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Hardcover American Hostage: A Memoir of a Journalist Kidnapped in Iraq and the Remarkable Battle to Win His Release Book

ISBN: 0743276604

ISBN13: 9780743276603

American Hostage: A Memoir of a Journalist Kidnapped in Iraq and the Remarkable Battle to Win His Release

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Format: Hardcover

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Book Overview

A rare and powerful story of hope, love, survival, and the struggle to bring back alive a hostage in Iraq Micah Garen and Marie-H?l?ne Carleton were journalists and filmmakers working in Iraq on a... This description may be from another edition of this product.

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

A moving account of one hostage's ordeal and the incredible effort to win his release

Back in 2004, the sight of innocent civilians, including journalists, kidnapped in Iraq became all too common. We saw the horrifying pictures of helpless individuals surrounded by brutal men too cowardly to even show their faces, heard the kidnappers' ridiculous demands, prayed for the victims and their families, and felt a deep sense of outrage and anger at the barbarism of the terrorists. Our hearts went out to those involved, yet the personal reality of such a nightmare situation never really touched us - certainly not in the way it did the victims and their families back home. I pictured grieving families coming together to wait out the ordeal, unable to do anything but hope and pray. The family and friends - and colleagues - of Micah Garen, however, were anything but paralyzed, and that is what makes his story so fascinating. Alongside Garen's experience in captivity, we also have a rundown of the tireless, far-reaching efforts of a small army of supporters, led by his fiance Marie-Helene Carleton. Both Garen and Carleton had gone to Iraq to shoot a documentary about the widespread looting taking place there, at some of the most significant archaeological sites in the world. Both authors share their experiences in this regard, and it is an important subject - important enough for both of them to risk their lives to document it - but I really don't have enough space to discuss it here. Carleton returned home, but Garen chose to stay two more weeks in order to film the new city guards that were set to begin protecting the site at Umma. Their months-long stay overlapped with the transfer of power to Iraqi authority in mid-2004, which turned out to be a most dangerous time, as fighting broke out between Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army and coalition forces. On August 13, Garen and Amir Doshi, his friend and translator, traveled to Nasiriyah, where they were kidnapped from the market place and taken to the office of al-Sadr. From there, they were taken to a remote location in the marshes, their new home a small enclosure surrounded by a wall of date palm fronds jammed down into the earth. This certainly didn't fit my mental image of a hostage cell, but it gave them only the smallest glimmer of hope that they might be able to escape. Garen takes us through the daily routine that soon developed, the conversations he and Amir had with different guards (with different ones seemingly having different agendas), and brings home both the emotional and physical toll their captivity took on both men. All of the doubts, fears, internal debates, and fleeting senses of hopefulness are vividly detailed, giving one at least a sense of what Garen's ordeal must have been like. Marie-Helene Carleton's story is, in some ways, more gripping and emotional than Garen's. While he at least had a minute-to-minute sense of what was going on, his family and friends started out with nothing more than the nightmarish report of his kidnapping. They

A Suspense Thriller, Romance, and Journalistic Account of the Iraqi War

AMERICAN HOSTAGE is a difficult book to classify. Though the cover calls it 'a memoir of a journalist kidnapped in Iraq and the remarkable battle to win his release', that is only the tip of the pyramid in this book that is not only beautifully written, but also weaves a story of intense intrigue, some fascinating inside information about the people of Iraq, the obstacles of living in a land at war, the tenderness not only between a fine journalist and his lover but also between the journalist and his translator/friend. There is more to learn from this highly entertaining book than could be expected. Micah Garen, an American journalist covering the looting of the ancient ruins of Iraq with his partner/lover Marie-Helene Carleton, was kidnapped with his translator Amir on August 13th, 2004. Garen relates the issues leading up to the kidnapping, and the daily hardships and terrors while under guard with his good friend Amir, until their release August 22nd, 2004 - nine days and nights filled with despair, terror, suffering, political manipulation, yet with the indomitable human spirit that allowed them to survive. During the time Garen and Amir were in captivity, Carleton did amazingly courageous acts of spirit and fact from her home in New York to guarantee that the two men would survive and be released. That story is important enough and intensely interestingly enough to make the book work. But the joy of reading AMERICAN HOSTAGE is in part due to the diary-like mode of writing: Garen makes entries like a diary listed by day and Carleton mirrors those entries with her won responses from New York. In addition to unfolding the terror of the kidnapping, Garen gives diversions of background of the life of a journalist, his important successes in reporting the looting of antiquities, the responses of the people on all sides of the festering carbuncle that is the situation in Iraq, allowing us full range of exposure to all sides of the matter. This is not only excellent journalism: this is information we rarely encounter in the media. The clear writing style and the clever manner of relating this important event are accompanied by photographs of the 'cast' of characters - an aspect that for this reader lowers the quality of the overall impact. It is fine to see the handsome couple on the cover jacket, but reducing the images included in the text to snapshots of Sumerian bricks, 'hijab' garb, 'keffiyeh' and 'dishdasha' costume elements, the blindfold worn during captivity, palm frond spikes, etc. makes an otherwise intensely interesting novel-like memoir appear like a simple scrapbook. But that is a small complaint for a book as well written and as fascinating as this. Recommended for all those who want a better idea of how the situation in Iraq is progressing. Grady Harp, June 06

