A Thousand Farewells

Any topics that have to do with the Middle East tend to confuse me.

It can be blamed partly by ignorance, as well as being sheltered by Western culture. As much as I try to keep up with issues in the Middle East, I feel like when reading the news stories that I’m starting in the middle of a story and therefore can’t understand it. I get confused by names, and rather than try and make the effort to understand what’s happening, I simply turn the page.

It’s a horrible thing to admit, but that’s why I’m glad I was able to read Nahlah Ayed’s book A Thousand Farewells.

The story of Ayed is simply breathtaking. It helped me learn that even though I live in Canada, I likely come across many instances of Middle Eastern issues every day. 

Ayed was born in Winnipeg, but at a young age was moved back to Jordan with her family so she and her siblings could learn more about their culture. That decision came as a shock to me. Mostly because of my sheltered Western ways. I didn’t understand why someone would move away from Canada to move to the Middle East.

However, those family values are important. If Ayed didn’t experience what life was like in Jordan at that age, she most likely wouldn’t have been the person she is today. She would have have lived in a refugee camp and she might not have ever grown this passion for her homeland that led her back to the Middle East to report on the issues.

I’m thankful for people like Ayed. If it were not for people like her, and many other brave journalists who risk there lives, we wouldn’t know the issues up front. It’s one thing to hear what is happening and be spoon fed the information from news sources within those countries, but what are we supposed to believe? Corruption occurs daily in the Middle East, and if it were not for reporters like Ayed who went over to get the stories, our knowledge of the Middle East would diminish.

The book is the best way to receive insight about what reporting is like in the Middle East is like, besides being there. It’s an eye opening story for someone who is considering becoming an international correspondent. 

For myself, I have never really considered that route, but every journalist should take the time to read this book because it gives us a greater understanding of the dangers and time commitment our fellow comrades go through. I do not believe anyone can judge what people like Ayed have done for journalism without reading this book first.

The book, while at times can be hard to read because of all the “uncommon” names, can be trying at times. I had to read many paragraphs over again to make sure I fully grasped what was going on. But it is well worth knowing an understanding for two reasons: 1) We get the full grasp of what it was like being in Ayed’s position and 2) It has helped me learn so much more about the Middle East and the current events of the Arab Spring.

I still have a lot more to learn about the topic. But I feel comfort in knowing that because of A Thousand Farewells I won’t be turning the page on any stories that have to do with the Middle East for quite some time now.


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