City of Soldiers
A Year of Life, Death, and Survival in Afghanistan
5 1/2" x 8 1/2" • 305 pages
ISBN 9781566569026 • paperback • $17.95 •
"With this book, Fearon seeks to answer the question of what daily life is like for those who live in Afghanistan, both in and outside of military bases. The narrative follows one year of the author's life as a civilian in Afghanistan, beginning with her initial flight into the country. Chapters include discussions of toilet paper, gender, language, poppies, food, Marines, election day, education, music, recreation, and other subjects. Some b&w photographs are included, and a general map is provided before the preface, which offers a brief outline of the political history of Afghanistan, as does the afterword."
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A deeply affecting memoir and a unique contribution to our understanding of Afghanistan
Behind the headlines, the strategies, the surges, what is life really like in Afghanistan? What is it like to live and work there as a civilian on state-building with its people, fighting the Taliban with flip-charts and pens, not guns? In her account of sixteen months in the capital of Helmand province, Lashkar Gah, working for the Provincial Reconstruction Team, Kate Fearon records everyday life on the frontline. Amid the violence she unearths extraordinary stories of how ordinary Afghans live and what they think, both inside and outside the walls of military bases.
From the thrills and risks of getting there to exploring Helmand and its history, this book follows the author’s daily life as she gets to know the people behind the war. She learns Pashto, visits the Districts, meets the US Marines, observes elections and evades suspected suicide bombers. She describes working with the tribal Elders on informal justice and policing issues, and building local democracy with them. She also listens to the musings of young men on marriage (and nightclubs), discovers what Afghan women really think of their burqas, and discusses poppy growing, pornography, forbidden love-notes, drinking and dancing.
Tragic and touching but also wryly observed, City of Soldiers tells of the camaraderie and courage of those working under extreme conditions, foreigners and locals, civilians and military alike. It evokes the despair—and the guilt—that comes with targeted political murders in response to the process of democratization. Kate Fearon explains how the key driver for Afghans is pragmatism, their overriding goal survival, and reveals how women—and men—assert themselves in a seemingly impossibly restrictive culture with humor and hope.
Kate Fearon was the Governance Advisor on rule of law issues to the Helmand Provincial Reconstruction Team in 2009 and 2010. She is currently Head of the Mitrovica Office for the International Civilian Representative in Kosovo.
"Having worked in peace and reconstruction efforts in Ireland and Kosovo, Fearon (Women's Work: The Story of the Northern Ireland Coalition) looks back at the 16 months she spent with the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Lashkar Gah, capital of the Helmand province in Afghanistan. Lashkar Gah became known as 'Little America,' but the Persian name means 'City of Soldiers.' Describing daily life inside and outside of military bases, she covers travel dangers, body armor, and the omnipresence of death. But she also depicts Afghan culture, dancing, drinking, and food. Warned against eating local dishes, viewed as unhygienic, she describes her cautious sharing of a meal (she steered clear of fish from a polluted river) in a local police station. Getting to know the people and the province, she discovered that, despite political fragmentation, they articulated a shared vision 'to live free from fear; to have real choices in their education, public and private lives.' Her memoir etches a portrait of invasion and occupation with humor and compassion, concluding, 'The moral question arises..., [what happens] if, having raised risks and expectations, we then withdraw support before the fledgling institutions are ready to fly by themselves.'"
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