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Seven Stories Press

Works of Radical Imagination

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Timely literary reporting from Afghanistan by one of our most important nonfiction writers includes insightful new writing since the US pull-out in 2021.

"J. Malcolm Garcia has channeled the empathetic ear of Studs Terkel and the investigative skills of the best literary journalists ... These stories will remain in the heart and mind’s eye forever.” –Beth Taylor, author of The Plain Language of Love and Loss

Reporting from Kabul and Kandahar between 2001 and 2015, J. Malcolm Garcia tells us what actually happened to the Afghan people as the conflict between first world nations and fundamentalists raged. In telling the stories of ordinary Afghans, Garcia shows the impact of years of occupation and war—and the sudden and harsh changes as new occupiers push in—on a people and their culture.

Garcia meets Laila Haidary—everyone calls her “mother”—who, with no resources to speak of, gives addicts living on the street one month of detoxification and clean living, while at the same time sending her own children to make the perilous journey to Western Europe as best they can. And there is nine-year-old Ghani, who earns a few dollars a day collecting cans on the street to support his two brothers and sister now that his father has died of a brain tumor. There are the translators and fixers Garcia hires, who risk their lives working for foreigners against the warnings of the Taliban, and also the US soldiers who don’t understand what their mission is here, and why they can’t just do what they are trained to do, which is to seek out and kill the enemy.

J. Malcolm Garcia has been compared to the Russian writer Svetlana Alexievich, winner of the 2015 Nobel Prize in Literature, for how the voices of everyday people ring out in the stories he tells. Most Dangerous, Most Unmerciful is an essential work of literature that documents one of the true disasters of our age, at the same time as it celebrates the human endurance and ingenuity of the Afghans we meet in these pages, and affirms the role journalists can play to make sure their stories can be heard.

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“These extraordinary stories offer a rare and intimate view of America's longest conflict, and invite us to share the everyday joys and sufferings of war-weary Afghans. J Malcolm Garcia is the empathetic bridge our world needs, and an essential chronicler of our times.”

“It takes a unique combination of moral seriousness, physical courage, and wild honesty to bear witness to war's devastation and be able to convey to those who weren't there what it was like. Lucky for us, J. Malcolm Garcia is such a writer. His tremendous book about ordinary Afghans trying to endure two decades of conflict and occupation deserves a wide readership.”

Most Dangerous, Most Unmerciful is vivid, restrained, shocking, and honest. These are stories only a journalist could seek out and encounter, rendered with the subtlety and pathos of a poet. Garcia has compiled a literary history of our country’s decades-long tragedy in Afghanistan, and in so doing he honors the lives lost and altered forever in the chaos and carnage. It is the rare book that tells the truth of war and this is one to be thankful for.”

“Lyrical yet understated prose and the centering of Afghans’ own voices make this an indelible portrait of struggle and survival.”

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J. MALCOLM GARCIA is the author of The Khaarijee: A Chronicle of Friendship and War in Kabul (Beacon 2009); What Wars Leave Behind: The Faceless and Forgotten (University of Missouri Press 2014); Without A Country: The Untold Story of America’s Deported Veterans (Skyhorse Press 2017); and Riding through Katrina with the Red Baron’s Ghost: A Memoir of Friendship, Family and a Life Writing Stories (Skyhorse Press 2018). Garcia is a recipient of the Studs Terkel Prize for writing about the working classes and the Sigma Delta Chi Award for excellence in journalism. His work has been anthologized in Best American Travel WritingBest American Nonrequired Reading, and Best American Essays. Some of the stories in The Fruit of All My Grief were originally published in n+1Guernica, and Ascent, among others.