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BookTrib Review: ‘The Beekeeper’ Highlights Perseverance, Bravery and Strength

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The Beekeeper: Rescuing the Stolen Women of Iraq, is, outwardly, a story of a beekeeper who risks everything to rescue Daesh women from torture and enslavement. While the beekeeper is a central figure, it becomes abundantly clear that the real focus of the story is on the women, themselves.

Poet and journalist Dunya Mikhail, through a series of interviews with various women escapees from the clutches of Daesh (ISIS), presents an unflinching account of tragic events. The reality of what they’ve endured is haunting: sexual abuse and assault, loss of family and friends, psychological torture, forced labor, and murder. Mikhail highlights their perseverance, bravery, and strength in the face of such hardships.

In 2014, ISIS invaded northern Iraqi villages to pillage its land and murder its citizens. The men who refused to convert to Islam were killed while women and children were forced into slavery. Abdullah, the beekeeper, made money selling honey in Iraq and Syria while cultivating a deeper understanding of the land. He uses this knowledge to build an escape network for the enslaved women and their families. Later, Abdullah became a bridge between Mikhail and survivors willing to share their stories.

Raw and poignant in equal measures, The Beekeeper elicits a sense of hope for the future that originates from the kindness of strangers and fosters recovery and healing. The details of each woman, these ordinary heroes— in the words of its publisher— provides “a counterpoint to Daesh’s genocidal extremism: hope, as ordinary people risk their lives to save those of others.”

Dunya Mikhail, an Iraq-American writer born in 1965 Iraq, first worked for the Baghdad Observer as a journalist; however, as a result of threats from Iraqi authorities, she fled her country for Jordan, and eventually the United States. She often writes about her experiences of growing up in a country ravaged by war and violence. Mikhail has been recognized by the Kresge Fellowship, Arab American Book Award, Griffin shortlist, and UN Human Rights Award for Freedom of Writing. Her first novel, The War Works Hard (2005), was listed as one of the twenty-five books to remember by the New York Public Library in that same year.

For scheduled events and book signings visit the author’s website, dunyamikhailpoet.com.  The Beekeeper: Rescuing the Stolen Women of Iraq will be released on March 27th. 



Dunya Mikhail (c) Blue Flower Arts

Dunya Mikhail is an Iraq-American writer renowned for her subversive, innovative, and satirical poetry. Mikhail speaks about her experiences growing up in war-torn Iraq, sleeping on the roof of her family’s home during the sweltering summers until the air raid sirens sounded. In an interview with NPR, Mikhail said, “I still feel that poetry is not medicine—it’s an X-ray. It helps you see the wound and understand it. We all feel alienated because of this continuous violence in the world. We feel alone, but we feel also together. So we resort to poetry as a possibility for survival. However, to say I survived is not so final. We wake up to find that the war survived with us.”

Jo Chang is a freshman studying English and Creative Writing at the University of Michigan. She is the Managing Editor at Sooth Swarm Journal, and a past participant in the Winter Tangerine Writer’s Workshop (Summer 2017). Currently, she is also a paid blogger for the university-affiliated arts and culture blog, art[seen]. Jo can be reached via email at [email protected]

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