The Arab Uprisings: What Everyone Needs to Know

There is a feeling that one must go back in time to understand the present when it comes to world affairs. This is true of the Middle East, a region that knows its share of conflict and turmoil and constantly changing regimes. Why are there protests going on right now? Why is there conflict in these countries and discontent between the people and their governments?  When mass protests in Egypt erupted at the end of June of this year and led to the ousting of its President, Mohamed Morsi, it's natural to wonder what led to such events. In Syria, when a chemical weapons attack in September led to over 1,000 deaths and the government was accused of being behind the attack, it's normal to want to know more. After all, we were about to strike on Syria after the chemical weapons attack until President Assad agreed to turn over Syria's chemical weapons. It’s important to know some background information especially if our own government continuously plays a role in the region. The Middle East dominates headlines and military strategy in the United States. It is also an area rich in culture and history.

The Arab Uprisings: What Everyone Needs to Know by James L. Gelvin helps to answer some questions. This non-fiction book is formatted with questions and answers and begins with the very basic question: "What is the Arab world?" The beginning of the Arab Spring is discussed, as well as political life in the countries, protests that have taken place and why, and the leading countries involved in the recent uprisings. This book is quite handy and a good start if you’re unsure where to begin and are curious about what's going on in the Middle East. It's not an overwhelming book, it's informative, neutral, and to the point.

Also recommended is Arab Spring Dreams, a collection of short essays submitted by young adults who won a writing contest. These young essayists came from all parts, from North African countries to Iran and Saudi Arabia. Many of these writers live in countries where free speech is condemned and censorship is severe so they took a risk submitting their stories and having their voices heard. These essays cover a wide range of experiences, all within the realm of civil rights and personal freedom (or lack thereof). This book reaches out to a Western audience and is really quite touching because the essays are so honest and personal.  

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