Tuesday, July 5, 2011

THE HONORED DEAD - Joseph Braude

First line: "Muhammad Bari eased out of his bedroom and opened the creaking front door just enough to make his way outside."

THE HONORED DEAD: A Story of Friendship, Murder, and the Search for Truth in the Arab World is the non-fiction account of Joseph Braude's investigation into a murder while he was embedded with Casablanca's National Security. Joseph Braude is a Jewish-American journalist and he was given the file on the murder of a homeless man in a warehouse. He was given the file to illustrate how well the National Security was doing its job. As Braude spoke to people who knew the victim, he discovered Muhammad Bari. Bari believed there was more to know about his friend's murder and he recruited Braude to help him find out exactly what happened.

THE HONORED DEAD took some adjustment for me as a reader because I'm typically a fiction reader these days. I quickly remembered that reading non-fiction is a much slower endeavor for me. While THE HONORED DEAD reads somewhat like a murder mystery, it still exhibits elements of non-fiction, such as deviations to explain cultural information, background information, history, etc. There is also an important layer to the book that deals with Braude's own history, so there are times when he deviates to explain his personal story. All of these items are important to understand the journalist's perspective and the actions of the people involved in his investigation. But it does have the effect of slowing down the reading experience.

This book was at turns fascinating and terrifying. For me it was somewhat of a reminder of my sorely deficient knowledge of world events. And it is still a jolting experience for me to be reminded of how women and underrepresented populations are treated in these cultures. The irony being that the National Security is trying to show Braude how advanced and progressive they are. Change is a very slow process when it involves culture.

THE HONORED DEAD is a book that I believe is very dependent on the reader. I was moved by Braude's vision of the people he encountered. His cultural background mixes Judaism with his mother's Iraqi heritage. Braude is American by birth and studied Near Eastern cultures in college; his best friend was Muslim. This diversity allowed him to have somewhat of a connection with most everyone he encountered. And similarly, his bad experience with law enforcement in the United States influenced his perceptions of law enforcement in Morocco as well. I felt a great deal of empathy for many of the people Braude illustrated. I would be curious to know how someone from the Muslim culture or the Jewish culture would see these same people through these same words. Would Braude's effect be similar? What the reader brings to this book plays a huge role in its tenor.

THE HONORED DEAD is an eye-opening experience in it's portrayal of Morocco and it's people.

THE HONORED DEAD is available in hardcover (ISBN: 978-0-385-52703-3) from Spiegel & Grau.

My review is part of the TLC Blog Tour for THE HONORED DEAD. You can check the site here for additional reviews of this book as well as additional information about Joseph Braude. You can also find out more about Joseph Braude and THE HONORED DEAD at his website.


Lesa July 5, 2011 at 8:35 AM  

Fascinating book, wasn't it, Jen? Like you, I realized how little I know about other cultures and countries. And, I'm glad I'm an American woman.

Jen July 5, 2011 at 10:11 PM  

Absolutely Lesa! I'm glad to be an American woman as well. :-)

heathertlc July 6, 2011 at 7:06 PM  

"What the reader brings to this book plays a huge role in its tenor." Great point! I think this is true of every book but more so of books that focus on a particular culture/country/religious group.

I really enjoyed your review! Thanks for being a part of the tour.

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