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Review: ‘The Taliban Shuffle’ by Kim Barker

Title: The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan
Author: Kim Barker
Genre: Memoir
Year: 2011
Acquired: Library
Rating: ★★★½☆

Kim Barker is not your typical, impassive foreign correspondent—she is candid, self-deprecating, laugh-out-loud funny. At first an awkward newbie in Afghanistan, she grows into a wisecracking, seasoned reporter with grave concerns about our ability to win hearts and minds in the region. In The Taliban Shuffle, Barker offers an insider’s account of the “forgotten war” in Afghanistan and Pakistan, chronicling the years after America’s initial routing of the Taliban, when we failed to finish the job. (Source)

The Taliban Shuffle was a book that hit on many of my book weaknesses – journalism, the Middle East, foreign politics, and the role of women in all of those fields. So in that respect, I should have been completely in love with The Taliban Shuffle. Except I wasn’t, at least not as entirely as I expected, and I cannot figure out why.

I liked the way Barker wasn’t too serious about her role as a journalist, how she was able to point to many of the absurd things happening as part of the U.S.-led war efforts in Afghanistan and Pakistan. On the other hand, I think her irreverence was also hard for me. I like to think of journalism as a sort of noble profession, and she definitely challenges that assumption both with her own behavior and that of her colleagues.

It may have just been a matter of expectations set a little too high. Who knows. The Taliban Shuffle is a really good example of the sort of in-the-trenches Middle East memoir by a journalist that I love and I think it’s a good book if that sort of thing interests you too.

If you want a better bit about this book, I’ll direct you over to this post by Kit (Books are my Boyfriends), about her favorite nonfiction subgenre, “Intrepid Girl Reporters Documenting Their Adventures While in Nuts-Crazy Far-Flung Locales.”

Other Reviews:

If you have reviewed this book, please leave a link to the review in the comments and I will add your review to the main post. All I ask is for you to do the same to mine — thanks!

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • bermudaonion (Kathy) December 2, 2011, 7:55 am

    Maybe it was a matter of bad timing because that does sound like a book for you. It sounds interesting to me as well.

    • Kim December 5, 2011, 8:08 pm

      Yeah, I think it just wasn’t quite the right time. I hate when that happens!

  • Meg December 2, 2011, 10:29 am

    Hmm . . . sorry to hear this one didn’t completely click for you! I also enjoy memoirs detailing journalists and foreign correspondents overseas, but I can understand what you mean about the irreverence being both a hindrance and a boon.

    • Kim December 5, 2011, 8:09 pm

      I probably love memoirs by foreign journalists more than I love stunt memoirs… and I love stunt memoirs :)

  • Maphead December 3, 2011, 10:52 am

    Sorry to hear as well. I might check it out anyway, since I’d like to read a few more books about Afghanistan.

    • Kim December 5, 2011, 8:11 pm

      I think my lukewarm reaction was a lot more me and when I was reading it than a critique of the book. Baker does a great job writing about some of the complexities of the war in Afghanistan and our mistakes there.

  • Swapna December 18, 2011, 12:54 pm

    I’m hoping the eh reaction was because of timing, because this book certainly sounds interesting! I hope it’s okay if I add a link to it to the South Asian Review Database.

    • Kim December 22, 2011, 3:42 pm

      Yes, I hope so too. I think it really was me and not the book. And yes, absolutely fine!