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In 2008, Nathan Deuel, a former editor at Rolling Stone and The Village Voice, and his wife, a National Public Radio foreign correspondent, moved to the deeply Islamic Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to see for themselves what was happening in the Middle East. There they had a daughter, and later, while his wife filed reports from Baghdad and Syria, car bombs erupted and one night In 2008, Nathan Deuel, a former editor at Rolling Stone and The Village Voice, and his wife, a National Public Radio foreign correspondent, moved to the deeply Islamic Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to see for themselves what was happening in the Middle East. There they had a daughter, and later, while his wife filed reports from Baghdad and Syria, car bombs erupted and one night a firefight raged outside the family's apartment in Beirut. Their marriage strained, and they struggled with the decision to stay or go home. At once a meditation on fatherhood, an unusual memoir of a war correspondent’s spouse, and a first-hand account from the front lines of the most historic events of recent days—the Arab Spring, the end of the Iraq war, and the unrest in Syria—Friday Was The Bomb is a searing collection of timely and absorbing essays. Nathan Deuel has contributed essays, fiction, and criticism to The New York Times, Financial Times, GQ, The New Republic, Times Literary Supplement, Virginia Quarterly Review, The Paris Review, Salon, Slate, Bookforum, Los Angeles Review of Books, Columbia Journalism Review, Tin House, The Atlantic, and many others. Previously, he was an editor at Rolling Stone and The Village Voice. He holds an M.F.A. from the University of Tampa and a B.A. in Literature from Brown University, and he attended Deep Springs College. He recently moved to Los Angeles from Beirut with his wife and daughter.


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In 2008, Nathan Deuel, a former editor at Rolling Stone and The Village Voice, and his wife, a National Public Radio foreign correspondent, moved to the deeply Islamic Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to see for themselves what was happening in the Middle East. There they had a daughter, and later, while his wife filed reports from Baghdad and Syria, car bombs erupted and one night In 2008, Nathan Deuel, a former editor at Rolling Stone and The Village Voice, and his wife, a National Public Radio foreign correspondent, moved to the deeply Islamic Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to see for themselves what was happening in the Middle East. There they had a daughter, and later, while his wife filed reports from Baghdad and Syria, car bombs erupted and one night a firefight raged outside the family's apartment in Beirut. Their marriage strained, and they struggled with the decision to stay or go home. At once a meditation on fatherhood, an unusual memoir of a war correspondent’s spouse, and a first-hand account from the front lines of the most historic events of recent days—the Arab Spring, the end of the Iraq war, and the unrest in Syria—Friday Was The Bomb is a searing collection of timely and absorbing essays. Nathan Deuel has contributed essays, fiction, and criticism to The New York Times, Financial Times, GQ, The New Republic, Times Literary Supplement, Virginia Quarterly Review, The Paris Review, Salon, Slate, Bookforum, Los Angeles Review of Books, Columbia Journalism Review, Tin House, The Atlantic, and many others. Previously, he was an editor at Rolling Stone and The Village Voice. He holds an M.F.A. from the University of Tampa and a B.A. in Literature from Brown University, and he attended Deep Springs College. He recently moved to Los Angeles from Beirut with his wife and daughter.

