Whitney Purdum
June 1, 2011

Jean Sasson’s Love in a Torn Land, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2007, explores the hardships and terror that Iraqi Kurds faced under Saddam Hussein’s Baathist regime. The biographical story revolves around Joanna al-Askari Hussain, a young woman born of an Arab father and a Kurdish mother. Despite her upbringing in Baghdad, Joanna’s Kurdish roots and her love of Kurdish define her life’s course. From a young age, Joanna is determined to leave her family in Baghdad to become a loyal wife to a Peshmerga – a Kurdish freedom fighter. In her early twenties, her dream turns into reality; Joanna falls in love with a Peshmerga and abandons her life of comfort in Baghdad to live with him in the rugged mountains of Kurdistan, the battleground between the Iraqi government and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan.

While Sasson’s writing explores the inner-workings of a young woman’s mind, it also details the political atmosphere of Iraq during the nine-year long Iran-Iraq war, and the role of Iraqi Kurds in this conflict. The tragedies that Joanna al-Askari witnessed are representative of what a majority of Iraqi Kurds faced during the Saddam era. Sasson chronicles the day-to-day social discrimination that Kurds faced, as well as the Baathists’ brutal political and military campaigns that intended to wipe out the Kurdish population. This book is a tribute to the personal sacrifices Kurds have made for the pursuit of their freedom. It will undoubtedly inspire awe and inspiration from readers of all ages.

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