Berg relay’s her experiences in Iraq with humor and it makes for a fun read. If you are looking for a book about the culture and customs of Iraq from a Western perspective, keep looking. This is a memoir and not a commentary on someone else’s culture. While Berg does go out in town occasionally and does interact with her local students, she doesn’t treat this as a reason to learn everything there is to know about the Muslim/Iraqi/Kurd cultures.
I do not say this to admonish her, there were just several complaints about it on Goodreads and want to set the record straight for anyone considering this book. Don’t pick it up if you are expecting those things. This is a fun and sassy look at living in Iraq, though she is not on any form of exchange program. Berg is in a university setting with many other Western teachers and some expatriots. She mingles with the community but only as her gender and therefore the propriety for that community allows. She doesn’t go in burning bras. Look, I’m a feminist, but baby steps. There are women doing great things in those countries for feminism, but they do not need a white savior and Berg appears to know that. Oh, this is turning into the wrong rant.
Berg’s insights about the locals that she meets and their interactions are generally fun and sometimes contradictory to what we see most often in the US. I enjoyed hearing about the way the little things that surprised her. I also enjoyed that she kept the story focused on Iraq and Islamic countries despite several visits to other countries, including one home. It was great to see her thoughts on the local culture change and her attitude about it all change as her time there progressed. But yes, the story is mostly about university life, not acclimating to a new culture. It’s not really like that everywhere and we cannot expect memoirs in other countries to always be some Big Fat Greek Wedding type of experience. It’s ludicrous.
There are, however, some problematic issues with her adoration of Scarlett O’Hara, though she is also my favorite literary heroine. Berg makes reference to her many times in entertaining ways, but without deference to cultures within the US, where her book is mostly likely to be read. She does appear to ignore the inherent problems with Scarlett’s story and even some of her more memorable scenes, such as the Union soldiers are her door. Maybe I’m just too familiar with the material, but it seemed a little insensitive to reference those. Not everyone has to be sensitive to everything all the time, but don’t read this if you have issues with Gone with the Wind and it’s representation of the Civil War, you won’t like it, is all. Also, if you would be put off by someone being so nonchalant about the fact that there was a war going on throughout the time-frame of the story.
On the other hand, if you love Scarlett and want to read a story about living in Iraq that doesn’t include suicide bombers, ISIS, terrorists, war or honor killings, than you should read it. It was a lot of fun.