30 review for Friday Was the Bomb: Five Years in the Middle East

  1. 4 out of 5

    Sarah-Hope

    Nathan Dueul’s, Friday Was the Bomb, recounts his experiences living in the middle east, working as a freelance writer, and caring for his daughter, while his wife worked as a war correspondent for National Public Radio. This isn’t a full-on memoire, rather it’s a collection of some of his freelance essays (with revision) that originally appeared in a variety of publications, including Al Jazeera America, Los Angeles Review of Books, and The New Republic. I requested an electronic ARC of this boo Nathan Dueul’s, Friday Was the Bomb, recounts his experiences living in the middle east, working as a freelance writer, and caring for his daughter, while his wife worked as a war correspondent for National Public Radio. This isn’t a full-on memoire, rather it’s a collection of some of his freelance essays (with revision) that originally appeared in a variety of publications, including Al Jazeera America, Los Angeles Review of Books, and The New Republic. I requested an electronic ARC of this book anticipating that it might give me an insider’s view of the political clashes and civil wars currently fomenting in the middle east—but it’s Dueul’s wife who’s the war correspondent, not Dueul. One learns little about the Middle East in these essays beyond the fact that an interesting range of ex-pats live there and that occasional violence breaks out with loss of life. In other words, this isn’t really a book about the middle east. What it is is a book about balancing fatherhood and work, these tasks complicated by worries about a spouse with a very dangerous job. He is sincerely interested in events around him: I was excited and honored—overwhelmed, really—to be standing in the middle [of this region], hoping the darker forces of death and destruction would keep their distance and that my own enthusiasm to learn more—with Kelly’s [his wife] ability to report well and stay alive, with the resilience of the Iraqi people, with America’s ability to be honest about its power and priorities, with my ability to have faith in something it was difficult to have faith in—maybe things might actually get better. But what Dueul writes most about isn’t the political aspirations of the Iraqi people or America’s honesty. We get stories of taking children for a snow day in Lebanon, of an art opening made lively with ample beer, of getting the best shave and haircut of his life from a barber in Instanbul. Dueul isn’t blind to the struggles being played out around him, but when he thinks of them, he’s putting a good bit of his energy into watching his own responses to them, using the times in war zones to try to work out what sort of a man he is. Near the end of the book, transitioning to life back in the U.S. he notes that, “On the eve of our new life in America, I had a feeling that everything I’d struggled with the last five years—worrying, death, guilt—would dog me no matter what country we lived in.” If you want to read a collection about the challenges of fatherhood and manhood—albeit in an extraordinary setting—you’ll enjoy this book. But I was looking for insights into a political struggle often minimally covered by the U.S. media, and I left this book feeling none the wiser.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Michelle Lancaster

    Friday Was the Bomb: Five Years in the Middle East By Nathan Deuel Disquiet/Dzanc Books ISBN-13: 13: 978-1-938604-90-4 $14.95, 176 pages “What’s the point of being safe if you don’t feel fully alive?” I stood in Tahrir Square this past January and eyed the graffiti, what was left of it: FREEDOM, it says in English. A massive burned-out facade of something remains standing directly across the square from charming old apartment buildings. The famous square is actually a traffic circle; Cairo traffic is Friday Was the Bomb: Five Years in the Middle East By Nathan Deuel Disquiet/Dzanc Books ISBN-13: 13: 978-1-938604-90-4 $14.95, 176 pages “What’s the point of being safe if you don’t feel fully alive?” I stood in Tahrir Square this past January and eyed the graffiti, what was left of it: FREEDOM, it says in English. A massive burned-out facade of something remains standing directly across the square from charming old apartment buildings. The famous square is actually a traffic circle; Cairo traffic is insanity wrapped in steel. My mind wandered, flashing to television images watched with my father as he lay dying in a hospital bed in Texas. It was brought back into focus by concertina wire barriers blocking the narrow street where the Egyptian Museum resides and the row of armored personnel carriers stretch the length of the street. The APCs are manned by seemingly agreeable-enough uniformed soldiers. The sign says photos and video are prohibited. This happens to Nathan Deuel, author of Friday Was the Bomb: Five Years in the Middle East, too. His mind wanders and then is jarred back to the present by violence, either events actually occurring or the ubiquitous threat of same. Deuel and his wife, Kelly McEvers of NPR fame, spent five years in the Middle East—that nebulous term—from September 2008 until September 2013. They made their way from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where their daughter was born, through Baghdad, Beirut, and Istanbul, sometimes together but more often apart, as McEvers’s career morphed into that of a war correspondent right before Deuel’s conflicted eyes. “… I would have no choice but to trust that she would find her own balance, that she’d figure out how to care without caring too much, to give herself over as much as she could to the project of this caring, without leading herself or others into harm, remaining a wife and a mother and the woman she wanted to be—and the war reporter she was quietly becoming.” Friday is a collection of essays, as opposed to narrative memoir, that addresses the junctures of the political and the personal in a region experiencing tectonic shifts, from the perspective of a previously secure and easygoing American who marched in anti-war protests in New York and once walked from that city to New Orleans. Deuel is forced to examine his assumptions and convictions in the face of a reality that demands planning the route to his daughter’s preschool least likely to include a bomb. “Anthony is Dead”—the title refers to Anthony Shahid of The New York Times—perfectly encapsulates the conflict between our interests and our compulsions. The essay demonstrates how we choose what to be afraid of. The family lives in Beirut but worries about dirty shopping carts. As the author notes, “. . . sometimes it was hard to know when to say no, to make the choice to walk away from what might harm us.” In “When I Finally Saw Blood,” Deuel addresses issues of identity. “Among other problems, it was difficult to be a man, changing diapers, while Kelly swash buckled her way across Mesopotamia.” When a firefight breaks out on their doorstep and most people hide, McEvers slips into the night with her notebook. The author worries. He worries a lot, possibly suffering at times from what I suspect to have been clinical depression. “Over the years,” Deuel writes, “I had become accustomed to treating bad news and adversity as a calling, as opportunities to find uncommon utility and beauty in the simple act of fearing what might happen next.” Inevitably these circumstances take a toll on his marriage: “It isn’t always pleasant for Kelly, all this worrying. She has suggested we might be happier if I let go, if I ‘rolled with the flow.’” At one point, the author admits to a degree of what he terms self-involvement and arrogance in his worrying. Some of this angst comes across as Western navel-gazing. As I learned this past winter, the majority of people in the region don’t have the time, opportunity, or inclination for this sort of self-indulgence. On the Acknowledgements page, Deuel invites us to judge him harshly for this. I won’t. We shouldn’t. The places where we grow up impose a frame of reference. It’s not our fault; it’s only our fault if we never look beyond the frame. “Homeland in My Homeland” explores how American entertainment, even when generally agreed to be of higher quality than most, misses the mark. There are fundamental misunderstandings here. An episode of the second season of Homeland purported to depict Hamra Street in Beirut. Reportedly shot on location in Israel, these scenes served to reinforce America’s familiar stereotypes of the region. Deuel walked Hamra Street almost every day, past busy restaurants and nightclubs, hotels and a brand new H&M in a bustling cosmopolitan city. The Hamra Street in Homeland is “… crawling with snipers and warlords … a narrow alley lined with sandbags and desert people, everyone waiting to be shot at.” “Flood-Tide Below Me” addresses themes of home and belonging. “The Cannibal Birds of Burgazada” can seem, at times, a metaphor for the entire region. The eponymous essay is a heart-wrenching examination of motivation and responsibility. “I contemplate what my wife is trained to do. What my daughter is being trained to do. What I am training myself to do.” According to the United Nations, 2012 was the deadliest year for journalists since records have been kept. 2013 was the second deadliest. When the family finally left the Middle East to return to the United States it was not with a sense of joy, not even of relief, but rather a mix of anger and sadness and exhaustion. They had wanted to stay in Beirut, but the responsibilities of parenthood changed what they chose to fear. “You never evacuate,” an old woman tells us later. She’s lived in Beirut for fifty years. “When you evacuate, the bastards win.” I walk down the street, head throbbing, thinking about the balance of fear and imagination…The price is clear but the math is impossible to calculate. So what if the bastards win?

