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New Book Is a Suspenseful Narrative Account of the Uprising

January 10, 2012

The first major book about the uprising, Ashraf Khalil’s Liberation Square is out in time for the anniversary of the beginning of the uprisings.

It’s not the very first book on the transformations occurring in Egypt, but most of the others fall into one of two categories. They are books on contemporary Egypt that were updated and rushed into print, like Alaa Al-Aswany’s On the State of Egypt, Steven A. Cook’s The Struggle for Egypt or Lloyd Gardner’s The Road to Tahrir Square. All good books, mind you, but really about what led up to the uprisings rather than the uprisings themselves.

The other kind of books already out are scrapbooks, collections of photos, graffiti or texts with some explanation and commentary. I’m thinking of Messages from Tahrir: Signs from Egypt’s Revolution by Karima Khalil, The Road to Tahrir: Front Line Images by Six Young Egyptian Photographers, Mia Gröndahl’s Tahrir Square: The Heart of the Egyptian Revolution, and Tweets from Tahrir: Egypt’s Revolution as it Unfolded by  Alex Nunns and Nadia Idle. Useful, and often very interesting, but not a coherent narrative account of the uprisings themselves.

Khalil’s book is described by Kirkus Reviewsas a “journalistic memoir.” The review goes on to call it a “personal account that will be appreciated by those looking to move beyond the day’s headlines, from one who wrote some of the stories published under those headlines.”

Laure Miller calls it “thrilling” in her review in Salon, writing:

The last half of “Liberation Square” forms a suspenseful, day-by-day narrative of the weeks between that first protest, on Jan. 25, and Mubarak’s resignation on Feb. 11. Khalil was on the streets much of the time and has interviewed dozens of participants about the unfolding drama as the demonstrators sought to take bridges and public spaces from the police, figured out how to communicate when the government cut Internet and cellphone service, fended off attacks from hired Mubarak supporters on camel- and horseback, welcomed the military and then wondered why it didn’t do more to defend them, listened to and rejected the self-justifying statements of Mubarak and other officials, and gradually realized that there was no going back and that the country was theirs at last.

The Arabist calls it “riveting” and offers a brief fascinating passage from it, urging everyone to go buy it right away. My former colleague at the American University in Cairo, psychologist Nancy Peterson agrees, saying she couldn’t put it down to get her work done.

I’ve ordered my copy.

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