Book Review: Every Man in this Village is a Liar

Every Man in this Village is a Liar
(Megan K. Stack, New York, Random House Inc., 2010)

September 11, 2001 caught the western world off guard. At the time of the destruction of the World Trade Center, Megan K. Stack was in Paris, working as a reporter for the Los Angeles Times. In what seemed like a blink of an eye she found herself crossing the Pakistani border into Afghanistan to cover the new war led by the United States. This was the beginning of a 5 year odyssey across the Middle East from Egypt and Saudi Arabia to Iraq and Lebanon, covering the wars, turmoil and conflict.

The book provides an extremely personal, front line view of the events in the Middle East at that time. Stack does an excellent job of providing historical context to many of the conflicts she writes about. They give a unique spin to the book as Stack not only narrates the world shattering events but also her own journey and relationships. This results in a stark image of how working and living in a conflict zone will change and harden a person.

Every Man in this Village is a Liar, left a lasting impression on me. It does not hesitate to discuss the trials and difficulties of being a western female reporter in largely patriarchal Arab societies and cultures. Stack reflects upon the impact of living away from “home” for a long time, having to adapt to new surroundings and then deal with the often crippling blow of reverse culture shock when you return home. Not only does no one understand what you have been through, but also you have no understanding for how different “home” has become in your absence. Furthermore, Stack does an excellent job of portraying the senselessness of much of the political violence to which she bore witness.

As someone who was only just beginning to become aware of international conflict and global politics at the time of the events of Stack’s work, I found it a much needed refresher of what happened in the region and the various, often intertwined conflicts and politics of the Middle East and its different ethnic groups. It also provided me with a new perspective on American foreign policy and its effects. Stack does not pull punches in her critique of international interventionism. Whether all of her critique was justified, I will leave to you, the reader. However, I did find that her form of critique, while unabashedly subjective, was a necessary counter balance to biased, partisan media and reports that have become prevalent in the way news is reported today.

On the whole I very much enjoyed Every Man. I want to thank one of our readers, S. Bruckard, for this book recommendation. It challenged the way I thought about and perceived the Middle East. It provided a window into the trials and hardship of working as a war journalist. It was very well written and I would recommend it to anyone interested in the events and politics of the region. If this book has taught me anything, it is that the more I learn and read about the Middle East, the more apparent it is how much I still have to learn.

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