Love in a Torn Land:
Joanna of Kurdistan:
The True Story of a Freedom Fighter's Escape from Iraqi Vengeance

by Jean Sasson


John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2007. ISBN 978-0-470-06729-1.
Reviewed by Rhonda Esakov
Posted on 12/12/2007

Nonfiction: Biography; Nonfiction: History/Current Events; Nonfiction: Faith/Spirituality/Inspiration

Best-selling author Jean Sasson has traveled to many corners of the world and befriended many fascinating women whose stories cry out to be told. The true story of Joanna al-Askari Hussain, a Kurdish woman living in Iraq, is the life of a woman who falls in love and lives in terrifying danger while she pursues freedom for the Kurdish people in the extremes of a confusing war. In Jean Sasson's book, Love in a Torn Land, you will meet a woman who might be the heroine of an adventure novel or of a tender romance, surviving against all odds. This is Jean Sasson at her best!

Before I began this book, I did not know what a Kurd was. But I came to admire the spirit of the Kurdish people and their unfathomable faith in their right to survive in the harsh environments of war, suppression, and genocide, The story follows a family's struggles in war-torn Iraq. Joanna's story includes stories of the oppression of Muslim women, heartbreaking tales of torture and loss, warm sharings of people reaching out to comfort others, and harrowing narratives of a people's struggle to survive. Against all odds, this brave woman survives, determined to live the life she wanted, no matter the cost.

In this book, Joanna tells us of the bombings of Baghdad and the Northern Iraq mountains. She must learn the crucial lesson "that whatever one might be doing here, half the mind will not be focusing on the task at hand, but instead on the sounds and sights from the skies." She applies this lesson as she listens for the shrill whistling resonance of shells or for the noisy roar of an airplane or helicopter engine while she is preparing a meager breakfast, often consisting only of rice. She manages narrow escapes in treacherous places, only to find herself in an area targeted for race-eliminating scourges. She may suffer the heartbreak of the loss of loved ones, is often on the brink of starvation, is poisoned and blinded by gas, but she never loses her spirit and will to survive. Even a poor shelter, crawling with scorpions, with no electricity, no running water, and no toilets, seems like heaven.

I hope that this eye-opening story encourages you to read more of Jean Sasson's books as she supports women whose voices must be heard.


Jean Sasson is the author of seven books, including two international best sellers. She has appeared on Oprah, the Today Show, and CNN. Many of her books tell the stories of women in the Middle East. She maintains active communications and friendships with the women she writes about. Visit her website.

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