Book Review: Readings

If you think you know everything about how America is viewed by the people whom our troops are meant to be protecting, there is much in this volume that will surprise you


Elvis Is Titanic: Classroom Tales From the Other Iraq

by Ian Klaus
Knopf, 240 pp., $24

No matter what your position on the United States' occupation of (and preoccupation with) Iraq, it is more likely than not based more on opinion and presumption than you'd care to admit. If there is any consensus on the matter, it is that we could all do with more direct information about how the people of the Middle East themselves feel about the situation. This memoir by author Ian Klaus, covering a semester spent teaching American History and English to Kurds in post-Saddam Iraq, does an uneven job of toggling between amassing objective historical/political facts and passing along the deeply personal and subjective views of his adult pupils. However, the coed classmates – including devoutly conservative Muslims, secular-oriented entrepreneurs, and even an Iraqi pop star (!) – have much invaluable insight to offer on the U.S.-Iraq relationship, seeing as how it is their lives that are directly affected (and could at any moment be ended) by it. Still becoming accustomed to the notion of free speech and surrounded by daily horrors we can only imagine, the men and women of Klaus' class are surprisingly open and friendly – though mordantly pessimistic – about their past, present, and future existence. If you think you know everything about how America is viewed by the people whom our troops are meant to be protecting, there is much in this volume that will surprise you.

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