Monday, February 8, 2010

Review: IraqiGirl ed. by Elizabeth Wrigley-Field

Found via: Galleycat Blog

In elementary school, I loved reading diaries from girls in war-torn areas; I had a strange preoccupation with war, actually. I read Anne Frank's diary, of course, and I actually bought Zlata's Diary at a book fair (I didn't, and still don't, actually buy many books, thanks to finite shelf space). So even though it's been a long time since I read either of those books, I figured I'd devour IraqiGirl with the same enthusiasm.

Not quite true.

IraqiGirl is a compendium of the blog kept by a girl called Hadiya (a pseudonym) from mid-2004 through the end of 2007. She lives in Mosul, Iraq, which of course has been a hotbed of violence since the beginning of the war in Iraq. Hadiya writes often of the effect the war is having on her life - car bombs blowing out the windows of her house and curfews cancelling exams - as well as her attempts to pursue a normal life: babysitting her niece, studying for exams, worrying about her grades as she nears the end of high school and must choose where to study in college.

While an on-the-ground perspective is always interesting, there is so much that is foreign about life in Iraq that goes unexplained in the book that I quickly grew tired of trying to keep track. It seems like Hadiya is constantly taking exams, and then there are idiosyncrasies like every student in the country taking their Islam exam on the same day. In the US we all take the SAT exam around the same time, but that of course is a multi-subject exam. It's also difficult to follow how much time has passed, as Hadiya isn't a consistent blogger (for multiple reasons - after all, it's hard to blog if your neighborhood doesn't have any electricity).

Occasionally there are notes in the text about events Hadiya references, explaining about the rash of doctors being kidnapped or a prominent blogger who was punished. There are also a few excerpts from the comments in Haidya's blog and chat transcripts with the people who eventually arrange for her blog to be published. Haidya's whole family actually blogs, so there's even a blog post from her father. I actually think it would have been most interesting to compile the blogs of the whole family into one book (Hadiya's mother, father and one of her sisters all blog, as well as various extended family members) since Hadiya will sometimes say something like "you can read this on my sister's blog"...but since books don't have hyperlinks and the editors didn't choose to add the pertinent entry from her sister, we don't get any further information.

Current fans of the diary format might find more to enjoy in this one than I did. And anyone who's interested in more of Hadiya's story can continue to follow her blog here.

Nonfiction Monday Thanks to Great Kids Books for hosting Nonfiction Monday this week!
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