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The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in…
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The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan

by Kim Barker

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Showing 1-5 of 12 (next | show all)
3.5 Stars - I found this book very interesting and I laughed out loud quite a few times but it is quite an information dump and it's hard to keep facts and people straight. I'm going to see Whiskey Tango Foxtrot tonight and I'm very interested to see how this book was adapted into a film. ( )
  xelaflores | Jul 8, 2017 |
I listened to the audiobook of Kim Barker's The Taliban Shuffle and thought that the tone and delivery were too flippant, making the narrative seem more superficial than it really is. Sometimes, I repeated sentences the way I’d have read them and that alone changed the meaning. But still, the book does come across as a bit on the light side. I did not mind the personal details and the sometimes flip attitude as much as some other reviewers here. I didn’t find it shallow, as many do. It’s black humor. Yes, Barker talks about what she wore and the men she was involved with and going out to clubs, etc. But this is somewhat a journal of personal survival, how Barker coped with a brutal and frightening reality.

The narrative is lively, humorous, and often witty. But I think she does also give us a look at the constantly threatening conditions, the violence, and the absurdities of living in Afghanistan and Pakistan — as a single, young woman, struggling to be taken seriously. We also come to understand how addictive the adrenaline rush of war and danger can be. Barker was a little in love with Afghanistan and thrived in this surreal situation, where war is a way of life, security is often nonexistent, power (and Internet) are often lacking, and you never know whom you can trust.

Barker doesn’t set out to tutor us about the difficult and complex politics, and I suspect that would be pretty hard for someone in her position to pull off. Foreign correspondents are not all experts before they arrive at their destination. (But I admit that I haven’t read other books in this genre.) She does give us a realistic picture of what a war correspondent really does on a day-to-day basis — something I’d never have thought about much. I basically liked it and would recommend it with caution. The tone will bother many readers.
( )
  toniclark | Dec 22, 2016 |
The Good Stuff
Intriguing opening chapter
Fascinating women, I loved her dry, sarcastic and self deprecating humour
Learned a lot about Afghanistan and Pakistan. Such a fascinating and outwordly place. As an ignorant white middle class women, it seems like a hell I would never want to visit. Barker helps you understand the culture and the history. Still not on my bucket list, but I am intrigued now. But again I just want to smack them upside the head about their need for revenge.
Wild to know that a man trained as a surgeon would make more money at being a Fixer than as a Doctor. (Farouq)
Found myself wanting to learn about NATO and how effective they actually are
The Not So Good Stuff
Choppy and the flow of the story was just off for me. Note though I read most of it on public transportation which can be distracting at times.
You can tell she is American
I really think this part of the world should be forced to watch the episode of Doctor Who called "The Zygon Inversion" over and over until the idea about forgiveness sinks in (ok this has nothing to do with the book - but still think it holds true!)
Favorite Quotes/Passages

"Male Ethnic Pashtuns loved flowers and black eyeliner and anything fluorescent or sparkly, maybe to make up for the beige terrain that stretched forever in Afghanistan, maybe to look pretty"

I knew why. Afghanistan seemed familiar It had jagged blue-and-purple mountains, big skies and bearded men in pickup trucks loaded with guns and hate of the government It was just like Montana-just on different drugs."

"An ass grab was about humiliation and, of course, the feeling of some men in the country that Western women needed sex like oxygen, and that if a Pakistani man just happened to put himself in her path or pinch her when the sex urge came on, he'd get lucky. I blame Hollywood."

"But somehow, where skills, talent and perseverance had failed, my unremarkable ass had delivered."

“I had seen more death—the tsunami, two different earthquakes. But I could somehow understand natural disasters. This was a human disaster, and I couldn’t make sense of the hate.”

3 Dewey's

I reviewed this because Cammy recommended it and I always read what he suggests. ( )
  mountie9 | May 31, 2016 |
I'm very thankful to have been sent a copy of Whiskey Tango Foxtrot by the lovely Angela at Wunderkind PR. This book was originally published in 2011 under the title The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan (the new title is indeed catchier and took me longer than I'd care to admit to puzzle out). The author, Kim Barker, was a foreign correspondent for the Chicago Tribune who didn't know the language, culture, or the significance of the countries she was assigned. And yet, she managed to feel more at home in Afghanistan and Pakistan (to a lesser extent) than she could have ever anticipated. This is a gritty, comedic, and tragic story of war and the impotence one feels when thrust into the middle as an outsider (or an insider even). At times, I felt the pull of adventure much as Kim did. I imagined myself country hopping and getting to know the ins and outs of various peoples. (After all, I do have a degree in Anthropology.) And then there would be a vivid description of the violence and destruction of war that never seems to have an end. I marvel at her willingness (and eagerness) to stay and experience it firsthand. She says it's an addiction and she continually talks about being in its throes. It is not glamorous and she doesn't sugarcoat it. In fact, she criticizes the foreign governments who refuse to see the truth of the situation. I don't think I will ever look at reporting the same way ever again. You might have guessed that I really enjoyed it. It's a solid 10/10 especially as it highlighted an area of the world that I feel woefully ignorant of...until now!

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is out today and is being adapted into a film due out March 4th starring Tina Fey (also Martin Freeman who I think I've recognized from the book and I'm excited). I hope that it stays relatively close to the book if not in content then in feeling. I think it's a wake-up call that is sorely needed. ( )
  AliceaP | Feb 23, 2016 |
If Somalia is the most failed state then Afghanistan and Pakistan are furiously nipping at it's heels for that coveted position and from reading this book it seems that their wishes have been realized.

For the first 100 pages or so the author wants to be viewed as a funny travel writer who would want to be considered equals with a Bryson or Murphy but quickly realizes that humor is not her forte. This tragi-comedy called the Pakistani state gets even more bizzare. For instance, the ex OM Mr. Nawaz Sharif is on a hunt to find the author a boyfriend, the first being the country's recently widowed president and on that offer being spurned, offers himself as the stand in.
  danoomistmatiste | Jan 24, 2016 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0385533314, Hardcover)

Kim Barker was The Chicago Tribune's South Asia Bureau Chief from 2004 to 2009, much of which she spent living in and reporting from Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Taliban Shuffle comprises her recollections of these years, but make no mistake: this is not your parents' war correspondent's memoir. In fact, to hear this charismatic debut author tell of life in war-torn Kabul during these years, you'd think it was a more-or-less non-stop party. Journalism is famously known as a business for which "if it bleeds, it leads," and with a fresh war raging in Iraq, Barker initially faced long stretches of relative quiet. As a result, an absurd, often promiscuous subculture grew up among her fellow reporters. (Think M*A*S*H with a dash of Catch-22.) Of course, it wasn't all fun, games, and the occasional heavy petting. Barker's reporting eventually brings her into contact with warlords, fundamentalists, and drug kingpins, and she does get blood on her hands (quite literally). As the action heats up and the Taliban begins slowly to regroup, she finds herself reporting on and fending off a host of unsavory types, from anonymous gropers in crowded streets to former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who woos her shamelessly, breaking all manner of internationally recognized rules of professional decorum. After five years of these "Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan," Barker finally returns to the States with a one-of-a-kind memoir, a true story that's rife with both black humor and brutal honesty about the absurdities of war. --Jason Kirk

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:33 -0400)

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A wisecracking foreign correspondent recounts her experiences in Afghanistan and Pakistan while sharing cautionary observations about the region in its first post-Taliban years and the responsibilities of the U.S. and NATO.

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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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