Shakespeare socks.  I think I should get them for her.

Review: United States of Jihad: Americans Fighting for Radical Islam–Investigating America’s Homegrown Terrorists–From Al-Qaeda to ISIS

cvr_united-states-of-jihad-americans-fighting-for-radical-islam-from-al-qaeda-to-isis-by-peter-bergenUnited States of Jihad: Americans Fighting for Radical Islam–Investigating America’s Homegrown Terrorists–From Al-Qaeda to ISIS by Peter Bergen

MY RATING: 5/5 Stars

FTC NOTICE: Purchased Book

REVIEW: Forget everything you think you know about radical Islam, Al-Qaeda, ISIS, et. al. Close your eyes and pretend for just a moment that you have never seen pictures of radicalized Islamic terrorists and the results of their destructive events. Now open your eyes, and read Peter Bergen’s book, “United States of Jihad: Americans Fighting for Radical Islam–Investigating America’s Homegrown Terrorists–From Al-Qaeda to ISIS;” and, prepare to have your mind blown. Not literally blown!!! I’m not a terrorist, and neither is the author; but, I’ve obviously got some explaining to do.

My husband was on a business trip in the Washington, D.C. Metro area. Each time he does this, he tries to stop by a place that is special to us: Coco Sala Restaurant and Chocolate Boutique. What what does chocolate have to do with “United States of Jihad?” One day he arrived before the chocolate boutique opened; so he walked to one of my other favorite places, “The International Spy Museum” and entered its bookstore. From there he called me and said, “Honey, have you read, “X” where “X” became a list of books that he was plucking from the shelves and hoping to bring home to me. How incredibly thoughtful and kind of him! When he mentioned, “United States of Jihad,” I became excited…and that’s how he knew to bring it home for me.
cvr_united-states-of-jihad_withcoversticker_intlspymuseum_signedcopy-by-peter-bergen cvr_united-states-of-jihad_insidecoverpg_signed-by-peter-bergenWhen I opened the museum store’s goody bag, I was delighted that my husband chose a hardcover copy of the book. It had a sticker on the upper corner, but all I noticed was “SPY” and thanked my husband with a big hug and a kiss. Then he said, “And its autographed, too.”  I took another look, saw the author’s signature, and couldn’t stop smiling.  My husband wanted to do something so special for me, and I could not hug him enough.  His night definitely had a happier ending than it did for people in Bergen’s work!  This book became one more addition to several works written by terrorism expert Peter Bergen, who has a long list of accomplishments to his name (Learn more by visiting his website: PeterBergen.com). His other books to-date include the following:

*Manhunt: The Ten-Year Search for Bin Laden–from 9/11 to Abbottabad
*The Longest War: The Enduring Conflict between America and Al-Qaeda
*Drone Wars: Transforming Conflict, Law, and Policy
*The Osama bin Laden I Know: An Oral History of Al-Qaeda’s Leader
*Holy War, Inc.: Inside the Secret World of Osama bin Laden
*Talibanistan

While I did not read this book while sitting in a place (real or imaginary) called “Talibanistan,” I was able to absorb the contents while resting in the comfort of my seemingly-safe home, in the Post-9/11 environment, of the United States of America. “Since the attacks of September 11, 2001, 330 people in the United States have been charged with some kind of jihadist terrorist crime ranging in seriousness from murder to sending small sums of money to a terrorist group.  An astonishing four out of five of them are U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents.  Moreover, more than one hundred American citizens or residents have been charged after traveling overseas to join a terrorist group, and further thirty-nine were arrested in the States while planning to do so” (10). In its simplest terms, this is a form of treason:  to join a group or accept an ideology whose goal is to kill Americans.  This book is an attempt to discern why these Americans made that choice, how U.S. institutions and the Muslim community in the United States have responded, and how a threat of terrorism on American soil has changed us” (10–11).

