Laura Kasinof on Five Influential Memoirs by Journalists Reporting Overseas

Laura Kasinof on Five Influential Memoirs by Journalists Reporting Overseas

Laura Kasinof never meant to be a war correspondent. She moved to Yemen in 2009 and quickly fell for the people and culture. It wasn’t until revolts and protests began that she realized the pivotal moment she was witnessing. Don’t Be Afraid of the Bullets: An Accidental War Correspondent in Yemen chronicles the year that she spent covering the political upheaval for the New York Times as a freelance journalist. Here, Kasinof recommends five must-read books on journalists reporting overseas.

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1. Stories I Stole by Wendell Steavenson

Wendell Steavenson, who now writes for the New Yorker, picked up and moved to the Republic of Georgia in the late 1990s, which reminded me of how I just picked up and moved to Yemen a decade later. This chronicle of her time in the country is heartwarming, funny, and full of antics and adventure, because the Republic of Georgia is all of those things.

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2. The Sky Wept Fire: My Life as a Chechen Freedom Fighter by Mikail Eldin

Mikail Eldin, journalist turned rebel fighter, wrote an eloquent memoir about his experience in the Chechen war. His story is soul-wrenching and deeply moving. It’s extremely difficult to write about conflict, to tap into visceral experience of war—and the war in Chechnya was particularly brutal—yet Eldin did just that.

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3. House of Stone by Anthony Shadid

I love this book because, more than anything else I’ve read, it reveals the everyday frustrations, but also joy and friendship, of negotiating life in the Middle East. And then, importantly, Anthony Shadid places these moments in their historical context.

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4. The Zanzibar Chest by Aidan Hartley

It’s hard for me not to love any book that begins in Aden, Yemen. If you’ve ever been to Aden, you’d understand. But then Hartley goes on to weave together the legacy of colonialism in East Africa with his own tales of conflict reporting across that region. He left me hooked from beginning to end.

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5. Lipstick Jihad by Azadeh Moaveni

I read this deeply personal account (enamored by the title, I’m sure) from Iranian-American journalist Azadeh Moaveni before ever dreaming of becoming a foreign correspondent in the Middle East myself. At the time, I was a college student searching for adventure — and found it in Moaveni’s stories of negotiating life in Tehran.

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6. The Rum Diary by Hunter S. Thompson

Okay, so I snuck this in. Thompson’s fictional account of the trials and tribulations of an American journalist in Puerto Rico, alongside his ragtag team of Americans trying to make a buck at a local English language newspaper, feels so true to life, even in its most ridiculous moments, making this one of my favorite books of all time.

Laura Kasinof is a freelance journalist who, at the age of 25, reported from Yemen for the New York Times during the Arab Spring protests of 2011. Laura’s work has also appeared in the Washington Monthly, the Economist and the Christian Science Monitor, among other publications. Her first book, Don’t Be Afraid of the Bullets: An Accidental War Correspondent in Yemen, chronicles the highs and lows of her year in Yemen. She lives between Colorado and Washington DC.

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