“Here’s a strange and sparkly, jumpy and tightly-packed little book . . . , in which our heroines . . . hitch-hike through Lebanon and Syria a few weeks after the war of summer 2006, consuming far more caffeine than is good for them. Beyond Gonzo, it doesn’t pretend to be journalism at all. Instead it recounts a fairly lunatic, fairly random sight-seeing tour towards ‘the dark force’ Hezbollah. The setting, of course, is an Israeli-devastated landscape, and the ‘dark force’ tag, like all the book’s other appropriations of mendacious political language, is ironic. Coffee with Hebollah is, as Norman Finkelstein writes in his recommendation, “simultaneously serious and silly.” It’s also quick witted and very well informed, sensitive to the discourses and stereotypes of Lebanon’s 18 sects, the country’s tortured history, as well as the fantastic representations of Lebanon that have emerged from Israeli and Western power centres. This makes the book a new kind of journalism as well as a parody of the mainstream version.
The satire is harsh, and nobody escapes the treatment, including the author. The absurdity of the material is pointed up further by the mock-formal language of negotiation and diplomatic report in which encounters are narrated, the supposedly transparent language of perfect sense. . . . But the satire is as affectionate as it is devastating. It homes in not only on the comically boneheaded but also on the strange complexity of peoples’ lives and allegiances. . . .” (full review at Pulse Media)
". . . Step into the world of Belén Fernández and her epic journal Coffee with Hezbollah, rivaling Homer’s Odyssey or Sam Clemens’ Huckleberry Finn… except Ms. Fernández’ book is non-fiction. . . .
Thirty-four days after the 34-day war, Ms. Fernández and her friend Amelia Opalinska embarked on what would have been an ill-advised and “suicidal” journey in any Talk Radio Fear Merchant’s opinion, a journey around war-ravaged Lebanon. Hey, innit that place loaded with unexploded ordnance in the form of cluster bombs? Damn! That’s not safe! Where did those things come from in the first place?
This odyssey in the heart of terror lasted two whole months. Transportation was entirely by the proverbial thumb… They hitchhiked! Madness! Madness I tell you! Even Woody Guthrie would never take such risks. And where did they stay? Are you sitting down? Lodging was found in the homes of the various Lebanese who picked them up as they engaged in “auto-stop” and thus, as good Americans, exploited another flaw in Arab culture: hospitality. Can you feel the hate rising? I can.
Fernández’ book stands alone in this world of absurd threats. She neither frightens us with Islamophobia nor does she bombard us with the fear of our own government… as I am always so happy to do. For two months Ms. Fernández and Ms. Opalinska immersed themselves in the culture of the enormously diverse and constantly threatened nation of Lebanon. And amazingly, they were never abused, imprisoned, taken hostage or even… blown up. What Coffee with Hezbollah reveals instead is the reality of a subject vastly overblown in the American mainstream press. . . . " (full review at Pulse Media)