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Book Notes: Barker to read from ‘Taliban Shuffle’

Sun., May 1, 2011

Here’s an acclaimed Afghan war memoir with a Spokane connection: “Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan,” by Kim Barker.

Barker’s byline is familiar to longtime readers of The Spokesman-Review, since she was a reporter for this paper from 1995 to 1998. She went on to become a reporter and, eventually, Afghan war correspondent for the Chicago Tribune.

She is now a writer for Pro Publica, a public-interest journalism organization.

Here’s what New York Times book critic Michiko Kakutani said about “The Taliban Shuffle”:

“Ms. Barker has discovered a voice in these pages that enables her to capture both the serious and the seriously absurd conditions in Af-Pak (Afghanistan and Pakistan), and the surreal deal of being a female reporter there, with dating problems ranging from the screwball (a boyfriend competing to cover the same story) to the ridiculous (being romantically pursued by the former prime minister of Pakistan).”

Kakutani said Barker depicts herself “as a sort of Tina Fey character, who unexpectedly finds herself addicted to the adrenaline rush of war.”

Yet it’s also a serious, illuminating story of the Afghan conflict and its global implications.

Hear all about it when Barker returns to Spokane for a reading at Auntie’s Bookstore, 402 W. Main Ave., on Tuesday at 7 p.m.

The Cathlamet Prize

The Ravenna Press of Spokane has announced the winner of its inaugural Cathlamet Prize for Poetry: Ann Taylor, a poet and English professor at Salem State University in Massachusetts.

Her manuscript, “The River Within,” was selected by judge Lynn Strongin, a Victoria, B.C. poet. The award includes a cash prize, as well as publication of the book by the Ravenna Press.

The Ravenna Press originated in Seattle in 1999. The company and its founder, Kathryn Rantala, moved to Spokane in 2007.

It has published 50 titles, many of them “innovative and experimental” with “strong literary foundations,” according to Rantala.

Three poets

Tana Young, Janee Baugher and Jonathan Johnson will read from their works at the next Beacon Hill Reading Series event, Wednesday, 6:30 p.m. at Spokane Community College’s Hagan Foundation Center for the Humanities (library, second floor).

Writer’s retreat

Registrations are being accepted for the Northwest Inland Writing Project’s Summer Reading/Writing Retreat, July 18-22 at Camp N-Sid-Sen on Lake Coeur d’Alene.

It’s an uninterrupted time to read, write and (if you wish) brainstorm with other authors. The full cost is $440, but a one-day option is also available for only $40.

Visiting writer Lori Wallin will conduct workshops and individual conferences. It’s for writers of all kinds and all levels.

Find all the details at

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