  3. 5 out of 5

    Bethany

    More like a 2.5 star book, but I gave it three stars since it was a fairly quick read. I realize this book was one of essays, but it often felt disjointed. I got a sense of what life was like as an American in the Middle East, but I would have like something more.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Red Dirt Report

    OKLAHOMA CITY - Nathan Duel is the author of the recently published “Friday Was the Bomb; Five Years in the Middle East” in which de describes his time living in Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and Turkey while his wife, Kelly was serving as a National Public Radio reporters based in the Lebanese capital of Beirut. During that time, which began in 2008, Duel and his wife became the parents of a little girl and he also lost his father, who lived in Miami, Florida, to cancer. He documents how he dealt with t OKLAHOMA CITY - Nathan Duel is the author of the recently published “Friday Was the Bomb; Five Years in the Middle East” in which de describes his time living in Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and Turkey while his wife, Kelly was serving as a National Public Radio reporters based in the Lebanese capital of Beirut. During that time, which began in 2008, Duel and his wife became the parents of a little girl and he also lost his father, who lived in Miami, Florida, to cancer. He documents how he dealt with those events while living amidst violence and the political unrest that was sweeping the Middle East at that time. For much of that period, Duel and his family resided in Beirut. He often had to care for his daughter while his wife was away covering events such as the civil war in Syria, which is still raging today. And he writes of how he sought to maintain a normal life in Beirut despite the bombings and shootings that often were occurring there. After a bomb destroys the vehicle of Lebanon’s Intelligence agency chief, the pre-school where his daughter is enrolled sends an e-mail to the parents of its students that sets forth how students who lived in the area where the bombing took place were kept at the school after classes were over to insure their safety. Like many people in stressful situations, Duel sought some degree of relief in drinking, and there are numerous references to dinners and parties where much alcohol was consumed and the resulting hangovers. The author writes of how he and his wife enjoyed being associated in Beirut with Pulitzer Prize winning New York Times reporter and Oklahoma City native Anthony Shadid, whom he describes as being a “legendary” journalist. Shadid had encouraged Duel’s wife to come to Beirut, and every weekend she attempted to set up a “play date” with him “but news always got in the way”. Duel also details the sad occasion when he has to tell his wife that “Anthony is dead” as a result of an asthma attack that he suffered in Syria while covering the war there. He was present for the funeral that was held for Shadid in Beirut, who was 43 at the time of his death, and conveys the sadness and sense of loss that was felt by those who knew him. Several other reporters were killed while covering that conflict and Duel worried about his wife’s safety as she spent time in Syria. During this time the Duels also maintained a home in New York City, and he writes “I might be wrong, but I think that no matter what, after living in New York, you will always remember how great it was and forever wonder when you will go back." But he tells us how after Hurricane Sandy the home they occupied there was uninhabitable. Eventually, Duel convinces his wife to leave the Middle East, and late last year they begin a new life in California. - See more at: http://www.reddirtreport.com/rustys-r...

