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Putting the "I" in Iraq

I'm a sucker for first-person narratives, a la Mailer, Plimpton, and Thompson. Reporters, use the nominative singular pronoun! This weekend, two excellent autobiographical pieces, both of which are about Iraq, caught my attention.

In the first, "Ramadi Nights," which appears in The Virginia Quarterly Review, Neil Shea reflects on two reporting trips he took to Ramadi, once called "the most dangerous city on earth," forbidden territory for journalists. It is a riveting read.

For Iraqis, the battle for Ramadi turned on simple questions: Whom do I hate less, the Americans or the insurgents? Who is less likely to kill my family and me? Which is the lesser evil? The residents of Ramadi found their answer in the rhythm of bombings and raids, in the aftershock of executions, in light reflecting off pools of sewage in the streets. The calculation was complicated by honor and history and a shifting set of sensible considerations. But ultimately local leaders made their choice and gave the American government a kind of gossamer victory, something so sheer it seems the desert sun may yet melt it away.

Stark black-and-white photographs, taken by Andrea Bruce of The Washington Post, accompany the article.

In the second story, "Scenes From a Marriage in Baghdad," Damien Cave of The New York Times reflects on his tenure in Iraq, with his wife and colleague, Diana Oliva Cave. Imagine trying to negotiate a new marriage in a war zone! Now on break in New York, Damien Cave writes that "our emotions are still raw, and it may take years to know how the war has affected us."

As Damien Cave points out, he and his wife are not the first couple to report from Iraq. Anne Barnard and Thanassis Cambanis, who worked in The Boston Globe's Baghdad bureau, married in 2005. Do you know of any couples who worked together in Iraq? For the State Department? For a contractor? In the armed services? As reporters? Let us know.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

David Gura
Based in New York, David Gura is a correspondent on NPR's business desk. His stories are broadcast on NPR's newsmagazines, All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Weekend Edition, and he regularly guest hosts 1A, a co-production of NPR and WAMU.