Something I’ve been wanting to do for a while is start posting book reviews regularly. I love reading, but haven’t read as much as I would want lately, and figured this would be a good way to make myself read more.
I wanted to kick off the review section with a post about a book by a fellow blogger, Kat Argo. Kat’s blog, A Red Rover, follows her travels reporting on situations most of us strive to avoid. From the currently war-torn Ukraine, to posts about her time in Afghanistan, and of a visit to Turkey where she met with Kurdish refugees who had recently fled Syria.
The Shadow of the Bear: From Ukrainian Activists to Pro-Russian Separatists is an incredible look at the stories that are often left out by media during a crisis, as well as an interesting ‘behind the curtains’ look at the reality vs the dramatization presented by the media. Her writing is clear and concise, filled with wit, humour, and emotion where appropriate.
Kat’s written style is engaging – it draws you in enough to create a solid picture of the situations she is facing, and of the harsh realities of a war-torn country that has been ignored by the only people who could possibly help end this. It’s an eye-opener to anyone who relies on major news networks for the revelation of what’s happening, but it’s also a deeper look into the people that are affected. Ms. Argo’s story, and her journey, take the reader beyond the ‘us vs them’ mentality that often leaves one side of a war dehumanized, and finds the humanity in the people that are on either side of this war.
When you live so far removed from a situation, it can be difficult to fathom and even process the reality of what is going on elsewhere in the world. We can see images of what others are facing, but it doesn’t fully compute in our minds the seriousness, and the gravity of the situation.
Kat has a fantastic way of helping you to not only push past that typical knee-jerk reaction to view these situations with as little empathy as possible, and instead forces you to see the humanity, see the reality of what is going on.
Her writing is real, it’s raw, and sometimes, it’s difficult to push through. Not because of how it’s written, but because of the harsh reality of the situation. While seeing everything through her eyes, she also has a very strong sense of being able to show the story without too much of her emotion.
And when her emotion does come into play? Man, it hits you like a solid mallet striking you square in the chest. Especially since this isn’t just a bird’s eye view, Kat is right in the middle of it, experiencing everything and sharing as she went.
Perhaps the most powerful portion of her story is not the time she spends in Kyiv, but rather her time in Donetsk with the pro-Russian supporters. The ‘other’ side. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – it’s natural for us to dehumanize the people on the opposite side of a conflict, especially if you’re directly involved in that conflict. It’s even harder to take that and decide to pursue getting to know that they are in fact people, with lives, and families, jobs, losses, hurts. Kat takes the time to overlook her views and get to know the people. While she may not always agree, she does an incredible job at revealing the humanity in the people fighting against the Ukraine to be part of Russia.
I’ve followed Kat’s blog since her first time in Ukraine (as she has recently returned from a tour along the front lines), and have continued to be enthralled by both her writing style and her stories since then.
If you only set out to read one book this year, read The Shadow of the Bear. It’s informative, it’s well written, and it will give you a new perspective that you won’t find from any news network or article linked on Facebook.