Back in 2020, when I was meticulously making my list of books to read for this year, there were a number of countries in the MENA region for which it was difficult to find a translated work to add to the list. That is not to say that there weren’t any authors from these countries. On the contrary, there were many. It was just that their works were not yet translated into a language I could read.
Sadly, Yemen was one such country*. So I decided to find a book that would give me a glimpse of Yemen, but one what wasn’t a textbook. I stumbled across Laura Kasinof’s book after a very long search. At first I wasn’t entirely convinced if I wanted to read it. Yemen has been a great puzzle for me. The country has been in the press lately due to the civil war and the humanitarian crisis it has led to. Therefore, I wanted to read a book that would give me a better understanding of what is really going on in Yemen.
The book chronicles the events of the Arab Spring in Yemen, which took place between 2011-2012, starting with the pro-democracy protests in Sanaa and ending with President Saleh stepping down over a year later. Kasinof’s experiences during this period take her to Aden in the south and Taiz in the Yemeni highlands. Just like any other country, Yemen too is not a monolith, with an all encompassing political spectrum from one edge of its borders to the other.
I listened to the audio book and I wouldn’t recommend that version of the book. The reason being that the narrator read it in a way that makes Kasinof comes of as very patronizing and condescending towards the people of Yemen. If I hadn’t read some of her articles before listening to the audio book, I think I would have had a very negative view of her.
This book will help you get an understanding of Yemeni culture, its heritage and the complexities of Yemeni society. I also recommend this book for anyone trying to understand the current civil war raging in Yemen, because Kasinof does a brilliant job in providing an overview of the political landscape of Yemen and the events which led up to the current conflict. For a overview of the current crisis, I would recommend going through the Wikipedia summary.
*Eventually, I did find a translated work by a Yemeni author and hope to read it this year. You will find the to-read list here.
Bakri, N. and Goodman, J.D. (2011, January 27). Thousands in Yemen Protest Against the Government. The New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/28/world/middleeast/28yemen.html