“People who see themselves as victims sometimes don’t notice when they become oppressors.”

I was told to come aloneBrown Baggers met on June 21 at Central to discuss the memoir I Was Told To Come Alone by Souad Mekhennet. This book details Mekhennet’s experience growing up as a Moroccan-Turkish Muslim immigrant in Germany and her work interviewing high profile members of ISIS, Al-Qaeda, and other known terrorist groups.

Most readers found the book intriguing, while a few struggled with the journalistic feel. They wondered at the type of personality it would take to keep willingly entering dangerous, life-threatening situations to pursue answers. Most readers found Mekhennet very credible and objective and chalked her risk taking career behavior to being extremely driven.

Mekhennet is an award-winning journalist who has worked for the Washington Post and the New York Times. As a result, readers found it amusing how the powerful, dangerous men she went to interview insisted on asking about her relationship status. Readers also were impressed with both Mekhennet’s access to and respect received from her interview subjects. She describes this as a combination of shared culture, connections, or heritage (as a direct descendant of Muhammad).

The virulent hatred towards “the West” and America and the growing divide between Sunni and Shia Muslims were also discussed. Readers wondered, as does the author, how an individual ends up so radicalized, not just in the Muslim world but also here at home with the increasing organization of white supremacists and even Nazi groups in America.

Readers who made it to the end of the book found the ending truly heart-wrenching. The terror has always been close to Mekhennet, as some Al Qaeda cells originated in Germany, but increasingly it is her friends and family who are affected resulting in unexpected loss and grief. Again this felt very near to Charlottesville and the experiences of last August.

While it would’ve been nice for the author to wrap up this complicated foreign affairs subject matter with a nice bow and say sunnier days are ahead, she instead was very frank about the situation which is serious and perhaps worsening. She does end on a tiny, hopeful note that we are all more alike than not, and maybe we can begin to recognize that.

Other titles:
House of Stone by Anthony Shadid
Almighty by Dan Zak
The Eternal Nazi (book she wrote with colleague)
The Taliban Shuffle by Kim Barker

More information:
Headcovering differences
Author Bio
Author Interview

Brown Baggers will meet again on July 19 at noon to discuss The Zookeeper’s Wife by Diane Ackerman.




8 Books Filled with Fascinating Facts

Fascinating Facts - Blog Post Header

Have you ever picked up a nonfiction book to look at just for fun? These books, available from the JMRL catalog, are both visual and informative. Check one out and learn some little-known, interesting facts to share with your friends!

Brolliology by Marion Rankine – A fun, illustrated history of the umbrella’s place in life and literature that surprises us with the crucial role that the oft-overlooked umbrella has played over centuries, and not just in keeping us dry.

Magnitude: The Scale of the Universe by Kimberly K. Arcand – A book featuring full-color illustrations and infographics throughout that takes readers on an expansive journey to the limits of size, mass, distance, time and temperature in our universe.

Wonders Beyond Numbers by Johnny Ball – A history of mathematics explains how every breakthrough in math has represented an important step forward that both builds on the work of others and illuminates the importance of numbers, shapes and patterns in the world around us.

The Book of Barely Imagined Beings by Caspar Henderson – In the spirit of medieval bestiaries, presents a series of bizarre creatures that actually exist, including the honey badger, giant squid, axolotl, zebrafish, water bear, and yeti crab. Continue reading