They are ordinary Americans” (15)…just like me…and my parents…and my children. Our children–America’s children! Every parent can attest to the feeling that our children are always our children until the day we die. Imagine the horror when the immigrated parents were so proud to be in this country and would not intentionally do anything to harm it…only to get a knock on the door or a special phone call from law enforcement (of any type). The kind you don’t want knocking at your door unless its to say they moved in next door and wanted to know if you had a cup of sugar.

But, this story had no sugary sweetness to it; no additives, no preservatives, no artificial anything. It was all truth that left me with quite a bit to think about post-read. Bergen shared interesting investigative elements about “America’s homegrown terrorists:”

*The religious conversion process and steps to achieving extremism.
*Terrorist organization recruitment efforts: targeted marketing with well-understood ideal candidate profiles that include demographics and psychographics.
*Islamist terrorism and its “relationship to the religion of Islam” (27).
*How political correctness contributed to ignoring or insufficiently investigating suspected radicals.
*Challenges in knowing when and how to legally acquire and use data.
*”The key role that families and communities played in preventing violent extremism was also overlooked in the effort to justify more exotic counterterrorism measures” (218).
*Entrapment and false arrests of non-jihadists to improve performance reporting.

United States of Jihad” proved itself to be an excellent, highly-recommendable read. Peter Bergen delivered on every one of his promises to the reader. This book challenged and overhauled the American belief system of what comprised a jihadist. The author’s writing style was clear, cohesive, and compelling…from start to finish, easily earning it a five-star rating.

Review: The Fall Of The Shah

cvr_the-fall-of-the-shah-by-fereydoun-hoveyda-roger-liddell-translatorThe Fall Of The Shah by Fereydoun Hoveyda, Roger Liddell (Translator)

MY RATING: 4/5 Stars

FTC NOTICE: Library Book

REVIEW: This passionately-written book written was created as a tri-faceted account of “The Fall of the Shah” by Fereydoun Hoveyda, an Iranian Diplomat, under Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. Hoveyeda adeptly delved into core themes to support the book’s title; and, I enjoyed reading the up-close perspective and how Hoveyda (and others) reached a point where they recognized that the Shah no longer wished to hear the truth from his court. The author’s brother, Abbas, Iran’s former Prime Minister suffered as a result. I found myself impressed by how well the writer wove a tapestry of parallel histories: foreign intervention to create the rise and fall of the Shah, momentum of the Islamic Revolution, and Abbas Hoveyda’s assassination.

“No matter what one believes about the theories of foreign intervention in Iran’s affairs, there is no denying that the Shah did all he possibly could to bring about the collapse of his dynasty. His armaments policy, the corruption in his entourage, his ruthless repression and stifling dictatorship gnawed like a cancer at his whole system, especially during his last two years in power. Blinded by his own dreams of grandeur and walled off from the realities of the country, the Shah ignored popular aspirations, despised the clergy, and antagonized both the world and his own people simultaneously…with the help of his family he was the true and certain author of his own downfall” (215-216).

The author expertly crafted the final component of this book by leaving the reader with a a few strong and intriguing points for consideration. I did not wish to spoil the book for anybody, but felt compelled to extrapolate one of the arguments. An issue surrounded the events of the 1953 coup: it involved the overthrow of Mohammad Mossaddeq. The question essentially became “What if the coup had failed?” It almost did, but Hoveyda did not want his readers to think about the coup results in the same way that we have since its occurrence. What if Kermit Roosevelt continued with his efforts for the United States government (on behalf of British interests), but the last Shah of Iran decided to not return to his country anyway? Essentially, it would have been an incomplete intervention.

One of my favorite authors, Stephen Kinzer, specialized in the subject of American interventions into foreign countries to protect U.S. “interests.” His book, “All the Shah’s Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror ” covered the details of this significant historical event quite well. Hoveyda’s book left me wondering, “What would Kinzer think would happen without the return of the last Shah? How would it possibly have altered Iran-US relations? Would the timeline to Islamic Revolution have possibly sped up, stayed the same, or whittled down to nothing? I encourage people to read both Hoveyda’s and Kinzer’s renditions of the the Shah’s decline to decide for themselves.

