Review: Shah of Shahs

cvr_shah-of-shahs-by-ryszard-kapuscinskiShah of Shahs, by Ryszard Kapuściński, William R. Brand (Translator), Katarzyna Mroczkowska-Brand (Translator), and Margaret Atwood (Contributor: “Afterward”)

MY RATING: 4/5 Stars

FTC NOTICE: Library Book (both times)

REVIEW: “Only a few months ago it was an achievement, like winning a lottery, to get a room in this city. Despite the many, many hotels, there was such an avalanche of people that new arrivals had to rent beds in private hospitals just to have a place to stay. Now the boom of easy money and dazzling transactions is over, the local businessmen are lying low, and the foreign partners have fled, leaving everything behind (5). Tourism has fallen to zero; all international traffic has frozen. Some hotels were burned down, others are closed or empty, and in one of them, guerrillas have set up their headquarters. Today the city is engrossed in its own affairs, it doesn’t need foreigners, it doesn’t need the world” (5-6). Everything has suddenly changed: welcome to Iran’s Islamic Revolution

When Iran’s last shah fled his country, he terminated approximately 2,500 years of monarchy and a few decades of significant progress in women’s rights, religious freedom, the arts, technology, business, oil and nuclear energy, plus military might. Polish journalist Ryszard Kapuściński had been assigned to Iran cover Ayatollah Khomeini’s return and events surrounding the revolution. As he watched the television to see the initial speech, the author noted the following: “Nothing in that murderous climate would seem to favor reflection and contemplation, yet Qom is a place of religious fervor, rabid orthodoxy, mysticism, and faith militant.  It contains five hundred mosques and the nation’s biggest seminaries.  Koranic scholars and the guardians of tradition quarrel in Qom; the venerable ayatollahs convene their councils there; Khomeini rules the country from Qom.” (6).

Kapuściński authored “Shah of Shahs” as a way to communicate timelines via dagguerotypes (photos and cassette recordings). The journalist’s contemplative and wise voice definitely came through as the reader took in descriptions of images and circumstances. The approach seemed distant, yet intimate, as he described Iran’s vast history, the lead-up to revolution and as well as a psychological profile of the country’s leadership and sociological make-up of its citizenry…the latter of which appeared to be significantly misunderstood by the Pahlavis. He designed the book as a travel log, an approach consistent with another work of his that I recently read, about his travels through one of Iran’s neighbors: the Soviet Empire. Its corresponding compendium titled “Imperium,” reveals a consistency in the author’s qualities; one must read both works to recognize how true they were to the author’s writing style and in their paralleled histories, which made sense given their intertwining relationship(s). “Shah of Shahs” heavily focused on the following themes:

*Fervent nationalism: mandated unique language—Farsi.
*Petroleum business: so much money, so little for the people.
*Regime change.
*Inertia of revolution.
*Societal changes: progression, regression, repression.
*Power-struggles and hierarchy: familial, governmental, international.
*Paradoxical histories: lessons of opposites.

Shah of Shahs” was the first book containing the great lessons of Ryszard Kapuściński. In 2013 I rated the book an easy five stars. On this re-read, and after reading so many more works dealing with the same topics, my excitement seemed a bit tempered; then (early 2017) I gave the book a four-star rating. Please note that he book remained as recommendable as before. It did an excellent job of taking a large amount of information and condensing it into nuggets of the most important data points necessary to understand the ascension and reign of Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi. The author’s voice and format remained unique when compared to many other reading experiences I had in the four years between the first and second reads. I simply did not find myself as impressed with the work as before. One could combine the two ratings, to yield four-and-a-half starts, then round them up to five stars…I guess; but, the gusto just did not seem to still be there on the second read. What it did lead me to was the intent to read more Kapuściński in 2017 (which was exactly what I did with his book, “Imperium).

Advertisements

Quote: The Terrorist Next Door–How the Government is Deceiving you About the Islamic Threat

The Terrorist Next Door: How the Government is Deceiving you About the Islamic Threat by Erick Stakelbeck

FTC NOTICE: Purchased Book

Radicalization in the West: The Homegrown Threat identified a four-step process that leads an individual or group to accept jihadist ideology and to act on it:

*Pre-radicalization: The subject is searching for something else in their life and comes into contact with radicalization agents.

*Identification: The individual begins to adopt various changes of dress, mannerisms and lifestyle in accordance with adopting a new set of beliefs.

*Indoctrination: Now involved with a new set of associates, they are subjected to intense ideological training that reinforces jihadist narratives and justifications for violence.

*Jihadization: The individual agrees that violence is necessary for the “defense” of Islam, and is recruited to engage in violent acts.

The report’s authors stress that this process can happen over long periods of time, or can occur rather quickly” (188).

