Acting up in Afghanistan

Kim Barker’s training and experience as a journalist had not prepared her when she first entered Afghanistan in 2003 for a land of never-ending war, with arcane rules and all-consuming resentments. Barker turned her naiveté into an exuberant determination to be an “American idiot,” never giving in to fear as she pursued unique stories in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan chronicles her conversion from classic “ugly American” to a journalist relatively competent to cover the region—and then to intense burnout. It’s a weird, funny, absorbing tale. Rolling with the punches, in street mobs and at checkpoints with overly familiar female guards, Barker gives as good as she gets. Women covering war zones may have some slightly different challenges than men, but reporting on violence and deprivation is not easy for anyone. She also offers her perspective on why America keeps getting it wrong in the Middle East.