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ASIA & THE PACIFIC

SO MANY ENEMIES, SO LITTLE TIME:
An American Woman in All the Wrong Places

Author: Elinor Burkett

At a time when Americans were so riveted by questions about their place in a newly hostile world and were swearing off air travel, Burkett did not just take a trip -- she took a headlong dive into enemy territories.

Her yearlong odyssey began with her assignment as a Fulbright Professor teaching journalism in Kyrgyzstan, a faded fragment of Soviet might in the heart of Central Asia -- a place of dilapidated apartments, bizarre food, and demoralized citizens clinging to the safety of Brother Russia. She then journeyed to Afghanistan and Iraq -- where she mingled with tense Iraqis, watching the gathering storm clouds of an American-led invasion -- as well as Iran, Mongolia, Uzbekistan, China, and Vietnam.

Whether she's writing about being served goat's head in a Kyrgyz yurt, checking out bowling alleys in Baghdad, or trying to cook a chicken in a crumbling apartment, Burkett offers an eclectic series of adventures that are alternately comical, poignant, and discomfiting.

From Publishers Weekly
"I'm not a danger junkie," Burkett (Another Planet, etc.) declared at the start of her Fulbright year with her husband in Kyrgyzstan on September 18, 2001. In a burst of midlife ennui, the two wanted to move somewhere where she could teach and they could both recharge their cultural batteries. The process of elimination led the pair to this small central Asian republic of the former Soviet Union, advertised as having a "liberal media" and "actively pursuing ethnic tolerance and democratization." When they arrived in Kyrgyzstan, reality overtook them. While appointed to teach "American-style" journalism, Burkett found students so shaped by Stalinist culture, it was all she could do to make them ask questions, much less stir controversy. Unable to resist a little adventure, she and her husband visited Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. When invited, Burkett hosted forums on the media, which usually turned into brouhahas critiquing potential U.S. intervention in Iraq. In Afghanistan, she met with a series of educated women who'd been terrorized by the Taliban and remained fearful. As Burkett walked in Kabul in her burqa, getting elbowed and bruised by men who "walked down the street as if the women simply weren't there," she decided the struggles in Central Asia were more an attempt by hardcore traditionalists to fight modernization than about religion per se. Few readers would actually want to face a dinner of roasted goat brains or dodge bombs on the highway passing the Tora Bora caves; reading Burkett's snappy, witty account nicely suffices.
© Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.
$13.95 (softcover)
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