Review: Overthrow: America’s Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq

cvr_overthrow-americas-century-of-regime-change-from-hawaii-to-iraq-by-stephen-kinzerOverthrow: America’s Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq by Stephen Kinzer

MY RATING: 3/5 Stars

FTC NOTICE: Library Book

REVIEW: Stephen Kinzer’s ” Overthrow: America’s Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq” sought to illustrate a trended pattern of regime changes driven by the United States government on foreign land. He detailed specific situations and defined the categories of coups, coupled with commonalities of the countries in which the USA initiated overthrows of key politicians.

Blatant coups took place in countries with rich, natural resources that fell under foreign (namely, American) control; or in scenarios where nationalization of those resources were attempted, America stepped in to protect its corporate interests. Covert coups, typically of the Cold War Era, seemed to be conducted differently because they were based on an assumption that Communism need to be stopped. “Far easier was to categorize nationalism simply as a disguised form of Communist aggression and seek to crush it wherever it reared its ugly head” (pp. 215-216).

“What distinguishes Americans from citizens of past empires is their eagerness to persuade themselves that they are acting out of humanitarian motives. For most of the “regime change” era, the United States did little or nothing to promote democracy in the countries whose governments it deposed” (pg. 316). The consistent, immediate effects of US-driven coups led to “larcenous frenzy” (pg. 306), and insufficient troop support to stop fires, looting, and other crimes of opportunity.

Kinzer’s research revealed that US has mistakenly believed that in making a foreign country turn democratic that it can be equated with the political position of being pro-American. More often than not, the converse has revealed itself to be true. Coups/Overthrows tend to “bind the United States” to the subject matter countries. It was this form of attachment that chiseled our almost inescapable legacy.

Overthrow: America’s Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq became the fourth book I read by Stephen Kinzer; and, it was my least favorite of the bunch. It was typical for there to be a lack of transition between the chapters (typically representing a separate country), and when he tried to make the chapters connect toward the end of the book, his paragraphs seemed to jump around. The book lacked structural cohesion and seemed to be a rush-to-production piece that took his research from previous books and slammed it/them together to call the compendium a defined work. The fact that I had already become a Kinzer fan was what pushed me to read this book to completion.

Review: The Caged Virgin: An Emancipation Proclamation for Women and Islam

cvr_the-caged-virgin-an-emancipation-proclamation-for-women-and-islam-by-ayaan-hirsi-aliThe Caged Virgin: An Emancipation Proclamation for Women and Islam by Ayaan Hirsi Ali

MY RATING: 3/5 Stars

FTC NOTICE: Library Book

RELATED MOVIE(S): Submission: Part I (2004) (TV Short) (No Trailer Available)

REVIEW: The moment I started reading Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s, “ The Caged Virgin: An Emancipation Proclamation for Women and Islam,” I realized that I missed her style of writing, having previously read “Nomad–From from Islam to America: A Personal Journey Through the Clash of Civilizations” and “Infidel.” The beginning of her book reflected an assertive manner without being offensive, a consistent characteristic offered in all three texts. This approach compelled the me to want to walk in-step with the author while she described her journey and goals. These items included, but were not limited to, the following:

Description of her credentials;
Definition of Muslim absolutism;
Contrasting of Islamic fundamentalist ideology to the Western paradigm;
Depiction of gender-based abuse of women;
Caution to countries to be watchful of fundamentalism;
Summarizing legal, regulatory, and operational barriers to reform;
Advising how martyrdom became established;
Utilization of sociocultural visual models;
Referring to examples by germane experts;
Creation of a valuable list to escape domestic abuse; and,
Elaboration of her film.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali performed her goals without making the reader of previous books feel as though the author was simply doing an inexpensive re-write. The examples, visuals and references the writer provided were solid and easy to understand. A case in point was that I did not remember learning about the sociocultural triangular models prior to reading this book, and I found myself wanting to learn more about them. It caused me to add such books to my reading list.

