The Bee­keeper: Res­cu­ing the Stolen Women of Iraq

Foreword Reviews - - Reviews - PAIGE VAN DE WINKLE

Dunya Mikhail Max Weiss (Trans­la­tor) New Di­rec­tions (MARCH) Soft­cover $16.99 (240pp) 978-0-8112-2612-7

The Bee­keeper is Dunya Mikhail’s haunt­ing ac­count of Ab­dul­lah, who de­voted his life to res­cu­ing mostly Yazidi women and chil­dren kid­napped and kept cap­tive by the Daesh, aka the Is­lamic State. The book in­cludes au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal el­e­ments about grow­ing up in Baghdad and con­fronting war, told through po­etry and lyri­cal prose.

In­tensely rel­e­vant and pow­er­ful, the book car­ries the sto­ries of the Is­lamic State’s vic­tims for­ward with ap­palling de­tails, in­clud­ing de­scrip­tions of abuse, rape, and slave mar­kets. Be­yond the atroc­i­ties, it tells the true and in­spir­ing story of Ab­dul­lah’s self­less hero­ism in a time of cri­sis.

This is a stun­ning cre­ative study that blurs the lines be­tween prose and po­etry. Through her in­spired de­scrip­tions of the Iraq of the past, Mikhail gives a glimpse into what has been lost, skill­fully uti­liz­ing el­e­ments of jour­nal­ism and cre­ative non­fic­tion for a uniquely var­ied struc­ture and voice.

Pho­to­graphs of the cap­tives give faces to the un­think­able atroc­i­ties com­mit­ted by Daesh. Other mem­o­rable pho­to­graphs, taken by Arab women, are in­cluded to show the in­spi­ra­tion be­hind Mikhail’s poignant per­sonal prose and po­etry; they cen­ter on Baghdad dur­ing the Iraq-iran war.

Mikhail bril­liantly cap­tures the large-scale atroc­i­ties of Daesh in an in­di­vid­u­al­ized way. An ex­ten­sive and beau­ti­ful pas­sage about her own ex­pe­ri­ence of flee­ing from Baghdad re­calls, “From above, there are no souls, only bod­ies,” con­trast­ing her feel­ings with her mother’s, who “seems con­cerned about the heavy stuff we can’t carry with us—the Per­sian car­pet, the pi­ano, the an­tique sewing ma­chine.” Po­etic por­tions are where Mikhail is most in her el­e­ment; they glow with in­spi­ra­tion.

The Bee­keeper is a bru­tally im­por­tant, elec­tri­fy­ing, and lyri­cal true story.

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