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Bird, Christiane

BIRD, Christiane

PERSONAL: Born in New York, NY; daughter of a physician. Education: Yale University, B.A.


ADDRESSES: Home—New York, NY Agent—Neeti Madan, Sterling Lord Literistic, 65 Bleecker St., New York, NY 10012.


CAREER: Travel and general assignment freelance reporter for New York Daily News, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and Chicago Tribune.


WRITINGS:

(With Eugene Richards and Janine Altongy) Below theLine: Living Poor in America, Consumers Union (Mount Vernon, NY), 1987.

The Jazz and Blues Lover's Guide to the U.S.: WithMore than 900 Hot Clubs, Cool Joints, Landmarks, and Legends from Boogie-Woogie to Bop and Beyond, Addison-Wesley (Reading, MA), 1991, updated edition, 1994.

New York City Handbook, Moon Publications (New York, NY), 1997.

Neither East nor West: One Woman's Journey through the Islamic Republic of Iran, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 2001.

A Thousand Sighs, a Thousand Revolts: Journeys inKurdistan, Ballantine Books (New York, NY), 2004.


SIDELIGHTS: As a very young child Christiane Bird spent three years living in Iran while her parents worked as medical missionaries. Years later, the journalist and travel writer returned to the Middle East in an effort to correct misconceptions about some of the people there. Bird's Neither East nor West: One Woman's Journey through the Islamic Republic of Iran and A Thousand Sighs, a Thousand Revolts: Journeys in Kurdistan reflect the author's determination to travel alone through countries and regions that do not often play host to American women. In writing about her travels, Bird "sheds much light on . . . the world's oldest yet least-known cultures," according to Selwa Roosevelt in the Washington Post Book World.


Bird spent an extended period in Iran in 1998 after learning Persian at Columbia University. Neither East nor West covers her difficulties in procuring a travel visa to that nation as well as her engagement with the land and its peoples once she arrived. According to Cassandra Braun in the Contra Costa Times, Bird's book is "written in the true spirit of the intrepid traveler." Bird reveals Iran to be a diverse and complicated nation whose inhabitants are generally hospitable to strangers and willing to discuss politics, religion, and women's issues. "One of the reasons I did the book is I wanted to see what it was like to be an Iranian woman," the author told the Contra Costa Times. With that goal in mind, Bird dressed in the garments Iranian women wear in public and often traveled with acquaintances and translators. She traveled freely under those conditions, visiting large cities such as Tehran and holy shrines such as Qom. In the words of Library Journal contributor Alison Hopkins, Neither East nor West provides "fascinating descriptions" of "public and private places that few Westerners are allowed to view." A Publishers Weekly critic similarly contended that the work "affords fascinating portraits of people of many social circumstances, while not sugarcoating the gritty realities of life in Iran." Booklist writer GraceAnne A. DeCandido commended the book as "a nuanced and heartfelt portrait of women who embrace religious and cultural strictures."

A Thousand Sighs, a Thousand Revolts explores the complex society of the Kurds, an ancient ethnic group spread across several nations, including Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Syria, and regions of the former Soviet Union. In America the Kurds are best known as having been attacked in Iraq by Saddam Hussein, but in her book Bird also details how the Kurdish people have been mistreated in Turkey—and how they have fought amongst themselves. Just prior to the United States' invasion of Iraq, Bird traveled extensively amongst the Kurdish people, querying them about their sufferings both past and present and about their hopes for the future. "Bird learned much on her journey," noted Roosevelt, "and she returns with the realization that the Kurds are central to the future of Iraq, Turkey, Iran, and Syria, and hence to the whole Middle East. She enlightens us and also gives us a great gift—a sense of the humanity and pride of a beguiling people." In History: Review of New Books, Faith J. Childress maintained that Bird "has produced a work that is appropriate for anyone with a serious interest in the Kurds and who desires a deeper look into the human side of their geopolitical situation." A contributor to Kirkus Reviews concluded of the book: "Impressive reportage, a fearless commitment to seeing what is there to see, and a strong sense of history: a fine work of literary travel, one that honors its subjects." A Publishers Weekly critic concluded, "Bird's talent for blending reportage with illuminating tales from individuals makes this a notable and much needed work."


BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, February 1, 2001, GraceAnne A. DeCandido, review of Neither East nor West: One Woman's Journey through the Islamic Republic of Iran, p. 1037.

Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, CA), September 10, 2001, Cassandra Braun, review of Neither East nor West.

History: Review of New Books, fall, 2004, Faith J. Childress, review of A Thousand Sighs, a Thousand Revolts: Journeys in Kurdistan, p. 32.

Houston Chronicle, August 8, 2004, Nora Seton, review of A Thousand Sighs, a Thousand Revolts, p. 21.

Kirkus Reviews, March 15, 2004, review of A Thousand Sighs, a Thousand Revolts, p. 254.

Library Journal, March 15, 2001, Alison Hopkins, review of Neither East nor West, p. 99.

Publishers Weekly, February 5, 2001, review of NeitherEast nor West, p. 79; March 29, 2004, review of A Thousand Sighs, a Thousand Revolts, p. 51.

Washington Post Book World, May 9, 2004, Selwa Roosevelt, "No Direction Home: One Reporter's Dispatches from a Dispossessed Middle Kingdom," p. 9.*

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