Sisters in War

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2009-09-29
  • Publisher: Random House

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Four extraordinary women discover the true meaning of bravery, friendship, and love in this moving story of post-war Iraq.

Author Biography

Christina Asquith was born in New York City and was educated at Boston University and the London School of Economics. A journalist for more than a decade, she has written for The New York Times, The Economist, The Christian Science Monitor, and The Guardian, and she was a staff writer at The Philadelphia Inquirer. She lives with her husband and their daughter in Burlington, Vermont.


Chapter One

when the sisters heard the roar of U.S. military planes overhead, they clambered up the wooden steps onto the roof of their uncle’s mud-brick farmhouse. “Maybe they can see us!” cried Nunu happily. She shouted to the sky, for once not caring who heard: “Go! Good luck! But don’t kill any innocent people.”

Zia laughed with her, glad to have something, at last, to celebrate. The Americans were here to free them from Saddam. She watched her little sister waving at the distant black specks, skipping over the mud and straw in her fancy shoes. A few days ago, Nunu had overheard on her shortwave radio that American troops were marching through Iraqi villages, going door-to-door, and ever since then she had been getting up an extra hour early in the morning just to do her hair and makeup. So far, no war heroes had shown up, but it was so good to see Nunu happy that Zia hadn’t even teased her for it. They could feel the electricity in the air: after years of oppression, the government was about to be overthrown, and Iraq would be free—a “freedom” they had only ever known through their mother’s stories of Iraq’s glorious past. After weeks and months of waiting, these military planes were their first, welcome sign of that immense promise.

As the sound of the planes died away and Nunu scanned the horizon for more, Zia’s own thoughts grew darker. In her mind she followed the bomber planes to Baghdad, 115 miles to the east, where her father, stubborn as ever, had insisted on waiting out the invasion to protect their house from looters. As a child she had heard bombs falling around their neighborhood during the Iran-Iraq war, and she remembered the terror, as she moved through adolescence, of the American bombing raids on Baghdad in 1991 and 1998. She couldn’t bear to imagine anything happening to Baba, or to her beloved city—though she tried to tell herself that some destruction was necessary and understandable. Her throat tightened as she remembered Baba’s admiration of the “incredible precision” of American bombs, and his insistence that the Americans weren’t interested in targeting civilians. That had been three weeks ago, though, and they’d had no news from him since. Though she knew it was forbidden to doubt her own father, she still whispered a silent prayer, under her breath, that he’d be safe.

Nunu skipped toward her across the roof. “Zia, let’s go tell Mamina! Now that the Americans are here, soon we’ll be able to go home!”

As they climbed down the ladder into their uncle’s home, Zia wished, again, that women’s lives would change with the Americans’ arrival. She was tired of being an outcast. As the eldest daughter, Zia had unconsciously stepped into the patriarchal role usually assumed by the eldest son, earning income in her job, driving the car, tutoring Nunu, and even handling financial matters with her uncles. She liked being in charge, even though she knew her outspokenness had earned her a reputation as “unmarriageable” around the neighborhood.

“The Americans are advancing toward Baghdad!” Nunu cheered when they found Mamina, folding her prayer mat in the bedroom the women shared downstairs. Their mother’s darkly lined eyes lit up, and she gave them a tight, perfume-scented hug. Even with her hair hidden under a veil, Mamina radiated the warmth and beauty of a woman twenty years younger, Zia thought. This time, they all felt sure, the Americans would get the job done.

Mamina sighed contentedly. “Like he parted the sea for Moses, we pray God makes a smooth path for the Americans. Then, my dears, you will know how it feels to be proud of your homeland—you’ll see the progressive, cultured Iraq your father and I loved so much when we were young. I

Excerpted from Sisters in War: A Story of Love, Family, and Survival in the New Iraq by Christina Asquith
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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