We are proud to announce that BookBrowse has won Platinum in the 2024 Modern Library Awards.

Reviews of What the Taliban Told Me by Ian Fritz

What the Taliban Told Me

by Ian Fritz

What the Taliban Told Me by Ian Fritz X
What the Taliban Told Me by Ian Fritz
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • Published:
    Nov 2023, 304 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Peggy Kurkowski
Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

A powerful, timely memoir of a young Air Force linguist coming-of-age in a war that is lost.

When Ian Fritz joined the Air Force at eighteen, he did so out of necessity. He hadn't been accepted into college thanks to an indifferent high school career. He'd too often slept through his classes as he worked long hours at a Chinese restaurant to help pay the bills for his trailer-dwelling family in Lake City, Florida.

But the Air Force recognizes his potential and sends him to the elite Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California, to learn Dari and Pashto, the main languages of Afghanistan. By 2011, Fritz was an airborne cryptologic linguist and one of only a tiny number of people in the world trained to do this job on low-flying gunships. He monitors communications on the ground and determines in real time which Afghans are Taliban and which are innocent civilians. This eavesdropping is critical to supporting Special Forces units on the ground, but there is no training to counter the emotional complexity that develops as you listen to people's most intimate conversations. Over the course of two tours, Fritz listens to the Taliban for hundreds of hours, all over the country night and day, in moments of peace and in the middle of battle. What he hears teaches him about the people of Afghanistan—Taliban and otherwise—the war, and himself. Fritz's fluency is his greatest asset to the military, yet it becomes the greatest liability to his own commitment to the cause.

Both proud of his service and in despair that he is instrumental in destroying the voices that he hears, What the Taliban Told Me is a brilliant, intimate coming-of-age memoir and a reckoning with our twenty years of war in Afghanistan.

LISTEN

TO BE ON A GUNSHIP is to be a god. This is not to say that flying in these magnificent monstrosities provided me with some sort of spiritual moment or religious exaltation. This is to say that to be on a gunship, to carry out its mission, is to feel as powerful as any deity from the pantheons of old. But these gods, like all gods, are not interested in creation. To use the 105, a gun that is loaded with forty-five-pound bullets, a gun that, when fired, causes the 155,000-pound plane it's mounted on to buck so far to the right that the pilot must actively correct the flight path, is to be Zeus hurling Hephaestus's bolts. To fire a Griffin missile from an altitude so great that the men on the ground could only know of it in the same moment that it kills them is to be Mars flinging his spear.

And while the old gods may have died, they were profligate with their genes, leaving their sons and daughters, we Nephilim, to carry on their legacy. Some of us use our eyes to find those who ...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

This is a rare inside look at what airborne linguists do, and Fritz excels at describing difficult and highly technical processes in a way most can understand. He is also bitingly funny while doing it. But underneath the pages of sarcastic, stream-of-consciousness riffing, there is a palpable sense of a man grappling with his role in raining death on the heads of human beings below him. The reader sees the progression from the gung-ho airman who believes in the Taliban as "evil" and the Americans as the "good guys" to a man who listens to their boring, banal (but sometimes funny) conversations day after day and begins to see them as something else: human...continued

Full Review Members Only (926 words)

(Reviewed by Peggy Kurkowski).

Media Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
A fraught, moving account by a conflicted soldier.

Publisher Weekly (starred review)
Fritz holds nothing back in this raw and engrossing debut memoir about his experiences in Afghanistan as a cryptologic linguist for the U.S. Air Force...The grim subject matter is often leavened by welcome humor, and Fritz's slow-moving evolution from soldier to healer is profoundly moving. This is a standout wartime memoir.

Author Blurb Elliot Ackerman, author of The Fifth Act: America's End in Afghanistan
The future of war has arrived; and the voices of its dead are in this haunting book

Author Blurb J. Kael Weston, author of The Mirror Test: America at War in Iraq and Afghanistan
The war in Afghanistan ranks as America's longest, a conflict that started with strong public support in 2001 but ended two decades later misunderstood, controversial—and unwon. Ian Fritz's book illuminates not only the American side, the little-known polyglot world of U.S. military linguists in particular, but also that of the Taliban. Fritz has done something difficult and noteworthy. He is a blunt and thoughtful guide who brings the Taliban to us in their own words, beyond the caricatures, and helps us understand who they, the enemy, really are—their war zone comradery, motivations, and humor amid all the violence. And why, in the end, they won the war. In these pages, Taliban voices have lasting echoes because Ian Fritz is a good listener and compelling writer.

