When Jennifer Steil arrives in Yemen to teach a course on journalism to the staff at English-language newspaper The Yemen Observer, she plans to stay for only a few short weeks. But both the city of Sana’a and its people leave a strong impression, and soon she is returning to become the newspaper’s editor-in-chief.
Steil’s year in Yemen is filled with long working hours, cultural misunderstandings, and the blasphemy trial of another editor at the newspaper. She forms close friendships with some co-workers and and bitter rivalries with others, and constantly struggles to impart western ideals of fair and unbiased reporting to her staff. Written in a candid voice, The Woman Who Fell from the Sky balances Steil’s personal narrative with compelling insights into the state of journalism in Yemen.
“I stood next to Sabri on the flat, dusty rooftop and gazed around me. Sand-colored mountains rose from the plain in every direction. Having spent my formative years in Vermont, I have always found the sight of mountains enormously reassuring, and this morning was no exception. Below us stood the fantasia in gingerbread that is Sana’a’s Old City, a cluster of tall, square, cookie-colored homes trimmed with what looked like white frosting, surrounded by thick, high walls. Sabri pointed out some of the more prominent of the city’s hundreds of mosques, liberally sprinkled across the city in every direction, their slender minarets thrust perpetually toward God.”
Jennifer Steil is an American journalist and the author of the novel The Ambassador’s Wife and the memoir The Woman Who Fell from the Sky. She currently lives in La Paz, Bolivia.
Length: 352 pages
Set in: Sana’a, Yemen
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