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  • Published: 4 June 2024
  • ISBN: 9781529157178
  • Imprint: Penguin
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 480
  • RRP: $24.99

A Stranger in Your Own City

Travels in the Middle East’s Long War

  • Ghaith Abdul-Ahad

From Orwell Prize winning journalist Ghaith Abdul-Ahad comes a searing and nuanced biography of a lost Iraq

'Exquisite . . . A genuine, melancholy masterpiece' WILLIAM DALRYMPLE
'A journalistic marvel' JAMES MEEK
'A powerful, unforgettable book' NADIFA MOHAMMED

This is the story of a people who once lived under the rule of a megalomaniac leader who shaped the state in his own image. Then one day, after yet another war, a foreign army invaded, toppled the leader, destroyed the state, and proceeded to invent a new country. This is the story of a people who watched with horror as their world fragmented into a hundred different cities, as walls rose between them and bodies piled in the streets.

From the American invasion to the Arab Spring, ISIS and beyond, A Stranger in Your Own City offers a remarkable de-centring of the West in the history and contemporary situation of the region. What comes to the fore is the effect on the ground: the human cost, the shifting allegiances, the generational change.

'Shatters western assumptions . . . and offers cautious hope' The Observer
'Haunting' Financial Times

  • Published: 4 June 2024
  • ISBN: 9781529157178
  • Imprint: Penguin
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 480
  • RRP: $24.99

Praise for A Stranger in Your Own City

A Stranger in Your Own City is a stunning piece of emotional and psychological topography, charting the many clashing lives of pre- and post-invasion Iraq. Unlike a parade of books that focused predominantly on the Westerners who helped unleash so much of the country's carnage, Ghaith Abdul-Ahad centers the people who call Iraq home. Through visceral, sometimes first-hand accounts, he tells the stories of both victims and perpetrators, never retreating into artificial neutrality. This is a vital archive of a time and place in history that, in the post-9/11 age, so many would rather forget, a book that's at once difficult to read and impossible to put down

Omar El Akkad, author of WHAT STRANGE PARADISE

In this searing and clear-eyed account of Iraq's last two decades of conflict Abdul-Ahad expresses the broken-heartedness of a man who loses his country over and again to sectarianism and bloodshed. Abdul-Ahad writes with bitter humour and an unsentimental style, using a cast of characters - militiamen, teachers, torturers and doctors - to illuminate actions that seem almost impossible to understand; his reporting on Iraq strips away any myths and refuses to romanticise or glorify anyone or anything. It is a powerful, unforgettable book

Nadifa Mohamed, author of THE FORTUNE MEN

A crucial and important new voice, as brilliant, passionate and fearless as he is well-informed, skeptical and nuanced. But Ghaith Abdul-Ahad is also a writer of exquisite prose, whose thoughtful, moving and often disturbing work elevates war reportage and the memoir of conflict and loss to levels rarely seen since Michael Herr's Dispatches or James Fenton's All the Wrong Places. A Stranger in Your Own City is that rarity: a genuine melancholy masterpiece'

William Dalrymple, author of RETURN OF A KING

Ghaith Abdul-Ahad is a journalistic marvel and a terrible joy as a writer, never wearying of the world as he maps its cruelties. He's eloquent and compassionate, vulnerable, scathing and funny when he sketches his personal life as an Iraqi among the American and European press pack, almost unbearably clear when he brings us close to the irredeemable personal injustices of war. Many have crossed over from non-western upbringing into English language reporting, but Abdul-Ahad manages to transcend that binary - he's resolutely of both and neither. It's as if you're watching a live western TV news segment from Iraq, Syria or Yemen, and from out of the crowd of anonymous locals behind the correspondent, a man steps forward, moves the reporter gently aside, and starts to speak into the camera - a reporter too, and better at it than the one he displaced, but never renouncing his old place in the world of the reported on

James Meek, author of TO CALAIS, IN ORDINARY TIME

Impassioned, brave and brilliant, A Stranger in Your Own City is an essential insider account of the unravelling of Iraq. Ghaith Abdul-Ahad takes the reader on an unforgettable journey across a country torn apart by the centrifugal forces of history and imperial folly. With an unsparing eye and an aching heart, driven by his intimate knowledge and deep personal stakes, Abdul-Ahad draws a compelling and nuanced account of a nation skittering out of control. Wry yet warm, scathing yet affectionate, the book offers an overdue reckoning with a broken history.

Omar El Akkad, author of WHAT STRANGE PARADISE

In A Stranger in Your Own City, Ghaith Abdul-Ahad is the rarest of documentarians. Having grown up in Baghdad before the American invasion, and then having worked for the foreign press, Abdul-Ahad is a stranger in the best sense of the term - a man between regimes, between languages, between even forms of expression. His beautiful line drawings are just as expressive as his trenchant prose. This book reminds us of the human costs of a war that most Americans have chosen to forget


A sobering, blistering frontline account of internecine warfare in a region crying for peace

Kirkus Reviews

Kaleidoscopic and incisive . . . Abdul-Ahad details bloody sectarian battles, heart-pounding run-ins with ISIS henchmen, and a populace trying to reclaim its city and country from Iraq's greedy ruling class and those still 'immersed in their selfish sectarian mentalities.' It's a master class in reporting

Publishers Weekly

A bracing read, punctuated by accounts of violence, torture and extortion

The Guardian

A powerful, unflinching eyewitness account of what happened to Iraq, then Syria, after the US invasion of March 2003... a superbly written mix of reportage and memoir is punctuated by the author's distinctive illustrations... a book that makes vivid the horror of two blood-soaked decades

The Times

This book shatters western assumptions, shows the effect on Iraqis of cycles of violence - and offers cautious hope . . . A Stranger in Your Own City reminds us is that sectarianism was imposed on many Iraqis post-invasion by new rulers who . . . needed a political system based on sectarianism. This isn't just a book about war. The epilogue shows it's also about the generation who saw the folly in the invasion's design and rose up. At some point, change is inevitable.

Renad Mansour, The Observer

There have been numerous accounts of the Iraq War and the bloody upheavals of its aftermath from soldiers, historians and commentators, but fewer from the Iraqis who were caught up in its sequence of tragedies . . . Abdul-Ahad's interviewees variously describe corruption, brutality, torture, fanaticism, nihilism and fatalism. Abdul-Ahad recounts it all in evocative prose that makes the indictment that underlies not just his words, but also those of his fellow Iraqis, all the more potent.

New Statesmen

An astonishing book

Irish Times

A wonderful book

Andrew Marr

Extraordinary. A poignant, reflective, masterpiece. Absolutely required reading

Georgina Godwin


Alan Rusbridger

An excellent and haunting account of the impact of western policies premised on sectarianism that engulfed the country after 2003

Charles Clover, Financial Times

A vivid, searing account of what it felt like to be an Iraqi civilian assailed by waves and waves of war and violence over decades. It will change your mind about everything you thought you knew about the Iraq war and leave you reeling at how the West could get it all so hopelessly wrong

Tina Brown