However, with the author’s goals accomplished and the reader wanting to learn more, one must wonder why this book earned only three stars in lieu of four or five of them? I found the “Part One,” scene-by-scene description of the author’s film, “Submission” to be redundant and unnecessary. It treated the reader as though he/she could not have understood what was already communicated (repeatedly) throughout the book. Progression through the chapter enabled me to graphically envision her scenes, which served as her goal; but it was as if I could not walk out of the movie theater. I was already too invested in (most of the way through) the book. This chapter came across as an over-the-top plug of self-promotion. If she wanted to promote her film, she could have increased the cost of her book and included a CD/DVD of the scene in a pocket/insert.

I had hoped that the chapters that followed the film scenes would enable the author to redeem herself. Unfortunately, such a thing did not occur. It did not destroy Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s message; it simply reduced how I valued this book. The author’s message is conveyed much better in her other books “Nomad” and “Infidel.” I highly recommend those texts.

Review: A Thousand Hills: Rwanda’s Rebirth and the Man Who Dreamed It

cvr_a-thousand-hills_rwandas-rebirth-and-the-man-who-dreamed-it-by-stephen-kinzerA Thousand Hills: Rwanda’s Rebirth and the Man Who Dreamed It by Stephen Kinzer

MY RATING: 5/5 Stars

FTC NOTICE: Library Book

RELATED MOVIE(S): Hotel Rwanda (2004)

REVIEW: The central figure in Rwanda’s rebirth, Paul Kagame, emerged during the first decade of the twenty-first century as one of the most intriguing figures in Africa (pg. 3). “He preaches a doctrine of security, guided reconciliation, honest governance, and, above all, self-reliance” (pg. 3). Three distinct parts comprise Stephen Kinzer’s book, “A Thousand Hills: Rwanda’s Rebirth and the Man Who Dreamed It:” colonial rule, genocide, and reconciliation. Rwanda’s current status rests in that of reconciliation. The genocides have been dated as far back as 1959, and colonial rule has been officially established as early as 1884. This time-frame may be equated with the creation of the foundation for this country’s genocide.

The “Berlin Conference of 1884-1885 had awarded Germany control over the territory of Ruanda-Urundi, which today forms the ‘twin’ nations of Rwanda and Burundi” (pg. 24). During World War I, Germany lost Rwanda to Belgium. Belgians took over and created an official, twisted classification system of segmenting Rwandans already existing tribes (Tutsi, Hutu and a minute group of Twa) into racism-based categories.

Laws passed that required Rwandans to always carry their race identification cards. Belgians placed Tutsi into power positions and the Hutu majority into, essentially, servitude and poverty. As the world social climate changed, Belgian alignment with the non-majority Tutsi did not bode well with outsiders. Belgium reduced its presence in Rwanda, placed the majority Hutu in power, and broke its alliance with the Tutsi. The Hutu utilized this situation as a time for payback; and, “the racial designation on the cards, called ubokwo, would later consign hundreds of thousands of Tutsi to death” (pg. 26).

As a child, Paul Kagame’s life was spared due to royal interference at just the right time; ultimately his family had to flee to Uganda to preserve its safety. Paul developed a close relationship with Fred Rwigyema while in a Ugandan refugee camp. At one point, Fred had disappeared to conduct a string of rebel activity for the sole purpose of overthrowing Uganda’s Idi Amin. Once this action was completed, Fred returned, reunited with Paul and shared the rebel knowledge with Rwandan exiles. This knowledge helped them envision an independent Rwanda; thus the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) was formed.

