book review: Beyond Bullets

"Stunning photos reveal the Afghanistan we rarely see."

title: Beyond Bullets

author: Rafal Gerszak

date: Annick Press; August, 2011

middle grades non-fiction

Rafal Gerszak is an award winning photojournalist who decided to cover the Afghanistan War from two perspectives. He first spent 12 months embedded into an American patrol. What he witnessed during this time is recounted in the first half of Beyond Bullets. He brings readers to the warfront with his descriptive honesty. While he admits to not being a soldier, to not being prepared for the attacks perpetrated on the soldiers with whom he travels, he does assume their perspective in viewing situations encountering individuals who could be friend as easily as foe. He then switches his perspective to helps readers to understand the daily actions that are impacting life in this country, and that had affect it decades before under Russian attacks. From this image, he takes us to the civilian side of the story where people work, play, learn and celebrate while suicide bombers are quotidian events.


From the use of handwriting like font to the discussion of photographs in the text, the book takes on the feel of time spent with a gifted storyteller. Gerszak’s only agenda seems to be telling what it is like living in a country at war. It is neither political nor moral.

Just now, I wonder: What do the people of Afghanistan call this war? Gerszak does take a very American/Canadian/NATO perspective on this conflict, but if he didn’t his book probably would be beyond our comprehension.

Rafal Gerszak was forced with his family to flee their home during the Soviet era and live for some time in a West German refugee camp. After immigrating to Canada in 1990, he began to identify with socially displaced groups.


Related books:

Words in the Dust by Trent Reedy

Naming Maya by Uma Krishnaswami

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

National Geographic Countries of the World: Afghanistan by Susan Whitfield

Review copy provided through NetGalley

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