Author Blurb Kevin Maurer, #1 New York Times bestselling author of No Easy Day
This book is precisely what policymakers in Washington needed 20 years ago. What the Taliban Told Me achieves something that few War on Terror books have accomplished; it puts a human face on the enemy. This somber and well-crafted memoir is essential reading for anyone attempting to comprehend our war in Afghanistan. Fritz brings a fitting conclusion to 20 years of conflict in a land that Americans never truly understood.

Author Blurb Matt Gallagher, author of Kaboom: Embracing the Suck in a Savage Little War and the novels Youngblood and Daybreak
For most Americans, even for many servicemembers who deployed to Afghanistan, the Taliban proved a shapeless, inscrutable enemy over our two decades of war. Not so for Ian Fritz. As an airborne linguist tasked with listening in on suspected Taliban's communications, he grew to know them intimately, understanding their wants, fears, and dreams in ways that transcend the normal boundaries of war. What the Taliban Told Me is a beautiful book told with rare honesty and seeking and introduces Ian Fritz as a powerful moral and literary voice.

Reader Reviews

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book

What Is Moral Injury?

Two US Air Force members practice relaxation therapyIan Fritz's memoir, What the Taliban Told Me, chronicles the author's difficulties processing his role in events that resulted in death and injury to others. Not officially diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Fritz discusses a category of non-physical harm that military experts denote as "moral injury," which he says is closer to what he suffered during his deployment in Afghanistan. But what precisely is moral injury, and in what ways does it differ from the more well-known PTSD designation?

According to Syracuse University's Moral Injury Project (cited in Fritz's book), moral injury constitutes "the damage done to one's conscience or moral compass when that person perpetrates, ...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Read-Alikes

Read-Alikes Full readalike results are for members only

If you liked What the Taliban Told Me, try these:

  • All the Ruined Men jacket

    All the Ruined Men

    by Bill Glose

    Published 2022

    About this book

    For readers of Phil Klay, Kevin Powers, and Tim O'Brien: Dramatic, powerful, authentic short stories of soldiers fighting a "forever war," in combat and back home.

  • Consequence jacket

    Consequence

    by Eric Fair

    Published 2017

    About this book

    A man questions everything - his faith, his morality, his country - as he recounts his experience as an interrogator in Iraq; an unprecedented memoir and "an act of incredible bravery." (Phil Klay)

Read-Alikes are one of the many benefits of membership. To see the complete list of this book's read-alikes, you need to be a member.
Search read-alikes
How we choose read-alikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Join our inner reading circle, go ad-free and get way more!

Find out more


Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: Neighbors and Other Stories
    Neighbors and Other Stories
    by Diane Oliver
    The history of American segregation, along with changes to it in the 1960s, is sometimes taught and ...
  • Book Jacket: Wild and Distant Seas
    Wild and Distant Seas
    by Tara Karr Roberts
    Tara Karr Roberts is a newspaper columnist who also teaches English and journalism. Wild and Distant...
  • Book Jacket: The Djinn Waits a Hundred Years
    The Djinn Waits a Hundred Years
    by Shubnum Khan
    Shubnum Khan's eloquent and moving debut novel opens in 1932, when a djinn that haunts a house by ...
  • Book Jacket: Transient and Strange
    Transient and Strange
    by Nell Greenfieldboyce
    Throughout her powerful essay collection, Transient and Strange, science reporter Nell ...

BookBrowse Book Club

Book Jacket
Mockingbird Summer
by Lynda Rutledge
A powerful and emotional coming-of-age novel set in the 1960s by the bestselling author of West with Giraffes.

Members Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The Adversary
    by Michael Crummey

    An enthralling novel about a small town struggling to survive, and a bitter vendetta between two rivals.

  • Book Jacket

    Strong Passions
    by Barbara Weisberg

    Shocking revelations of a wife's adultery in 19th New York explode in an incendiary trial exposing the upper-crust and its secrets.

Win This Book
Win The Cleaner

The Cleaner
by Brandi Wells

Rarely has cubicle culture been depicted in such griminess or with such glee."
PW (starred review)

Enter

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

I Wouldn't T H W A T-F P

and be entered to win..

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.