A young Iraqi woman began publishing a blog from Baghdad shortly after America invaded Iraq called ”Baghdad Burning," which it was doing as she wrote. She uses the pseudonym of Riverbend.
Like the blog "Where is Raed?" of her "virtual brother" Salam Pax (another pseudonym), her blog was bought by a small British literary publisher in Riverbend's case, Marion Boyars, and they classified the work under biography and memoir. Boyars knows Riverbend's identity but respects her wish to remain anonymous.
The last of March, Riverbend became the first blog author to be nominated for a big literary prize for a book published in hard cover, in this case the Samuel Johnson award of $55,000 (£30,000), having already placed third in the Lettre Ulysses prize for Reportage, winning $25,000 (£14,000). For the Samuel Johnson award she is up against 18 other books from around the world.
University-educated Riverbend worked as a computer programmer before the invasion which began on March 20, 2003. She wrote that she lost her job when it became too dangerous for Iraqi women to travel to work alone. She began her blog with, "I'm female, Iraqi and 24. I survived the war. That's all you need to know. It's all that matters these days anyway."
I have read Riverbend's blog from the first day and encouraged her to continue writing no matter what because, as with Salam, I recognized the historical value and the literary quality in her work. Of course, that's what we English teachers do, especially those of us who teach literature and cinema. [Guardian Article] [Riverbend's Baghdad Burning]
"... I'll meet you 'round the bend my friend, where hearts can heal and souls can mend..."