Anna Badkhen, an accomplished journalist and author who covers the stories of people around the world in extremis, is now working on her sixth book, Fisherman’s Blues, which details her experiences spending a year with Senegalese fishermen. Badkhen was born and raised in the former Soviet Union before spending a year abroad at Hamilton in 1994-95.
Since her year on the Hill, Badkhen worked as a war correspondent, covering current events on four continents, most notably the conflicts in Somalia, Afghanistan and Iraq. Her writing has been featured in a multitude of publications, including The New Republic, Foreign Policy, the New York Times and the Boston Globe, among others. Her work as a journalist earned her the 2007 Joel R. Seldin Award for reporting on civilians in war zones.
After her work as a war correspondent, Badkhen transformed her success as a journalist into success as an author; she says her desire to take time to synthesize her thoughts and experiences into a story was the motivation for this shift. Her first book, Peace Meals: Candy-Wrapped Kalashnikovs and Other War Stories, came out in 2010; it tells the story of her journey crossing from Iran into northern Iraq after President George W. Bush ordered a missile strike in Baghdad. In describing this harrowing experience, particularly the death of her friend and translator Ahmad Shawkat, she observes a harsh truth of her profession: “My regret about Ahmad is the same regret I feel about most of the people with whom I have become close in war zones: that our friendship was so brief.”
Despite the heartbreaking and dangerous nature of her work, Badkhen is deeply committed to the prospect of better understanding the human experience. In an interview with Joe Holley of the Houston Chronicle, she explained, “I’m not interested in trouble spots, per se. I’m interested in us. I never was attracted by danger. I was attracted by how we manage, what it’s like to be human.”
Now, she is in the town of Alpine, Texas, where she can finally enjoy the kind of peace and quiet that is conducive to processing her ideas into written words.
Badkhen’s other books are The World is a Carpet: Four Seasons in an Afghan Village, Walking with Abel, Afghanistan by Donkey: One Year in a War Zone and Waiting for the Taliban.