Revisiting a Book About Yemen

A Book for the Arab World in Troubled Times

I wrote this review of The Woman Who Fell From the Sky, one of my favorite books of the year, in June, 2010. Even though Yemen does not make my list of desirable travel destinations, Since Yemen was one of the first countries to experience rebellion during the current unrest rolling across the Arab world, I wanted to revisit it. You will learn to know Yemen, and perhaps understand a bit better what is going on there at the present time as hundreds of thousands of people demand the president step down.

I present an excerpt of the original review here, and invite you to continue to read the entire original.  I also interviewed Jennifer Steil about her book and journalism, and you can read the Steil interview here. In that interview, she recommends two other books about Yemen.

  • Yemen: Travels in Dictionary Land.
  • Yemen Chronicle: An Anthropology of War and Mediation.
  • The Woman Who Fell from the SkyDestination: Yemen

    Book: The Woman Who Fell from the Sky: An American Journalist in Yemen: Adventures in the Oldest City on Earth (NEW 2010) by Jennifer Steil [This book also will be available in paperback in July, 2011]

    She was a woman

    who fell from the sky in robes

    of dew

    and became

    a city.

    Jennifer Steil uses this poetic description of Sana’a, the capitol of Yemen as a frontispiece for her travel memoir, The Woman Who Fell from the Sky. Until I read the poem, I assumed that Steil was ‘the woman who fell from the sky,’ and in fact she was. The double meaning works perfectly.

    Steil is invited to teach the principles of journalism to writers at an English-speaking newspaper in Yemen. Her task is complicated by the fact that few of them can write in English, none have ever studied journalism and they have no idea how to start a story, track down sources, or get both sides of a controversy. Additionally, her boss, the publisher, works as media adviser for the president of the country. No conflict there, he assures her.When it becomes obvious that her short initial stay will not do the job, the boss asks her to come back and stay for a year as editor of the paper.

    We, as readers, are immersed in the world of getting out a newspaper when the male reporters are work on their own schedule, and the women cannot go out alone, interview men, or stay at the office after two p.m.

    Her job allows her (and us vicariously) to travel to other parts of Yemen and get a fairly good view of life in that country. Although she writes with a reporters verve, I kept slipping into fairy tale mode because this world seems so unrelated to mine.

    We share her amazement to learn that underneath the long robes, the women wear skin-tight jeans and sparkling tank tops. I had to wonder as I plunged eagerly through chapter after chapter, if I would have been able to be as even-handed as she, as non-judgmental at the practices she observed.

    (Please continue to read the original review here.)

    Have you already read The Woman Who Fell From the Sky? Please share your thoughts here.  Would you ever consider traveling to Yemen?


    About Vera Marie Badertscher

    A freelance writer who loves to travel. When she is not traveling she is reading about travel. When she is not reading or traveling, she is sharing with the readers of A Traveler's Library, recreating her family's past at Ancestors In Aprons . She writes frequently for Reel Life With Jane and other websites. Also co-author of a biography, Quincy Tahoma, The Life and Legacy of a Navajo Artist. Contact Vera Marie by e-mail.

    3 thoughts on “Revisiting a Book About Yemen

    1. I haven’t read that book yet, will do so soon. I like the way you reviewed the book.

      Yemen, might not be the perfect travel destination under the current climate, but things will definitely improve later on and once that happens the excellent tourist destinations will come back to life again.

      Right now, it is on the list of top dangerous tourist destinations, which the excitement hunters are finding pretty good.

    2. What an interesting book! For some reason it looks like I had missed the first review- so I read it- both were great. Definitely a must read book- I’ve been reading the Calligrapher’s Secret- thank you so much for having it sent to me!!

      Hope you’ll be getting something in the mail any day now.

    3. I have read too many accounts of people being kidnapped to want to visit Yemen. But I have been interested in the topography and history of the region. Thanks for sharing! -r

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