Over nine hundred and ninety-nine farewells.

This week, we have been asked by our professors to blog about a book we were assigned to read in Journalism. Here we go:

A Thousand Farewells” is a work of non-fiction written by Palestinian-Canadian journalist Nahlah Ayed. Ayed chronicles her life, from her family’s humble beginnings travelling between the Middle East and Canada when Nahlah was a young girl, through to her career as a journalist with the CBC. The second half of the book is when things really start to pick up, as Ayed shares her experiences covering breaking news in the Middle East, including the American-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the Arab Spring protests that began in 2011.

Ayed offers her unique perspective on these major international events as a journalist who was on the ground talking with people directly affected by these conflicts, including some harrowing moments she endured herself.

Question time:

What works in this book? What does not work? Why?

What I thought worked best in this book was the second half of the book when she begins to describe her experiences covering the 2003 Iraq invasion and the Arab Spring.
She also talks about the difficulties and intolerance she has encountered as a female journalist working in the Middle East, which must make the prospect of heading into these volatile situations all the more risky.

I feel like the book could have included a bit more context, or back stories to describe the causes behind some of these conflicts. At times, it seems as if Ayed takes for granted how knowledgeable her audience is to politics and history from the Middle East region. However, there were only a few moments when reading it that I was forced to do some research to learn the background of whats going on.

Also, some maps that outline the different places she’s been to throughout her life might have added some perspective to just how unrooted her life was at times.

What can journalists learn from this book?

As an aspiring journalist, this book has reinforced the idea of hitting the pavement, talking to people and doing your own persistent digging for the story. Often times, in my experience as a student journalist, it’s just too convenient to take the easy route and go by whatever the press release says or to stick with the safe interviews or leads, instead of digging to find the truth or the story hidden within the story.

How does it compare to another non-fiction work of your choice in any medium?

anchorboy

Okay, so this might seem like an odd connection to make, but the last book I’ve read written by a journalist was Anchorboy by Jay Onrait. Granted, from afar these two  books appear to have very little in common from except that they were both written by Canadians working in the field of journalism, and that they were both available in paperback versions, but I appreciate how both Anchorboy and A Thousand Farewells pull the curtain back and show the reader how the news gets collected and reported. Both of them have raised my interest in reading more memoir-style books written by influential journalists.

How did reading this book affect you? 

I think the point in this book that affected me the most was her early descriptions of where she lived in Winnipeg, which was very, very close to the area that I live in. Also, Nahlah talks about working at the Manitoban. I work at the Manitoban, so I decided to go through our archives to find old pieces written by her from the early-nineties.

Here are a few choice pieces that I thought I’d share by uploading them to imgur. Note, some of these are from the editorial page, and are not straight news stories.

It’s really encouraging to be on a similar path as someone who has ‘made it’ as a journalist. Ayed is one of six ‘notable contributors’ mentioned on the Manitoban’s Wikipedia page, and boy wouldn’t it be cool to see my name mentioned there too one day.

(Technically, that day could be right now, since Wikipedia is entirely editable…)

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