Classroom Tales from the Other Iraq
On Sale: August 28, 2007
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In the spring of 2005, Ian Klaus, a twenty-six-year-old
Rhodes Scholar, traveled eight hours from Turkey, via
broken-down taxi and armed convoy, to reach Salahaddin
University in Arbil, the largest city in Iraqi Kurdistan.
Elvis Is Titanic is the poignant, funny, and
eye-opening story of the semester he spent there teaching
U.S. history and English in the thick of the war for hearts
Inspired by the volunteerism of so many
young Americans after 9/11, Klaus exchanges the abstraction
of duty for an intimate involvement with individual lives,
among them Mahir, a rakish Kurdish pop star whose father, an
imam, disapproves of music; Ali, an Anglomaniac professor of
translation devoted to the BBC, with whom Klaus has a public
showdown over Hemingway; and Sarhang, Klaus’s bodyguard,
whose interest in American history is excited by Mel
Gibson’s performance in The Patriot. Among the Kurds,
a perennially oppressed but seemingly indomitable people,
Klaus encounters both openhearted welcome and resentful
suspicion—and soon learns firsthand how far even a trusted
stranger can venture in this society. With assignments
ranging from Elvis to Ellington, from the mysteries of
baseball to the aperçus of Tocqueville, Klaus strives
to illuminate the American way for charges initially far
more attuned to our pop culture than our national ideals.
These efforts occasion Klaus’s own reexamination of
truths we hold to be self-evident, as well as the less
exalted cultural assumptions we have presumed to export to
the rest of the world. His story, as full of hope and
discovery as he finds his students, offers a slice of life
behind the headlines.
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