I had never heard of Lynsey Addario before I was gifted this book for Christmas. When I unwrapped it I was instantly excited. The cover photograph is beautiful and the title is exciting. As someone who is interested in war and conflict and who enjoys photography, I knew that this book would be exactly the kind of thing that I would like reading. After finishing the book I can say that my first instinct was right: this book is incredible and I am sad I have spent all of these years not knowing about Lynsey Addario.
It's What I Do: A Photographer's Life of Love and War is Addario's autobiographical account of her photojournalism career. She is incredibly accomplished: she was part of a Pulitzer winning team and she was awarded a McCarthy grant to continue her work photographing war zones. She has traveled to some of the most dangerous places on earth like Libya, Somalia, and Syria, and she has been kidnapped twice while on assignment. She has embedded with military units and seen front line action in war and has lived in Mexico, India, Turkey, and England. I almost couldn't believe all of the details of her life while I was reading.
What makes Addario's book stand out from other books about war reporting is how she flawlessly laces the story of her love life throughout her assignments in war zones. She doesn't shy away from sharing the details of her various relationships and affairs and the strains they came under because of her job. Addario perfectly captures how difficult it is to be a working woman, and the harsh choices that career-driver women face in terms of marriage and starting families. Addario's daring feats made me feel proud to be a woman, but what is so important about this book is the fact that her realistic depictions of relationships and pregnancy also made me feel proud to be a woman.
I read this book very quickly. It only took me a couple of days. I was so excited by Addario's story and so many of the things she said resonated with me, and I think that so many women would connect to this story. It is exciting, it is empowering, and it is important. While the story is told in the first person and is about Addario's life, she also dedicates large portions of the book to telling the stories of the women she photographs in war zones. Women who have be raped, abused, refused education, and turned from their families.
I want to share a few of my favourite quotes from the book without giving away too much. These two in particular really resonated with me. The first is about the reality of war zone relationships, and the second about insecurities.
"Romantic feelings in a war zone were exaggerated by the intensity of every day; one month in Iraq alongside someone was equivalent to six months in the normal world."
"I was still a woman, and I still cared what I looked like; no matter what I accomplished with my career, nothing eliminates those stinging insecurities you develop as a child or teen."
The book also includes numerous photographs that Addario has taken over the course of her career. It is easy to see why she has accomplished so much. She is clearly talented and hardworking and dedicated. Her photographs of injured American soldiers in Afghanistan are very powerful, but the most mesmerizing photos are of women in war zones. Some are brightly coloured, others shadowed and dark. Some show women's faces, and in others only their eyes are visible through veils. They depict a world in which a woman can be many things and multi-dimensional. A mother. A rape survivor. A victim. An employee. An employer. A friend. A child. A wife.
This book has set the bar very high for this year.
You might also like:
- Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman by Jon Krakauer
- All We Leave Behind by Carol Off