Eliza Griswold reports from Afghanistan, Iraq, Indonesia, Malaysia; finds poetry in strange places
Award winning journalist (Harper's, The New Republic, The New York Times Magazine) and highly praised poet (The Yale Review, The New Republic, Paris Review, Antioch Review, etc.)Eliza Griswold unveiled what may well prove to be a new form of journalism, best described as distinctly non-gonzo, combining a journalist's sharp eye for detail and a poet's instinct for universal humanity, to an appreciative audience at the New York Center for Independent Publishers (formerly the Small Press Center) weeks before the publication of her first book of poetry, appropriately titled Wideawake Field (Farrar, Straus and Giroux; May, 2007). Beginning with her Harper's magazine report from Afghanistan, Griswold described the cycles of brainwashing and de-programming Muslim youths, the political abduction of a twelve year old boy, shackled and hooded, and meeting a man accused of terrorism held in Bagram Airbase, the Abu Graib of Aghanistan. Focusing on the humanity of each moment rather than extrapolating political judgements, Nieman Fellow in Journalism at Harvard university and recipient of the first Robert I. Friedman Prize in Investigative Journalism, Griswold talked about her forthcoming first work of non-fiction, The Tenth Parallel, to be published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in 2008, including the story of an imam bringing religious and cultural change in Nigeria; a Malaysian woman named Nellie in a struggle against her Muslim identity; and the strange brew of democracy and Islam developing in Indonesia. Recognizing she has injected her own perspectives into these petrie dishes of world culture, Griswold examines ethics of journalism, asking pointedly, 'What's the point? Who cares?' Griswold closed her talk by taking a series of questions from the audience on what she sees as the end of modernism; her views on the future of democracy around the world; the effects of global religious conflicts; her hopes and fears for the future of the world; her journalistic 'calling' despite its obvious dangers; and her speculation on whether 'terrible things' happening in the world will force the world to learn to share.
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