Book Review: IraqiGirl: Diary of a Teenage Girl in Iraq

IraqiGirl: Diary of a Teenage Girl in Iraq is a collection of blog posts published by a girl who wrote under the pseudonym "Hadiya" from 2004 to 2007. 

Reading these entries, it quickly becomes clear to me that, by blogging, Hadiya is risking much more than offending a few of her readers. I realized how very much I take for granted on a daily (if not hourly basis). The ability to write about my thoughts, to count on electricity, to know that I will return home from school, that people around me will not simply disappear, never to be seen or heard from again. This writing is not grandiose, but it is so very eye-opening.

It was clear in reading this that Hadiya is not living a better life since the US entered her country and toppled Saddam Hussein's regime. She may have been poor under Saddam, but she is absolutely stifled under American occupation. I don't know if I'm alone in this ignorance, but I feel like this voice is one that I have not yet heard since we entered Iraq in 2003. I know that it was dangerous for her to write on her blog (a freedom that I take for granted every day), but I am so thankful that she has put her voice into the international arena. I feel much more enlightened as to what it would be like to live in a war zone after reading this collection of blog entries.

In addition to the journal-style narratives, Hadiya also writes poetry. She is rather talented in this area. I can see myself using several of these poems in my classroom. But, her writing is not perfect and she admits that she struggles with language. Rather than see this as a put-off, I felt as though her sometimes awkward phrasing felt more authentic than if she had been a polished writer.  Without the gleam of figurative language and fancy prose, Hadiya comes across as a real teen. A frustrated, scared teen who is forever changed by a war that is taking place in her front yard. It could not get more real than this.

I am definitely going to put this book on my classroom shelf. Though my students, especially my young freshmen and sophmores, have not grown up with this war on their doorstep, it has been the background noise on their televisions and the stuff of their local news for the majority of their lives. Many of these young teens do not remember a time when they did not hear the word "Iraq" without the word "war." And, some have lost loved ones and will continue to know and love American soldiers who are headed to the Middle East.

Anyone who is even remotely interested in learning more about the Iraq War from an actual Iraqi should read this book. And, it is a must-have for high school (and possibly middle school) libraries and classrooms. I hope to read more nonfiction written by real teens in the future.