In 2005 Rhodes scholar and Chelsea Clinton's former boyfriend Ian Klaus spent a semester teaching English and American history in a Kurdish section of Iraq. He chronicled the experience in the book "Elvis Is Titanic."
The memoir discusses how he hoped to give his students a better understanding of America's actions and character. Those lessons led to schooling on African-American history and even pop culture.
Even though the students liked him, Klaus often found the Kurdish pupils challenged his perspectives frequently. The book presents a portrait of children coping in a post-Saddam Iraq and trying to learn.
Read an excerpt of the book below.
"Incoming text message."
Class had let out and I was making my way across the city from one of the university's campuses to another when I started to receive text messages from students I had dismissed not fifteen minutes before. It was a short walk, and though some of my friends preferred that I not take it alone, I picked my way through the more heavily guarded sections of Arbil, capital of the Kurdistan region of Iraq. Students on cell phones passed, kicking up dust on newly paved asphalt; security guards settled into their chairs in front of blast walls, sharing observations about the city's construction cranes. Text messages kept coming.
"Bounty? NO! Kit Kat? NEVER! Mars? . . . How about sugar?? Still can't find anything as sweet as you!"
Almost a year after first arriving in Iraq to teach American history and English, I had returned to the same university in Kurdistan to present a couple of lessons on American education and language. Moving across the city that day, trying to gather my bearings, I found myself as acutely aware of the fortifications and arms as I had been twelve months before: Why is that building so heavily guarded? Who is in that winding convoy? Is it wise to be staying in a hotel made of glass? The anxious imagination as perpetual motion machine—what catches my eye is commonplace to the locals. The bus drivers picking up familiar passengers, the cabbies gossiping at black-market gas stations, the storekeepers in the bazaar were not likely to be talking about checkpoints and armored vehicles. The students on cell phones, too, had concerns of their own beyond the Kalashnikovs that over the decades had become so ubiquitous they were almost invisible. Other forces, beyond those of bristling militarism, were busy at work.
My phone kept vibrating with new messages.
"Triangles have 3 ends. Lines have 2 ends. Life has one end. But our friendship has no ends."