Other Work

Law of the Jungle

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Maybe it’s because you’re not allowed to wear government-issue camouflage; maybe it’s because — when all is said and done — you’re going to war for the money. But if you’re a private military contractor fighting on foreign soil, you might as well be a cowboy looking for payday, and you won’t convince anyone you’re a hero. If you survive, you won’t march in victory parades. If you die, you won’t be buried in Arlington Cemetery. If you’re taken hostage, you’ll rot before Washington pays you any mind.

That, in any case, is what three employees of Northrop Grumman found out on Feb. 13, 2003, when their lumbering, rickety, single-engine Cessna malfunctioned and crashed during a secret mission over rebel territory in the Colombian jungle. Before they could stagger out from the wreckage, ex-Marine Keith Stansell, former Air Force analyst Marc Gonsalves and retired airline pilot Thomas Howes were captured by Colombia’s Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC), the truculent, drug-trafficking guerrillas who have terrorized the region for decades.

Read the full review >

Book review of Law of the Jungle: The Hunt for Colombian Guerrillas, American Hostages, and Buried Treasure by John Otis.

By Marie Arana, Washington Post, Sunday, May 23, 2010

Nobel Prize in Literature

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From Outlook, The Washington Post, April 19, 2009.
By Marie Arana.

It took more than a century to get here, but last year finally made it obvious: It’s time to throw out the Nobel Prize in literature. (more…)

He’s Not Black

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From Outlook, The Washington Post, November 30, 2008
By Marie Arana.

He is also half white.

Unless the one-drop rule still applies, our president-elect is not black.

We call him that — he calls himself that — because we use dated language and logic. After more than 300 years and much difficult history, we hew to the old racist rule: Part-black is all black. Fifty percent equals a hundred. There’s no in-between.

That was my reaction when I read these words on the front page of this newspaper the day after the election: “Obama Makes History: U.S. Decisively Elects First Black President.”

The phrase was repeated in much the same form by one media organization after another. It’s as if we have one foot in the future and another still mired in the Old South. We are racially sophisticated enough to elect a non-white president, and we are so racially backward that we insist on calling him black. Progress has outpaced vocabulary.


Through the Eyes of the Condor: Spanish Edition

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A través de los ojos del cóndor

Una visión aérea de América Latina

De la Introducción por Marie Arana:

Los habitantes de América Latina son hijos de la tierra, ceramistas de arcilla, acarreadores de rocas. Desde el incanato hemos pensado, sin ninguna duda, que surgimos de la tierra como las semillas—que el suelo es nuestra madre y las fuerzas de la naturaleza que la alteran, nuestro padre. Que la vida en este hogar cambiante tiene igualmente la promesa de la abundancia como el impacto del cataclismo sísmico. La tierra nos puede alimentar o destruir. Somos a la vez los herederos bendecidos y maldecidos de una tierra generosa y feroz.

Tal vez por esa razón el inca amaba tanto al sol; por eso los mayas construyeron escaleras dirigidas hacia los cielos; y los conquistadores treparon las montañas para clavar crucifijos en lo alto. Queremos elevarnos. Que nos crezcan alas. Volar. Ansiamos lograr ver a través de los ojos del cóndor. . . .

National Geographic ISBN: 978-1-4262-0179-0

Stone Offerings: Spanish Edition

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De la Introducción por Marie Arana:

Nosotros los seres humanos anhelamos tocar con nuestras manos el cielo. Podemos estar atados a la tierra, pero, como lo supo el Inca, buscamos el Sol. Navegamos en los mares guiados por las estrellas. La luna marca nuestras estaciones. Subimos a montañas muy altas para situarnos en tierras elevadas. Bendecimos aquellos promontorios como si fueran lugares sagrados. Los llamamos moradas de los dioses. En ninguna parte es este impulso más evidente que en las alturas vertiginiosas de la cordillera de los Andes, donde hace más de quinientos años, el Inca perforó los cielos con una poderosa ciudadela de piedra. “Pico Antiguo” le llamaron. Machu Picchu. . . .

Edición bilingual. Lightpoint Press. ISBN: 978-0-9818812-0-1

Off the Page

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Writers Talk About Beginnings, Endings, and Everything In Between

Edited by Carole Burns, introduction by Marie Arana.

As host of “Off the Page,” a literary chat program on Washingtonpost.com, Burns has interviewed more than 40 authors-from Pulitzer Prize winners Edward P. Jones and Richard Ford to newcomers Doreen Baingana and Hannah Tinti-and here she collects those Q&A moments “when I knew I was hearing something extraordinary,” including A.S. Byatt noting that she sees her writing in blocks of color and Martin Amis referring to himself as a “yob.” (more…)

How I Learned English

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All over the world there are people struggling to master the quirks and challenges of English. In today’s America, many millions of them are Latino—and in this eloquent collection, nearly 60 of the best known contribute fascinating, revealing, often touching essays on the very personal process each went through to achieve this common end. (more…)