  5. 5 out of 5

    Susan Deichsel

    Both my husband and I loved this book which I purchased from Nathan Deuel during his stay in my vacation rental. I didn’t quite put together the enormity of details that both he and his wife must have had to engage in just to make their professional routes overlap in our city so they could spend a few days together. I think I knew Nathan was a writer, and I might have also known he was on a book tour, but I believed the larger mission of the visit was to support his wife’s work as a journalist w Both my husband and I loved this book which I purchased from Nathan Deuel during his stay in my vacation rental. I didn’t quite put together the enormity of details that both he and his wife must have had to engage in just to make their professional routes overlap in our city so they could spend a few days together. I think I knew Nathan was a writer, and I might have also known he was on a book tour, but I believed the larger mission of the visit was to support his wife’s work as a journalist while she revisited a story of national interest in our city. That is one of the reasons this book was a such a very pleasant surprise. I had no idea the subject of the book, or if it was fiction or non. We only knew he was Kelly’s husband and we wanted to see what he had written. Soon enough I was immersed not only by the contents of his journal, but also in the sweet and informative style of his writing. In this book Nathan shares his chronicles of the times during which he and his wife Kelly, a reporter for NPR, then assigned to cover middle-east conflicts, eventually as Baghdad Bureau Chief lived their daily lives. He was as physically present as possible in an equal role as both the emotional and physical foundation for his wife, but eventually to their baby daughter following her birth under circumstances most singular to the average American, in a Riyahd hospital, all the while Nathan was keeping track in his journal, some of which he shares with us here. Amid the chaos of their circumstances, and yes, the bomb on Friday, this couple manages to remain committed to one another, to their daughter, and to their mission to the necessity of reporting what was happening in these war zones and to that which must be known. Nathan writes with honesty and sensitivity while telling the most remarkable stories which he then ties together and presents to the reader tied with a black satin knot.

  6. 5 out of 5

    James (JD) Dittes

    There was a time when I had a little girl who I took to war-torn regions of central Europe (Albania during the NATO-Serb War). So when I saw an interview with Nathan Deuel about his book, I just had to read it. Deuel's experience is far more deadly than mine--he describes Baghdad, Riyadh, Istanbul and Beirut in this short volume--but the truth that he gets at is one that many fathers will understand--particularly those that assume primary responsibility for raising kids due to the career demands There was a time when I had a little girl who I took to war-torn regions of central Europe (Albania during the NATO-Serb War). So when I saw an interview with Nathan Deuel about his book, I just had to read it. Deuel's experience is far more deadly than mine--he describes Baghdad, Riyadh, Istanbul and Beirut in this short volume--but the truth that he gets at is one that many fathers will understand--particularly those that assume primary responsibility for raising kids due to the career demands of the mothers: fatherhood is an existential endeavor. It changes one's priorities and shapes the way one interacts with the environment. It finds dangers in places far safer than the ones described in this book. Deuel has an eye for detail, and weaves clever observations with concrete elements. For example, in the chapter "Holiday in Baghdad," he understands his wife's changing role as he stands in the crater of a bombed-out Iraqi apartment complex, watching her report on the incident. For now, I regarded my wife (NPR journalist Kelly McEvers), who stood in the shell of a collapsed building, arguing with a soldier... For a time, she would live and work in Iraq, and I would have not choice but to trust that she would find her own balance, that she'd figure out how to care without caring too much, to give herself over as much as she could to the project of this caring without leading herself or others into harm, remaining a wife and a mother and the woman she wanted to be--and the war reporter she was quietly becoming. I slipped a shard of twisted metal into my pocket.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Beau Raines

