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A book by Susan Korman

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Author: Susan Korman
Publisher: Chelsea House Publications
1 review about Kuwait

An interesting if somewhat inaccurate history of Kuwait

  • Jun 11, 2010
This book is part of a Young Adult (YA) series called "Creation of the Modern Middle East." All of the books contain an introduction by Dr. Akbar S. Ahmed, the Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies and Professor of International Relations, School of International Service, American University, in which he congratulates "Chelsea House Publishers for taking the initiative in helping us to understand the Middle East through this series."

I've read three now, and they are written in a newspaper-like manner (who, what, when, where, why): "In May 1999 the emir issued several history-making decrees dealing with women's suffrage, economic liberalization, and nationality." and "Muhammad died in 632...Islam spread rapidly among Arabian tribes, challenging the powerful Ottoman and Persian Empires."

Unfortunately the latter sentence contains a huge blooper. The Ottoman Empire doesn't appear until nearly a millennium after Muhammad's death. It would also be more accurate to say 'Sassanid' rather than 'Persian' Empire, as the Sassanid Empire was the last of the pre-Islamic Persian Empires. I was disturbed enough by the factual error to check the author's credentials at the end of this book:

"Susan Korman is the author of more than 20 books for young readers, including picture books, series fiction, and several biographies. Formerly a children's book editor at several publishing companies, she currently works as a freelance writer and is studying to become a school librarian. While Susan has never visited Kuwait, she enjoyed learning more about this Persian Gulf nation as well as the rest of the Middle East."

If the editors of the 'Creation of the Modern Middle East' series were going to use writers without much background in the Middle East, shouldn't they have edited the resulting manuscripts for factual content?

Kuwait's history, like many of the countries on the Arabian Peninsula is divided into before and after the discovery of oil. Pearl-diving, fishing, and ship-building were the main Kuwaiti occupations before the discovery of oil:

"In June 1946 the first barrel of oil was exported from Kuwait. [Sheik Ahmad] turned the silver valve wheel on a pipe, loading the first Britain-bound tanker with oil. With this ceremonious gesture, the Sheik also opened wide his country's door to unimaginable wealth."

This book takes us through the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq, and the rebuilding of this country after the Persian Gulf War. The author shapes much of her history through the personalities of Kuwait's rulers, the al-Sabahs, which makes it very readable. I just wish it could have been a bit more accurate.

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