Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A tribute to a great blogger

Today marks exactly one year since Riverbend last blogged on her Baghdad Burning blog. Iraq is not as hot a topic for Americans as it was during the first couple years of the war, but I still check Riverbend's blog regularly, because of what an influence it has been on me — not just regarding Iraq, but also regarding blogging.

In many ways, Riverbend has been the Anne Frank of the modern era (though I fervently hope her silence doesn't mean she met a similar fate!). Millions of children of all nationalities have learned from Anne Frank what it was like to be Jewish during the Nazi reign — and millions of readers around the world have learned from Riverbend what it means to be a young Iraqi woman during America's war.

The major difference is, of course, the difference in technology. Anne Frank recorded her experiences in a journal, which wasn't published until after the war and her death. Riverbend, on the other hand, was able to post her observations and commentary almost immediately — that is, as soon as she had electricity to run her computer and Internet connection.

Baghdad Burning introduced me to the possibilities of blogging. I first heard about the blog by way of the book, which was on a list of books available for review in a magazine I wrote for. (Riverbend's first year's worth of posts were collected into a book and published in 2005.) Although I wasn't chosen to review Baghdad Burning, I did check it out from the library.

At the time, I was already contributing to several client blogs, but these were fairly dry — nothing like the politically charged Baghdad Burning. Although I had kept a journal since I was 10, I didn't have a blog of my own yet. That changed just a few months later.

As of right now, Riverbend has not updated in a year. Last we heard, she had finally fled to Syria with her family, but there was some doubt as to how long they would be able to stay there. Any number of things could have happened: She could have abandoned her blog, feeling that it had served its purpose of educating readers, or she simply may have not had Internet access for the past year. The fear of many of her readers, though, is that it would have to be something much worse (imprisonment or death) to keep Riverbend from blogging.

I believe that I owe Swan's Blog to Riverbend, as it was Baghdad Burning that first showed me how much a little blog could accomplish. Her fate may be unknown as of yet, but her blog is still online and her book is in print. Her voice can never be silenced as long as her writings circulate. If that's not immortality, I don't know what is!


Lori said...

Katharine, thank you for introducing this blog to us. I was engrossed in it - fascinating, sad, yet hopeful. The reality is so much more stark than what we're presented.

Prayers to Riverbend. May she be safe with family.

Katharine Swan said...

Lori, I am so glad you liked Riverbend's blog! I highly recommend the book, which covers the entire first year of posts. It's nice to read it in a book format!


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