    I picked up this book hoping to read about a family's adventures in the war torn Middle East. And what I got was the tales from a father, sometimes single, while his wife was a war correspondent. And with any family that goes through time apart, the tales had an underlying tone of sadness. At the parties or time with friends, the loneliness that the author felt came through. And even when he was with his wife, there was always that feeling of sadness as he knew they would be apart again. This boo I picked up this book hoping to read about a family's adventures in the war torn Middle East. And what I got was the tales from a father, sometimes single, while his wife was a war correspondent. And with any family that goes through time apart, the tales had an underlying tone of sadness. At the parties or time with friends, the loneliness that the author felt came through. And even when he was with his wife, there was always that feeling of sadness as he knew they would be apart again. This book evoked feelings, which is what I think authors want to do. I was hoping for adventure and maybe some of the danger that comes from being in a war zone, but got sadness, loneliness and separation. And for that, I give it credit. It is an interesting read, not too long and sheds some light upon what it is like for so many families that have been separated by the conflicts in the Middle East.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Tyx

    Told in short narrative snapshots that juxtapose the small heartbreaks of daily life with the unbearable ones of violent conflict in the Middle East, this is a humble, compassionate, and keenly observed book that spoke to me, as a parent and a writer, on a deep level. The central questions--how do we live a live of importance without betraying our children? how important is it to live such a life, anyway? what does it mean to be an American in the world?--are relatable to anyone who is a parent Told in short narrative snapshots that juxtapose the small heartbreaks of daily life with the unbearable ones of violent conflict in the Middle East, this is a humble, compassionate, and keenly observed book that spoke to me, as a parent and a writer, on a deep level. The central questions--how do we live a live of importance without betraying our children? how important is it to live such a life, anyway? what does it mean to be an American in the world?--are relatable to anyone who is a parent or who experienced life outside of one's own culture. Highly recommended!

  9. 5 out of 5

    Elliot Chalom

    Interesting story about being not quite on the front lines, but on the sidelines, of the chaos in the Middle East from 2008-13. I don't read almost anything about war or current events, but the draw of this also being the story of a father dealing with normal human interest issues got me in and opened my eyes to things I wouldn't otherwise read. The downside? Deuel is a good storyteller but the book is confusing, not exactly moving chronologically and jumping from location to location and back. Interesting story about being not quite on the front lines, but on the sidelines, of the chaos in the Middle East from 2008-13. I don't read almost anything about war or current events, but the draw of this also being the story of a father dealing with normal human interest issues got me in and opened my eyes to things I wouldn't otherwise read. The downside? Deuel is a good storyteller but the book is confusing, not exactly moving chronologically and jumping from location to location and back. Still, a nice short different kind of story.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Martin

    A thoughtful collection that reverses gender roles and finds Nathan taking care of his baby daughter while his wife swashbuckles as a war reporter in Iraq and Syria. In addition to war, these essays examine fatherhood as Nathan struggles to adjust to life in Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Lebanon and wonders if he and his wife have made a mistake. These essays also offer a comparison of life in the middle east with Nathan's former life in the states. I recommend.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Joanne Clarke Gunter

    Too much about the inconveniences the author is going through and not enough about the Middle East. Read the late Anthony Shadid's books if you really want to know about the Middle East and the every day lives of the people who live there.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Stu Campbell

    Decent memoir of a husband/writer who spends 5 years in Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Lebanon raising his daughter while his wife rises the ranks of war reporters. The most interesting spin on the story is the view of the husband at home while the wife is in danger. It's an interesting, short read

  13. 5 out of 5

    Joseph

    Short but powerful memory trips.

  14. 4 out of 5

    David Gutowski

  15. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

  16. 5 out of 5

    Diana Jennings

  17. 5 out of 5

    Anders Karlsson

  18. 5 out of 5

    Anne Waterhouse

  19. 5 out of 5

    Philip

  20. 5 out of 5

    Ross

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jared

  22. 5 out of 5

    Bryan

  23. 5 out of 5

    Gwen Ely

  24. 5 out of 5

    Farah Kdouh

  25. 5 out of 5

    Tanyaucf

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jenny

  27. 4 out of 5

    Richard Streets

  28. 4 out of 5

    becca mischel

  29. 4 out of 5

    Sue

  30. 5 out of 5

    Susannah

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