Megan K. Stack has reported on war, terrorism and political Islam
from twenty-two countries since 2001. She was most recently Moscow
bureau chief for the Los Angeles Times
. She was awarded
the 2007 Overseas Press Club's Hal Boyle Award for best newspaper
reporting from abroad and was a finalist for the 2007 Pulitzer
Prize in international reporting.
1. Every Man in This Village Is a Liar is, in many
ways, a book about telling the truth. What truths does Megan Stack
discover and reveal throughout the course of the book? Why is it so
important to tell the truth amid the lies of war?
2. Stack writes an article about Palestinian suicide bombers
that engenders death threats from Israeli readers. When she asks
why, a reporter friend tells her: "You humanized them. You're
writing about suicide bombers as people who have corpses and
families. They can't stand to see them written about like that" (p.
44). Why is it necessary to dehumanize one's enemies during war? In
what ways is Stack's book an effort to humanize everyone
she writes about?
3. Who are some of the most memorable people Stack meets during
her reporting on the Middle East? Why is it so important to tell
the stories of individual human beings caught up in the suffering,
pain, and grief of war?
4. Writing about the Old Testament story of Abraham's
willingness to sacrifice to his son Isaac in order to do God's
will, Stack observes "the trouble is that, centuries later, the
Middle East is still packed with murderers who believe they are
doing God's will, privately attuned to the ring of God's voice.
This is still how Middle Eastern battles are fought, by Arabs,
Israelis, and now by Americans. Blind faith is the footbridge that
takes us from virtuous religion to self-righteous violence" (p.
103). Why does religious fundamentalism so often lead to violence?
Has America been guilty of the same kind of self-righteous
extremism it opposes in the Middle East?
5. After the killing of the courageous Iraqi journalist Atwar
Bahjat, who "wanted to calm things down not stoke the anger" Stack
writes: "There was no place in Iraq for a woman like that" (p.
197). Why is there no place in Iraq for someone like Atwar
6. What does Stack reveal about how women are treated throughout
the Middle East? Why is it important to have a woman journalist's
view of the conflicts in the region? What contrasts are provided by
the American women Stack interviews in Saudi Arabia?
7. "Here is the truth," Stack writes. "It matters, what you do
at war. It matters more than you ever want to know" (p. 51).
Why does it matter so much what one does in war? What are the
consequences not just for individuals but for nations in how they
conduct themselves during war?
8. Every Man in This Village Is a Liar is subtitled
An Education in War. In what ways is Stack educated by
war? In what ways does she educate her readers about the realities
9. How does Every Man in This Village Is a Liar
challenge conventional views of the Middle East?
10. Near the end of the book, Stack writes about the strange
feeling of being present and absent at the same time. It occurs to
her that this might be "the most American trait of all, the
trademark of these wars. To be there and be gone all at once, to
tell ourselves it just happened, we did what we did but we had no
control over the consequences" (p. 240). In what ways is this an
essentially American trait? What dangers are inherent in this way
of being simultaneously engaged and disengaged?
11. Stack ends the book by reminding readers what war has taught
her: "You can survive and not survive, both at the same time" (p.
245). What is the meaning of this paradoxical statement?
12. In the epilogue, Stack writes that she has "given up on
pulling poetry out of war" (p. 246). In what ways has Stack found a
gritty, heartbreaking poetry the war-torn Middle East? What
passages in the book rise to the level of poetry? Why would she
give up this way of writing about war?
13. What are some of the most harrowing moments in the book?
What effect do they have on Stack and on her readers?
14. Stack concludes that the "war on terror never really
existed," that it was "essentially nothing but a unifying myth for
a complicated scramble of mixed impulses and social theories and
night terrors and cruelty and business interests, all overhung with
the unassailable memory of falling skyscrapers" (p. 3). Is she
right about this? In what sense is the war on terror
15. Every Man in This Village Is a Liar plunges readers
into the visceral particulars of the war in Iraq and other ongoing
conflicts in the region, giving a vivid sense of the texture of
war. But what larger points does the book make about war, America's
involvement in the Middle East, the treatment of women in Islamic
countries, and other issues?
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