Adventures in Reading


City of Widows by Haifa Zangana
January 7, 2008, 12:24 pm
Filed under: book reviews, nonfiction
“This is a story written in exile, in hopes that readers in the West will gain insight into a country they have impacted so fully and so terribly.” From the Introduction of Haifa Zangana’s City of Widows.

One area of my reading that I would like to develop more in 2008 is nonfiction. Excepting literary criticism, I am not the most adoring fan of nonfiction. This is everything from biographies to histories, and I am going to endeavor to read at least one nonfiction book a month.

Since December I have wanted to read City of Widows: An Iraqi Woman’s Account of War and Resistance by Haifa Zangana, and I have finally gotten around to it. City of Widows is published by Seven Stories Press, which is a more radical publishing house that consistently offers alternative and often original opinions. Zangana’s book offers exactly this as she explores the history of the women’s movement in Iraq as it existed prior to 2003, and how the condition women live in has changed since the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Zangana’s perspective is most definitely not a mainstream Western opinion or a mainstream representation of occurrences. However, I also could not fail to notice that Zangana’s City of Widows is the only Middle Eastern studies book I found at the shop written by someone of Iraqi descent, who has not spent a good portion of their life living abroad, and who does not currently have some connection with the current administration of the U.S.A. I found City of Widows to be informative in the post-colonial restructuring of Iraq, some of the more specific socio-political differences between Iraq and the U.S.A., and of course in discussing women in Iraq.

The book is an extraordinary and well-written criticism of the occupation of Iraq. In short, Zangana accuses the American government of leading an imperial, colonial, and racist war against Iraq. A war that she describes as being largely based, or at least represented to the public, as a war for the good of women in the Middle East. City of Widows is a thoughtful portrayal of the existence of Iraqi women.

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1 Comment

[…] City of Widows by Haifa Zangana is a refreshing account of the historical and current experience of women in Iraq. Coming out in the midst of memoir after memoir exploring women’s experiences in the Middle East and with Muslim, City of Widows provided a refreshing exploration of the various women rights oriented groups that have existed throughout Iraq. Zangana strongly criticizes what current occupation has cost the hard fought successes of these groups. […]

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