“Most RPF leaders…grew up in Uganda, spoke English, and felt no connection to France” (pg. 95); this was opposite of Rwanda’s Hutu regime. Kinzer described how the RPF gained strength and credibility over time and that Uganda supported this group as allies. Prior to the mass genocide of 1994, Kagame negotiated a “Demilitarized Zone” created by the Arusha accords; they also mandated withdrawals of French troops coupled with United Nations neutrality, the latter two points were ones of consternation for the RPF leader. Regardless of the accords, plans continued to develop under Hutu extremists for increased killing of Tutsi. The Hutu hardliners began developing militias and a vocabulary to start carrying out the genocides; “death squads in Kigali could slaughter one thousand people in twenty minutes, kill Belgian peacekeepers (so the rest would withdrawal)…” (pg. 125). One could assert that they created a genocidal culture; it was supported by France and other countries, including the Middle East. The United Nations had no idea as to the haste and extent of the genocidal campaign. Regardless, UN troops withdrew “except for 270 whose main job was to watch the slaughter” (pg. 156).

Stephen Kinzer was thorough in interviewing an array of people familiar with the holocaust and having them define what reconciliation meant to them. It proved to be a word with much more meaning than that found in the dictionary. The word evoked an expectation of all Rwandans and perhaps the outside world as well. The author delivered well on his promise. He provided an in-depth set of lessons all rolled up into a neat package. He took readers on a visitor’s tour in between interviews and casual conversations. Quotes were well-utilized and did not detract from the intensity of neither the story of Rwanda nor the accomplishments of Paul Kagame. “A Thousand Hills: Rwanda’s Rebirth and the Man Who Dreamed It” encompassed all of this and so much more…easily earning it a well-deserved five-star rating and a place on my “Favorites” list.

Groupie Moment: Countdown to Kinzer

Late last night my husband and I had just settled into bed. He had worked one of his extended days that seemed to start the day before, and I was looking adoringly at him…so thankful for him. I thought about how in that moment I loved him more than when I woke up yesterday morning.

Then, I did what any loving wife would do…I opened my iPad and went onto Twitter. It was in that moment when I saw a tweet from one of my favorite authors, Stephen Kinzer. He announced that he was going to be in Pasadena (California) tonight (Feb. 13, 2017). Excitedly, like a hyper-puppy greeting its owner as she walks in the door, I was all over my husband and mentioned the event.

tweet_kinzerevent_trueflag_vroomans-bookstore

He told me we could go, and a long-held dream of mine (to meet Kinzer) was suddenly going to come true in the only way that it could ever happen…because it was a gift from the man I love more than the air I breathe. My husband is giving of his time, hard-earned money, and making the drive, all for the woman he loves. I am so grateful to him and idolize him more than anyone else on the planet.

So, tonight, my husband and I will be in a different area of the planet…which can take one and one-half to three hours to get there, from where we live, depending upon traffic. And, when is there ever not traffic in Southern California!!! I am sharing a link to the event details on the Vroman’s Bookstore web-site.

Event: Stephen Kinzer Discussion and Book Signing
Subject: His Newest Book–The True Flag: Theodore Roosevelt, Mark Twain, and the Birth of American Empire
Details: Vroman’s Bookstore

To say that I am excited is an incredible understatement. I have already read a few of Kinzer’s works, but I figured that his piece titled, “The Brothers: John Foster Dulles, Allen Dulles & Their Secret World War” would be my next read of his. But, I’ve been naughty by not keeping up on my Kinzer reads. What kind of a groupie am I??? These are his books that I have already read:

*All the Shah’s Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror
*Overthrow: America’s Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq
*A Thousand Hills: Rwanda’s Rebirth and the Man Who Dreamed It (My favorite of his, so far!)
*Reset: Iran, Turkey, and America’s Future

I would love to read about any of Stephen Kinzer’s works that you have read and what you thought about them. In the meantime, I’ll be doing two things as once: 1.) spoiling my husband all day to express my utmost gratitude; and, 2.) doing my countdown to Kinzer.