The Woman Who Fell From the Sky

The Woman Who Fell From the Sky

An American Journalist in Yemen

Book - 2010
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"I had no idea how to find my way around this medieval city. It was getting dark. I was tired. I didn't speak Arabic. I was a little frightened. But hadn't I battled scorpions in the wilds of Costa Rica and prevailed? Hadn't I survived fainting in a San José brothel?  Hadn't I once arrived in Ireland with only $10 in my pocket and made it last two weeks? Surely I could handle a walk through an unfamiliar town. So I took a breath, tightened the black scarf around my hair, and headed out to take my first solitary steps through Sana'a."-- from The Woman Who Fell From The Sky
 
In a world fraught with suspicion between the Middle East and the West, it's hard to believe that one of the most influential newspapers in Yemen--the desperately poor, ancestral homeland of Osama bin Laden, which has made has made international headlines for being a terrorist breeding ground--would be handed over to an agnostic, Campari-drinking, single woman from Manhattan who had never set foot in the Middle East. Yet this is exactly what happened to journalist, Jennifer Steil.
 
Restless in her career and her life, Jennifer, a gregarious, liberal New Yorker, initially accepts a short-term opportunity in 2006 to teach a journalism class to the staff of The Yemen Observer in Sana'a, the beautiful, ancient, and very conservative capital of Yemen. Seduced by the eager reporters and the challenging prospect of teaching a free speech model of journalism there, she extends her stay to a year as the paper's editor-in-chief. But she is quickly confronted with the realities of Yemen--and their surprising advantages.  In teaching the basics of fair and balanced journalism to a staff that included plagiarists and polemicists, she falls in love with her career again. In confronting the blatant mistreatment and strict governance of women by their male counterparts, she learns to appreciate the strength of Arab women in the workplace. And in forging surprisingly deep friendships with women and men whose traditions and beliefs are in total opposition to her own, she learns a cultural appreciation she never could have predicted.  What's more, she just so happens to meet the love of her life.
 
With exuberance and bravery, The Woman Who Fell from the Sky offers a rare, intimate, and often surprising look at the role of the media in Muslim culture and a fascinating cultural tour of Yemen, one of the most enigmatic countries in the world.
Publisher: New York : Broadway Books, 2010.
Edition: 1st ed.
ISBN: 9780767930505
0767930509
Characteristics: xiv, 321 p. ; 25 cm.

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BPLNextBestAdults Jul 13, 2011

Jennifer Steil, a senior editor of a New York paper, the “Week”, took one year off in 2006 to work as the editor of the “Yemen Observer”, an English language paper in Sana’a, Yemen. Jennifer went to teach a three week course in journalism for the reporters of the “Yemen Observer” and was then offered the position of editor for one year. Jennifer became very close to the female Yemini reporters and the reader learns about the difficulties that Yemini women face in order to have a career in that country.
The author describes her struggles to train and retain staff and the limitations that she must face with the owner of the paper who uses the paper as a propaganda tool for the current government in Yemen. Steil describes the social and cultural life of Yemen in a very insightful way. Near the end of her contract, Jennifer meets the new British ambassador to Yemen and they fall in love. The British ambassador was in an unhappy marriage and over the next three months he divorces his wife and becomes romantically involved with Steil. A fascinating read into the life Yemini people seen through the lens of an assertive and intelligent female journalist.

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Jan 08, 2015

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