28 Mar / The Beekeeper: Rescuing the Stolen Women of Iraq by Dunya Mikhail, translated by Dunya Mikhail [in Booklist]
Award-winning poet Dunya Mikhail, an Iraqi exile who fled her homeland in 1996 and eventually settled in Michigan, makes her nonfiction debut with a hybrid text that combines reportage and personal memoir with the intention of giving voice to northern Iraqi women victims of Daesh (known in the U.S. as ISIS). The survivors’ stories are relentlessly horrific; words seem inadequate in describing the systematic slaughter, capture, sale, rape, and torture of human beings by other human beings.
Mikhail is privy to these grisly narratives through the eponymous “Beekeeper,” Abdullah Shrem, an Iraqi man whose response to his personal tragedy of losing family was to create an extensive network through Iraq, Syria, and Turkey to rescue stolen women and their young children. Abdullah’s frequent calls connect Mikhail to survivors, until she herself travels to Iraq for a first visit in two decades to witness Abdullah’s miracles.
Despite the inarguable significance of these survivors’ stories, as literature, The Beekeeper ultimately disappoints. Mikhail’s diary-like presentation, complete with phone interruptions, personal dreams recalled, and ruminations on the universe, feels inappropriately trivial amid the gruesome accounts of hideous inhumanity.