by Viet Thanh Nguyen, 2015
Man, I really wanted to enjoy this book. There is a certain disappointment in picking up a much lauded book only to find yourself struggling through it every step of the way. In this case, I wasn’t necessarily disappointed in the book – I was disappointed in myself. I’m certain The Sympathizer contains a fair amount of genius within its pages, but, either because I did not have sufficient background knowledge of the Vietnam War, thus exposing my own ignorance, or because I could not follow the stream-of-consciousness narrative, calling into question my English Master’s degree, I clawed my way through every page. You guys…this book made me feel dumb.
by Uzodinma Iweala, 2005
Some books exist to give insight into another part of the world. Some books exist to give insight into another culture. Some books exist to give insight into another way of life. Beasts of No Nation exists for all three, but mostly it exists to tell the horrifying story of a young boy caught up in the middle of a war.
Based on Kim Barker’s memoir, The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (2016) is the story of a television journalist’s assignment as a war correspondent in Afghanistan. Kim (Tina Fey) is unhappy with her stagnant career, has a boyfriend who’s frequently traveling for his job, and has little excitement in her life. Kim and a group of her colleagues are asked if they’re willing to report out of Afghanistan, not because of their talents, but because they are single and childless. Immediately we know that this story is as much about Kim’s escape from being an undervalued employee to something of a media star. In some ways it’s a makeover story, but about personality instead of looks.