Book Review: As Is: Confessions of a True Fatty

confessionsofafattyFour starsThe author sells herself short in that she assumes all her readers face the same challenges with weight that she describes. In fact, her message is appropriate for anyone who hasn’t yet discovered his or her authentic self. Wagner’s challenge is her addiction to food which she uses to compensate when she feels unappreciated. But she doesn’t stop battling. She also doesn’t blame others. In this, her book is a pattern for what others who use substances or activities to screen out discomfort can do to take responsibility for their lives.

In addition, she tells the story of a Palestinian Christian family, led by her immigrant father, a story of successful businesses, a story most Americans haven’t heard, but should. It presents another facet of the complicated image of Arabs, one at odds with the predominant, one-dimensional narrative so many Americans are satisfied to accept.

Book Review: Shooting Saddam

shootingsaddam
Five StarsDennis Lynch tells the story of his three trips between 2005 and 2006 to Baghdad to oversee the videography and recording of the trial of Saddam Hussein and his co-defendants. A well-written account, he relates his impressions of the trip, the environment, and the events with a sense of humor alongside a genuine respect for the gravity of what he was doing and for the people he met. Putting aside the few minor errors in his report, I was impressed with his research and desire to understand the larger story that his unique and up-close view fits within. I recommend the book highly.

The cover and title are my favorite of the year.

The minor error I found most curious is Lynch’s reference to Al-Zarqawi changing his name from Ahmad to Abu after Muhammad the Prophet’s successor. “Abu” means “father of” and is not a name by itself. It is used, along with the name of the oldest son, to denote the man is a parent of a son. “Um” is the feminine form. Names formed with “Abu” for the father or “Um” for the mother plus the first name of the oldest son is known as a kunya. Al Zarkawi was known as Abu Musab, which translates as “father of Musab.” According to my research, Al Zarkawi had two wives and several children, including at least three sons, making it entirely normal for him to use his kunya, Abu Musab.

Dennis will be one of three debut memoir writers on a panel at the San Diego Writers/Editors Guild on Monday, March 28, 2016, at 6:30 p.m.