I’ve been listening to the Bulaq podcast since episode one. I’m not exactly sure how I found it, although it was probably from the Arabist or Jaddaliya.
Bulaq has become one of my favorite podcasts, despite the fact that I read very little Arabic literature. And most of the Arabic literature I have read came based off of recommendations from the podcast or ArabLit.
While the episodes mostly focus on works of Arabic literature – in Arabic and in translation – I specifically enjoy the commentary and cultural criticism from the episode’s two hosts, Ursula Lindsey and M Lynx Qualey.
Here, Ursula raises how troublesome it can be just having these converations.
“The topic of Arab women’s sexuality is a kind of cultural minefield in which there is a long history of Western attention to the status of women in the Arab world, and specifically of their sexual freedom which is loaded with all sorts of stereotypes, and really is self-interested and sometimes malicious agendas.”
Yes. Afghanistan being the most palpable recent example.
The conversation goes on and is related to the topic of imperial feminism. That is, the idea that the defense of women can be (and often is) used as justification for empire or empire-building. It’s an important topic and one that can be shocking if you’ve never heard it before.
We’re all in our own unique information bubbles. It’s good to have things in your information diet that challenges the status quo and might even make you feel a little uncomfortable.
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I just finished Jane Blair’s book, Hesitation Kills. I ambitiously set a goal of finishing it within a week and surprisingly met my own goal (it took me about 3 months to finish Nate Fick’s One Bullet Away). This is a testament to aggressive reading on my part and a gripping book on Jane’s. The book is about Jane’s experience as a female marine officer during the initial invasion of Iraq. I always enjoy reading books about that period, because it was so unique. In terms of deployment experience, being there at the beginning of war is different to showing up during the war. It’s the pre-game show, the national anthem, the commentary, and the opening kick-off. And it rarely happens.
I’m not going to review the book, other than to say that it was great and it was especially interesting to read about a female experience in the hyper-masculine world of the marines.
Two things stuck out for me though and are worth mention. Unlike a lot of other books written by officers, Jane spends a lot of time talking about how it felt as a human at war and the agony of being separated from her husband (also a marine, who was serving in Iraq at the same time). Anyone who has deployed and left behind a loved one knows that feeling, and too often in war memoirs it gets left out or glossed over. The second thing that struck me was the authentic care Jane gave to examining her own relationship with the Middle East and the Iraqi people. Lots of authors who write about Iraq as soldiers may make mention of the things they saw and experienced and attempt to explain them. Jane does this without seeming like she had to research it. She knew a lot of this before deploying from her own studies and travel in the region. It was a refreshing and welcome change.
Oh yeah, there was this gem. A Sergeant Major is talking to Jane about how he now feels about men serving with women in combat:
“In the grunt unit I was in before, a lot of the men refused to get their [medical] shots. Many of them made a lot of fuss. It’s strange, but when we got out shots – with the females there right beside the males in line – not a single one of the men complained. It was amazing. It was as if they knew their manhood was at stake, as though the females made them braver. And then out here, I’ve noticed no difference with the females. There hasn’t been a problem. In fact, the females seem to give the men no excuse for backing out or being afraid. They make everything work better; they just balance things out.”
These are books that I have discovered or had recommended to me and would be good to read as a junior officer. My goal is to get through all of them before I’m no longer junior. Any suggestions?
Just Another Soldier (Jason Hartley) 10/13/11 One Bullet Away (Nathaniel Fick) 5/13/12 The Unforgiving Minute (Craig Mullaney) The War I Always Wanted: The Illusion of Glory and the Reality of War (Brandon Friedman) Chasing Ghosts (Paul Rieckhoff) Kaboom: Embracing the Suck in a Savage Little War (Matt Gallagher) Love My Rifle More Than You (Kayla Williams) Hesitation Kills (Jane Blair)6/10/12 The Blog of War (Matthew Burden) House to House (Davide Bellavia) Afghan Journal (Jeffrey Coulter) Once a Marine (Nick Popaditch) Greetings From Afghanistan-Send More Ammo (Benjamin Tupper) The Poor Bastards Club (Paul Mehlos) Kill Bin Laden (Dalton Fury) Horse Soldiers (Doug Stanton) The Long Road Home (Martha Raddatz) Once and Eagle (Anton Myrer)
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