One of the more uncomfortable things about doing humanitarian and human rights work is the (unearned) credit people give you for being more saintly, and more brave than others. It’s one of the reasons I included so much of my own (messy) personal story in Zen Under Fire.
So I was pleased to read this, from the official book reviewer of one of New Zealand’s major booksellers:
I’d always imagined people who sign up to work for the United Nations in trouble spots around the world to be supernatural beings – part saint; part fearless hero. But New Zealand lawyer Marianne Elliott’s account of her time spent stationed in Afghanistan is the story of a very real woman trying to do her best – and often failing.
She tells of the constraints of working for a monolithic organisation – the red tape, the safety regulations that put her under virtual house arrest and the politics involved in even the simplest request – and the kindness of the people of Afghanistan who accepted her into their community and may have helped her more than she ended up helping them.
In fact, she wrote the book in part to move beyond media representations of Afghanistan as a country of alien beings, perpetually fighting one another and the rest of the world. And with this, she has succeeded. The locals Elliott meet come across as courteous, dignified and desperate for a better life for their children. And Elliott herself offers a searingly honest account of her own personal and professional struggle to do one of the toughest jobs in the world.
Kerre Woodham, book review for Paper Plus
Zen Under Fire is one of ‘Kerre’s Choices‘ this month. Which makes me very happy.
What made me even happier was that Zen Under Fire was #2 on the NZ Bestseller List for NZ Non-Fiction this week.