Mountains, Mines and Memories: The Idea of Kurdistan

Ty Mayfield reviewed Picnic in a Minefield for War on the Rocks.picnic-cover

Here is a teaser:

Recchia is an Italian academic who left Europe for a position at the University of Kurdistan Hawler (UKH) in Erbil, Iraq in the hopes of expanding her professional horizons as an educator. In the course of two years, Recchia experiences life in many different circles. She transitions between guest, traveler, teacher, and mentor with an ease that disarms those who might stand in her way. It is from the unique perspectives of both her professional work at the UKH and her personal interactions with locals that Kurdistan is made real for the reader. Through Recchia’s travels, the soldiers, diplomats, journalists and humanitarian aid workers that usually narrate our collective Iraq experience, are illuminated for the reader from a new perspective. She reports their actions, thoughts and intentions in the insightful and articulate observations of a self-aware and humble narrator.

Recchia set out for Iraqi Kurdistan in search of herself. Along the way it is fair to say she found an entire group of people in search of themselves, their own identities, and perhaps, their own nation. These two arcs, one individual and one collective, intersect in Picnic in a Minefield and provide a compelling narrative that gives insight into the permanence of resistance, the pace of change, and the promise of a Kurdistan.
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You can read the full review here.

Picnic in a Minefield

picnic-coverIn 2014 Western efforts at engaging the Middle East—diplomacy, occupation, sanctions, bribery, adjusted trade policy, ill-considered cultural engagement and, worst of all, war, collapsed in the ruins of Syria and Iraq.
Ignorance of the locale’s complex braid of culture, peoples, language, and faith among leaders and populations in the English-speaking world compounded the failed attempts at influence.
Brutal death-cults fill the vacuum left by these bankrupt Imperial efforts. Leaving death, desperation, and trails of blood in their wake, they stalk villages and byways under the conceit of establishing a “new Caliphate.”
Just in time, intrepid traveler, teacher, scholar, and journalist Francesca Recchia brings hope for enlightenment, nuanced discussion, and moral clarity with her stunning new memoir, Picnic in a Minefield.
The book details her experiences living, working, and traveling among the Kurds of northern Iraq. This timely book offers a first-hand account of life, living, and lives-lived in area of the globe that perpetually dominates the West’s concerns and discourse.
Recchia’s unique style and points-of-view illuminate Kurdish culture and the place of Kurds, who have long yearned for self-determination, amidst a cohort of nations intent on denying the mountainous Kurdish homeland its sovereignty.
Recchia recounts how living in the region affected more than her understanding of, and opinions on, Kurdish culture.
Through crisp prose and unforgettable anecdote, she shares with us the gift she received in Kurdistan: the company of the Kurdish people, liberated from an abstract prison of newsprint, brought to life in the minds and hearts of readers.
Picnic in a Minefield, by Francesca Recchia, is published by Foxhead Books.

The book is on sale now at bookstores, online retailers, and at Foxhead Books.
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