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Black Wave: Saudi Arabia, Iran, and the Forty-Year Rivalry That Unraveled Culture, Religion, and Collective Memory in the Middle East Hardcover – 28 January 2020

4.7 out of 5 stars 527 ratings

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Product description


Shortlisted for the Cundill History Prize * A New York Times Notable Book of 2020 * A Kirkus Reviews Best Nonfiction Book of 2020 * A Financial Times Best Political Book of 2020

"[A] sweeping and authoritative history." --The New York Times Book Review

"She serves up a wealth of human interest wrapped in ambiance and atmosphere. She paints riveting portraits of the protagonists... a superbly researched and subtly told story--current history at its best." --The Wall Street Journal

"[A] wonderfully readable account... Ghattas has an enviable gift for going beyond politics... Whatever happens next in this long-running, oppressive and dangerous Middle Eastern drama, Black Wave will be a vivid, indispensable guide to the story so far." --The Guardian

"A timely and welcome guide to the politics of a region...Well-researched and elegantly written." --The Financial Times

"Unlike narratives told from a Western point of view, this book doesn't highlight terrorism or ISIS but instead seamlessly weaves history and personal narrative into a story that explains the gradual suppression of intellectualism and the creep of authoritarianism in the region...Illuminating, conversational, rich in details and like nothing else you've ever read about the Middle East, Black Wave will leave you with a new understanding of this diverse and troubled region." --BookPage

"The publication of this book, Black Wave, could not be better timed. In it, Kim Ghattas argues convincingly that the revolution that brought Ayatollah Khomeini to power in 1979 was one of three events that year that profoundly shaped -- or rather misshaped -- the Middle East... a fascinating and winding but highly readable tale." --The Times (UK)

"[An] illuminating account of the origins of sectarian violence and the current political shape of the Muslim world... [a] fluid, fast-moving narrative...Essential for all who follow world events." --Kirkus Reviews, *starred review*

"Skillfully written and scrupulously researched, Black Wave is an essential book in understanding the origins of the modern conflicts in the Middle East." --Lawrence Wright, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Looming Tower

The framing of Black Wave is as important as the content. Kim Ghattas portrays the last four decades across the Middle East as a dark age, a world dimmed behind a curtain of violence, misogyny, and religious extremism. In exploring how this blackness came to be, she recalls a brighter past and predicts a better future. It's a powerful and important book. --Anne-Marie Slaughter, CEO of the New America Foundation and former Director of Policy Planning at the Department of State

"Kim Ghattas is a superb writer and reporter, which makes Black Wave an accessible and very interesting account of the sectarian schism and regional rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabia that has riven the Middle East for decades and is one of the most consequential contests threatening global security." --Peter Bergen, author of Manhunt

An artful, gripping, timely, and humane account of the roots and consequences of the destructive rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabia from one of the region's most insightful and incisive observers. --Ambassador William J. Burns, President, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and former Deputy Secretary of State

"A well-researched and highly readable primer on the rivalry between Shias and Sunnis shaping today's Middle East. Kim Ghattas masterfully traces the origins of sectarianism in the explosive rise of Islamic fundamentalism in 1979 and the destructive Saudi-Iranian rivalry that followed. Told through the experiences of those who lived and shaped sectarianism, Black Wave is both gripping and informative; a must read for anyone interested in understanding the forces shaping the Middle East today." --Vali Nasr, professor of international affairs and Middle East politics at the School of Advanced International Studies of Johns Hopkins University and author of Shia Revival

"Clear-eyed and honest, perfectly researched and brilliantly written, a unique book that is about more than the Saudi-Iran rivalry as it illuminates how and why the region began to turn inward over the last 100 years--a must read for outsiders and people in the region." --Marwan Muasher, Vice President for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and former minister of foreign affairs of Jordan

Black Wave is a brilliant piece of work. Ghattas reveals how the competition between Tehran and Riyadh, instigated in 1979 by the Iranian revolution and the siege of Mecca--and intensified after the 2003 US invasion of Iraq--led to the instrumentalization of Islam to destroy cosmopolitanism, to force women to veil, and to mobilize sectarian extremists. --Emma Sky, senior fellow at Yale University's Jackson Institute and author of In a Time of Monsters

About the Author

Kim Ghattas is an Emmy-award winning journalist and writer who covered the Middle East for twenty years for the BBC and the Financial Times. She has also reported on the U.S State Department and American politics. She has been published in The Atlantic, the Washington Post, and Foreign Policy and is currently a non-resident scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington. Her first book, The Secretary, was a New York Times bestseller. Born and raised in Lebanon, she now lives between Beirut and Washington D.C.
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Product details

  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 400 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1250131200
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1250131201
  • Customer reviews:
    4.7 out of 5 stars 527 ratings

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4.7 out of 5 stars
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John Sheldon
3.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating but frustrating
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 3 May 2020
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Oliver Chandler
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended. Most interesting book I've read this year.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 29 April 2020
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5 people found this helpful
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Tom Nor
4.0 out of 5 stars Great book but a difficult read
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 17 August 2020
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2 people found this helpful
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent exposition of why the people of the Middle East only have themselves to blame
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 29 December 2020
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5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, but depressing
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 22 March 2020
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