Insight into the complexities of modern day Iraq

This memoir is unique and compelling because it operates on so many levels: on one level, it's the story of two journalists who fight for a cause they believe in as well as their own lives. On another level, it's also the story of the multi-layered society and culture that's being shaped in war-torn Iraq. The Iraqis described in the book are both committed to preserving their culture (translator and historian Amir Doshi) and destroying it (the looters of antiquities). They are pro-American (the kidnapper who asked Micah to sponsor his visa) and anti-American (the thugs who yelled 'Foreigner' and snatched him from the market at gunpoint) Whether you are interested in a varied perspective on the current state of Iraq or are curious about the challenges faced by freelance journalists in high-conflict zones, this book illustrates a side of the war that rarely makes it to the nightly news.


In the past few years we've seen a horrific rise in the abduction of journalists as an effort to alter the course of political events. The media was once a venue through which we attempted to understand the true nature of overseas conflict. Today the camera is war's most compelling weapon; the hostage is the tool with which battles are fought, and a nation's eyes are coaxed back towards events we are otherwise unwilling to look upon. The hostage narrative is a surprising and compelling new genre of war reportage--partly shaped by the mainstream media as events unfold, and later retold by the survivors, who give a voice to the people used as leverage in modern warfare. Garen and Carleton's narrative is essential for those who wish to understand the role of independent journalists in the volatile new Iraq and in the shock theater that has become contemporary mainstream media. Their book is a portrait of both the internal and external spheres of modern war. It deftly reveals the way an artist's medium can turn upon him, first as a threat to his very life, and later as a vehicle for reconciliation.

Bravery and Warmth

I won't give away the ending (hint: it's co-authored by captee Micah and freedom-fighter Marie-Helene), but will say that that American Hostage - which chronicles Micah Garen's capture and captivity last year in southern Iraq, and his fiancée Marie-Helene's New York City based efforts to free him - is an amazing tale well-told by a winning and resourceful pair. Working utterly independently from one another (Micah was in a palm enclosure in southern Iraqi marshes and Marie-Helene in NYC), they still mirror one another's ethos and energy. As Micah practices yoga to steady nerves (and baffle his guards) and cagily grills another guard about local soccer to gage location, Marie Helene and friends establish a remarkable network of well-connected souls (politically and strategically) and set more wheels in motion via their grassroots efforts (and wall-mounted Sheik Sheet) than the FBI can fathom, or match. There's an unbelievable lack of bravado or ego to both of their tellings. And they describe Iraq - their time there, their friends and experiences - with such compassion and understanding, that the beleaguered country emerges almost as another character in the narrative. Their Iraqi translator, Nietzsche-enthusiast, friend and co-captive, Amir, is the wise, steady and winning third character. And dog Zeugma the fourth. The couple come across as the pair most likely to succeed, and shine, and make friends in compromising and dismal of circumstances. You'd want them on your side, Amir along, and dog Zeugma at your feet. Would recommend for all the narrative threads that weave through American Hostage: The looting of Iraq's Sumerian heritage - the reason Micah (and Marie Helene) are in the country, reporting. The nuanced portrait of America's role on the ground in Iraq. The love story that manages to blossom in the unforgiving and unlikely terrain of Micah's captivity. The complexity of politics and allegiances on the ground in modern-day Iraq - evidenced by the kidnapping itself and by the astoundingly complex network that Marie Helene establishes to secure Micah's release. A story told by thoughtful and evocative narrators who just happen to be its stars.
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