Read: I, Who Did Not Die

I, Who Did Not Die by Zahed Haftlang and Najah Aboud with Meredith May

First book completed this year. I started in December 2018.

This book, is heavy. I came crashing into this book after decades of media absence from the Iran-Iraq war.

By ‘media absence’, I mean I haven’t read anything in-depth on the said war since the late 90s. As a teen, I read a lot of newspapers and news magazines, and I’ve read about the tortures and all the inhumane stories from this very war. But to relive it, with even gorier details (how they hang you), once again drags you back to hopelessness. The world, as we all should realize, by now, a year shy from turning 2020, is hopeless. There’s little hope left in humanity. Torture is still going on. So are wars. What’s new?

For Zahed and Najah to have survived the war and torture let alone found each other – proof that there’s still hope.

Thank you, Meredith May – for bringing this story to life, for writing this legacy. How is this not a bestseller, I have no idea. Probably the cover. This has got to do better than Educated by Tara Westover or that Crawdad book.

Reading: I, Who Did Not Die


If I finish this book by 31st December 2018 (I’ll try not to, since I’ve already completed my reading challenge for 2018), I think it’ll be a tie with my favorite book of the year. It will sound like an understatement super cliché if I used the following words to describe this book: ‘necessary’, ‘beyond powerful’, ‘remarkable’. So I will try to omit those words in my post once I’m done.

Thanks to this book, I have decided to separate my ‘Best Book’ categories into the following:

  • Current Affairs, War & History
  • Business
  • Memoir/Autobiography
  • True Crime
  • Biography
  • etc.

I have yet to write a post on In Extremis, which I’ve finished a week ago, and the remaining 20+ books. I guess I just don’t know how to make them sound smart. Because they are all better and smarter than me, than the world-at-large, than you.

Yemen is still in peril, so is Syria. So many ‘disappeared’ Chinese dissidents who are under house arrest that no one cares about in power cares or dares to interfere. Some dead, unreported. Law abiding Muslims oppressed in Xinjiang. Captured and assassinated journalists who are treated as ‘political prisoners’ around the world. This planet we are living in, fml – and yet we continue to bear children.

Here’s to 2019 – for better or for worse.

Afterthoughts: The Last Girl

October 15th, 2018

I have been aware of Nadia Murad ever since her plight made headlines years ago. I never followed her news live, but I did come across news about Yazidis and ISIS every now and then because I’m usually glued to current affairs whenever I’m on my phone.

When news of her penning a memoir began floating around, I knew I had to read it and not pile it on my tbr. Normally I’d pre-order, like what I did with Fire And Fury, but I missed this one.

Like most memoirs, I always end up feeling exactly what Angelina Jolie once said in one of the most powerful humanity speeches ever – “I don’t know why this is my life, and that’s hers.”

(She gave that speech upon receiving The Jean Hersholt Humanity Award at The 2013 Governors Awards)

In 2013, I was busy with life at one of the most prosperous, busiest cities in China. The idea that what was happening in Iraq, while reading this book, and rewinding to where I was, was simply incomprehensible. But what are we to do?

In the book, the author said she will have compassion for those around her who chose to do nothing, assuming that the bystanders or ISIS sympathizers had no other choice (physical threats and other livelihood matters).

She did voice out her anger specifically toward those who knew about the enslavement, but did nothing. Those who supported the regime and did nothing while she was being transported from house to house, checkpoint to checkpoint.

What she could have openly stressed further for the general readers, in my opinion, was how brainwashing worked. Like the Rwandan genocide that happened in 1994, where Hutus were systematically brainwashed long before it all happened (though its history goes way back than just “long before”). In Nadia’s account, she did mention how the national syllabus failed to include the Yazidis (and other minorities), but nothing much beyond that.

The people who failed to sympathize with her were likely, if that’s not even an understatement in itself, people who had little means to flee and thus had no choice but to protect their own lives and keep their family together, or simply those who were systematically brainwashed into believing that minorities like Yazidis did not deserve a place in the world let alone Iraq, and hence needed to be exterminated, like the Kurds, the Jews, the Tutsis.

It was a terrifying account, but after reading many memoirs, I felt that something was holding this book back, as though the editor had to trim or remove a certain emotion in order to make it mass/international friendly.

This book deserves nothing lesser than a full five star rating. This book should be compulsory reading for all religious schools, from Orthodox Christians, Catholics, Buddhism, to Islamic schools.

Let lives matter more than religion. Maybe if we see a human first instead of a believer of another higher power other than ours, maybe, just maybe, the world could be a better place.