Review: Princes of Darkness: The Saudi Assault on the West

Princes of Darkness: The Saudi Assault on the West by Laurent Murawiec

MY RATING: 3/5 Stars

FTC NOTICE: Library Book

MOVIE TRAILER: Bhutto

REVIEW: “Let us admit…that the title “prince” is purely formal. Even if one were to respect the right of illiterate and course nomads to call their chiefs princes–we have no reason to be gratuitously discourteous–the demographic explosion of the Al-Saud family has created an endless supply of pseudo-princes. It even seems impossible to count this sub-species, which multiplies uncontrollably. Are there three or eight thousand Saudi “princes”? No one knows. If necessary, it was agreed–politeness to foreigners–to call the dozen bearded men in jellabas “princes.” But five or eight thousand? Inflation, as it is well known, devalues currency. The inflation of princes has devalued the title. Each prince thus bears the title of only one five-thousandth of a prince, so that at diplomatic receptions, the introduction might go: “Royal Highness the five-thousandth of a Prince Bandar,” which would be closer to reality” (229).

Yet, Laurent Murawiec, author of “Princes of Darkness: The Saudi Assault on the West,” wrote a book’s worth of “reasons to be gratuitously discourteous” (229), in his efforts to expose the everything he wanted readers to know about the Saudi Royal Family, he also freely injected caustic language. The author contended that Saudi oil came to life as a result of simply happening to inhabit the land under which the petrol sources rested. He wanted to establish that this royal family was nothing more than a self-propagating orgy of princes and their several wives to create future generations in order to maintain their power. “Saudi Arabia, for its part, modernized nothing. It was in 1957 – – and not in the seventh century – – that King Saud [SIC] issued and edict forbidding women to drive. In the name of Islam, the Saudi-Wahhabi regime has worsened the position of women. Sequestration inside the walls of home, the requirement to wear and an abaya showing only the eyes, and illiteracy and the virtual impossibility of exercising a profession, the prohibition of pursuing education abroad” (14-15), etc. Additional information included the author’s suggestion that the US invasion of Iraq existed as favor to Saudis…under threat of (Iran’s) Shia being able to obtain Iraqi oil reserves and out-power “The Kingdom.” He also delved into the formation of OPEC and OAPEC, asserting themselves as nothing more than political oil cartels, regardless of the fact that that the producing countries simply wanted control over what came from their territories. “Oil, everything comes down to oil” (179). Murawiec clearly had a problem with everybody and everything pertaining to the Saudi Royal Family, defining them as nothing more than Bedouin tribal thieves utilizing their religion as a weapon.

Despite the author’s frequently injected opinions that tended to distract from important historical facts, I enjoyed learning more about the Saudis and their relationship with Pakistan. This alliance may also have been the reason why Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was prohibited from obtaining “The Bomb.” I found this to be particularly interesting because, after seeing the film “Bhutto,” I wondered why Dr. Henry Kissinger adamantly emphasized to Bhutto that he would regret developing nuclear weaponry. After all, the USA developed “The Bomb,” then the USSR did the same thing. China then sensed it needed nuclear weapons to protect itself from the Russians. India felt threatened and started testing its “Bomb;” therefore, it appeared only rational that Pakistan would develop equal-caliber capabilities to protect itself from India. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was denied this power. General Zia-ul-Haq became Bhutto’s Chief of Staff (most likely at the request of the USA or Saudi Arabia), and then this man seized power via military coup…and got “The Bomb” anyway.

Mr. Murawiec did not go into all of that detail with Pakistan, because his book was about exposing the Saudi Royal Family’s power matrix. Pakistan played a somewhat minute role (in the context of their total power-base). The author explained how Pakistan’s intelligence arm, the ISI, “pulled the wool over the CIA’s eyes, manipulated American policy for its benefit, and came out on top” (77), thereby orchestrating the election(s) of Benazir Bhutto as part of a façade to appease the Western world.

While this review did not share nearly as much as what one can read and learn about in “Princes of Darkness: The Saudi Assault on the West,” my goal was to communicate that the author demonstrated compelling writing skills and strong subject matter knowledge, yet he faltered in maintaining a modicum of professionalism that one would expect from a person with his impressive credentials. I failed to appreciate when he repeatedly injected vitriolic statements such as the following: “We have seen the way in which Saudi Arabia asserted control over Pakistan, or, if you like, the Wahhabi acid bath into which Saudi influence plunged Pakistan” (107). Comments such as this one devalued the crucial information that he wanted exposed; as such, the book’s star rating was reduced.

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.

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 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: Infidel

“There are times when silence becomes an accomplice to injustice.”― Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Infidel

cvr_infidel-by-ayaan-hirsi-aliInfidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali

MY RATING: 5/5 Stars

FTC NOTICE: Library Book

REVIEW: Ayaan Hirsi Ali did it again–she easily pulled a five-star rating out of me for a second time. I had inadvertently read “Nomad” before “Infidel” because I did not have knowledge of this book as being her first one.

Once I started reading, “Infidel,” I was hoping that she would not simply re-state everything I had already read in the other text. She did not. In fact, while the author’s voice was consistent in both pieces of literature, the reader was educated with a series of micro-histories that could not be disregarded, neither in the character development of this fine woman nor in the culmination of Muslim Fundamentalist religious ferver on a worldwide scale.

