Restless in her career and her life in general, Jennifer Steil, a gregarious, liberal New Yorker, initially accepts a short-term opportunity to teach a journalism class to the staff of the Yemen Observer in Sana'a, the beautiful, old, and very conservative capital of Yemen. Seduced by the eager reporters and the enticing prospect of spreading democratic journalistic ideals there, she extends her stay to a year as the paper's editor in chief. But she is quickly confronted with the conservative realities of Yemen---and their surprising advantages.
She discovers unexpected benefits in the concealment behind the modified burqa she wears. In teaching the basics of fair and balanced journalism to a staff that included plagiarists and polemicists, she falls in love with her career again. In confronting the blatant mistreatment and strict governance of women by their male counterparts, she learns to appreciate the strength of Arab women in the workplace. And in forging surprisingly deep friendships with women and men whose traditions and beliefs are in total opposition to her own, she learns a cultural appreciation she never could have predicted.
©2010 Jennifer F. Steil (P)2010 Tantor
“A lovely book that offers a large measure of cultural understanding in a region that is too easily misunderstood and caricatured.” (Nina Burleigh, author of Unholy Business)
I wasn't able to continue with this because of the narrator, who was the book's author. She reads too quickly, so words are missed and the key issue was, she is READING. A real audiobook narrator, in my opinion, is 'acting' the book, not reading it and it makes all the difference. It's one I chose without listening to a sample, unfortunately.
The other fault I noticed is that all the credits were read before the story began. That's again someone not understanding what is different about an audiobook. Credits are at the front of a regular book, but you can skip them if you like, returning later or not. I don't think you're very interested in all the people who helped a writer before you've actually read the book. I forced myself to try and find them entertaining, but a bunch of names one doesn't know usually aren't. I've been in lousy workshops where they did the same thing. At the end of something terrific, one does care about the great people who put it together and that's the time to celebrate them. At the beginning, it's off-putting and for me, shows a lack of understanding of the audience that doesn't bode well for the rest of the experience.
This audiobook was an error on my part, but the book might be worthwhile in print.
Other than reading this book, I know nothing about Yemen. It's fascinating to have a look into a small part of that culture. The story is interesting (romance, career achievement, hijinx) and the narration is lovely. If you are looking for a little bit of "tourism" without leaving home, I think you'll enjoy this book.
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