cover image I Was Told to Come Alone: My Journey Behind the Lines of Jihad

I Was Told to Come Alone: My Journey Behind the Lines of Jihad

Souad Mekhennet. Holt, $30 (368p) ISBN 978-1-62779-897-6

Washington Post correspondent Mekhennet (The Eternal Nazi) offers a spellbinding fusion of history, memoir, and reportage in this enthralling account of her personal experience as a journalist and a Muslim on assignment in Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa. The author’s unique perspective is informed by both her professional life as a reporter working for major publications and by her personal background—she was raised in Germany by a Turkish mother and Moroccan father and is fluent in Arabic. This combination of personal background and vocation provides her as if with insider access in her work to uncover and untangle the roots of Islamic radicalism. Journalistic coups abound here—for example when she recounts the uncovering of Jihadi John’s identity—and moments of historical importance to which Mekhennet was a witness are described in thrilling detail. Historic religious, internal political, and global conflicts are lucidly delineated. While Mekhennet’s modus vivendi as a reporter opened doors for her to rulers and important religious and political figures, here her focus is sharply on individual people, including on the family members of purported terrorists, who themselves experience profound loss. The value of this work lies in Mekhennet’s commitment to “not taking any side, but speaking to all sides and challenging them.” (June)