Ayaan wanted to “…be judged on the validity of (her) arguments, not as a victim.” This stance seemed to exist as a delicately crafted undercurrent of her stories while she continued to educate the reader about her life and that of so many innocent people around the world. When she asserted that “My combat was legitimate,” it was Hirsi Ali’s way of wrapping up all of the facts into a neat package and making it clear to the reader that he/she was in survival mode with the author as well.

The only difficulty I face in writing this review is that anything submitted cannot do this author’s fine work the justice that it deserves. I find myself in awe of her life experience and how she has chosen to manifest them into an incredibly educated, passionate and compassionate existence.

In closing, I cannot wait to get my hands on her next book, “The Caged Virgin,” and continue along the path of this educational journey and heightened sense of awareness that she has created.

Review: The Fall of Heaven: The Pahlavis and the Final Days of Imperial Iran

cvr_the-fall-of-heaven_the-pahlavis-and-the-final-days-of-imperial-iranThe Fall of Heaven: The Pahlavis and the Final Days of Imperial Iran, by Andrew Scott Cooper, PhD.

MY RATING: 4/5 Stars

FTC NOTICE: Free Review Copy from Library Thing Early Reviewers Program (in exchange for an honest review)

REVIEW:  At first glance (and final review), I loved the layout and research elements of this “The Fall of Heaven: The Pahlavis and the Final Days of Imperial Iran,” by Andrew Scott Cooper. Prior to the “Introduction,” the reader encountered a list of key people and their roles, a “Revolution Timeline” and a 1979 map of Teheran, Iran (a critically important inclusion for any book focusing on Iran’s Islamic Revolution. Each chapter included two short, pertinent, and impactful quotes from different sources. History buffs, analysts, investigative personality types, and nerds at-hearts can greatly enjoy that the author shared his detailed research notes. He “constructed a 242-page, color-coordinated timeline that spanned the crucial twenty-month period from January 1, 1977, through August 31, 1978, that decided the Shah’s fate. The timeline expanded to include everything from weather reports and traffic conditions to movie and theater listings—anything to help me re-create daily life on the eve of the revolution. The timeline meant that I could follow the Shah, Queen Farah, President Carter, Ambassador Sullivan, and other personalities on a daily and even hourly basis during a critical two-year stretch. The timeline yielded unexpected patterns, trends, and turning points forgotten, neglected, or otherwise overlooked by other scholars” (15).

Dr. Andrew Scott Cooper, an expert in U.S.-Iran relations, wrote this text to serve as a correction of historical records. His qualifications included being a: “former researcher at Human Rights Watch, the US organization that monitors human rights around the world” (11). Perhaps it was this specific life experience that motivated him to write this compendium, which focused on following:

1. Iran’s human rights record within the context of the behaviors of other nation’s Cold War era dictators/rulers.
2. The scene that set the final stage for the revolution, revealing “two different revolutionary narratives” (15).
3. Farah Diba’s as a non-stereotypical model of a ruler’s wife.

The Shah’s human rights record included rumors that SAVAK held thousands of political prisoners. The last Shah countered that the numbers were greatly inflated. Dr. Cooper specified that “the lower numbers do not excuse nor diminish the suffering of political prisoners jailed nor tortured in Iran in the 1970s. They do, however, show the extent to which the historical record was manipulated by Khomeini and his partisans to criminalize the Shah and justify their own excesses and abuses” (11). The author deconstructed false analogies that compared the Shah to “Chile’s General Augusto Pinochet, blamed for the deaths of 2,279 people and 30,000 torture victims, and also to the Argentine military junta, held culpable for 30,000 deaths and disappearances” (11). Further details revealed that “within the context of the Cold War battlefronts in the Middle East and southwestern Asia, the Pahlavi state was not particularly repressive, especially when we consider that Saddam Hussein, in neighboring Iraq, was credited with the deaths of 200,000 political dissidents, while in Syria, President Hafez al-Assad crushed an Islamic uprising with 20,000 casualties. That Iran never experienced violence on such a scale suggests the Shah was a benevolent autocrat who actually enjoyed a greater degree of popular support among the Iranian people than was previously assumed” (11). Several explanations throughout the book included how Khomeini and his followers slandered the regime to gain his own political power; he was quoted as follows: “I can summon a million martyrs to any cause” (103)—and he did.

While the author did debunk rumors regarding Pahlavi regime behavior and the context in which the stories developed, the questions that must be asked include whether or not the uncovered facts carried enough weight to alter the world-view of the Pahlavi regime; and, would the Islamic Revolution still have occurred? Or, were they simply historical little white lies in the whole grand scheme of things? Readers must also determine whether or not such clarifications were worthy of a several-hundred-page compendium. Andrew Scott Cooper’s collection of micro-histories kept its promise to the readers; but the writing style at times seemed a bit disjointed; and, coupled with seemingly unnecessary minutiae, the piece became a bit dry at times…slowing down the reading and enjoyment of this text. Where the author truly gained writing cohesion and an energetic traction that created reading momentum revealed itself after 400 pages. Had the author utilized the same writing style more pervasively, this text easily would have earned five stars in lieu of four of them.