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Kim Barker at STORY: 4 WOW! and WTF? Quotes from Her In-Depth Interview

Foreign Correspondent turned bestselling author Kim Barker signed copies of her breakout book Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (now a movie starring Tina Fey) at STORY this week, but not before sitting down for a candid conversation with New York Times cultural reporter Melena Ryzik. A double shot of levity and gravity, their conversation touched on writing comedy about war, punching unwelcome gropers, finding out you’re “Kabul Cute”, and how her Feminism manifested both in the book and in the warzone.

Here are some stand-out quotes in case you missed it:

“It was an asset to be a woman reporter in Afghanistan. I had access to half to population, the women, that the male reporters didn’t necessarily get.”
Most news outlets were not sending female correspondents to report on Afghanistan, and were missing the whole story by half. Barker emphasized that despite what people’s preconceptions may have been, being a woman gave her an important perspective on the story that was otherwise obscured by prejudice.

“There are parties in Afghanistan?”
Barker wanted to provide a full picture of her experience in Afghanistan, which meant writing about herself and the other correspondents too. She described the culture shock of discovering black tie parties in a war zone, and the surreal experience of realizing that there were entire bars and restaurants where only foreigners were allowed to tread. 

“It’s not about being likeable. It’s about being a foil for America.”
When showing her book to editors, or trusted family and friends, Barker got the feedback that she didn’t always come off as particularly likeable or heroic. She emphasized that this was part of the point: to show what going to a warzone really does to people, herself included.

“Humor has a way of unlocking people’s stories. To people who say ‘There’s nothing funny about war’ I ask ‘Have you been there?’”
Barker’s book is funny, the movie based on it is funny, and she had the audience rolling throughout the evening. She identified humor as an important coping mechanism, one that helps people deal with difficult or horrific situations, but also as a tool she would use to get her sources to trust her and open up.

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