On All Fronts: The Education of a Journist
by Clarissa Ward


West Maui Book Club Discussion Questions

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Any page numbers refer to iPad edition.


1. Why do you think Ward titles her book as an “education of a journalist” rather than treat this novel as a memoir? And, in what ways do you find she supports her decision on the title?

2. Do you also feel more educated yourself for having read the book? For example: the many different factions of ISIS, or the many nuances of Shari’a law (pg 311) as in how it pertains to stoning for zina (adultery and premarital sex) and other punishments?

3. In the prologue, Ward quotes Hannah Arendt saying, “The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the dedicated communist, but the people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction, true and false, no longer exists.” Can you apply this statement to other places in the world as Ward presented them to the reader?

4. How difficult do you think it would be for you to walk the fine line between crisis and your job to not “solve the problem,” but to “illuminate it?”

5. Ward covered some of the most dangerous and shocking Middle Eastern events: the wars in Afghanistan, Syria, (Beirut) Lebanon, (Baghdad) Iraq, the unrest in Yemen, and (Amman) Jordan to name a few. But she also surfaced in China, during Japan’s tsunami, the poisoning of Alexey Navalny of Russia, etc. Discuss her many contributions and how they impacted you as a viewer or reader of her work. Did she impassion you to world causes?

6. How did Ward benefit as a woman in the more dangerous situations she found herself? How was it a deficit or could have been more bodily or life threatening?

7. Her Facebook friend and fellow journalist, Austin Tice was quoted in the Washington Post as saying, “I don’t have a death wish—I have a life wish. So I’m living, in a place, at a time and with a people where life means more than anywhere I’ve ever been—because every single day people here lay down their own for the sake of others. Coming here to Syria is the greatest thing I’ve ever done, and it’s the greatest feeling of my life.” Austin is later captured while in Syria, and as of Nov. 2018, the US believes him alive and continues to push for his release. That said, discuss Austin’s quote about feeling more alive than anywhere in his life. Is it true that “the closer you are to death, the more alive you feel?” (James Hunt)

8. Once Ward became pregnant, her awareness of the sanctity of life enlarged. She states: “Even when I was pregnant, I had noticed that my threshold for seeing children suffer had lowered drastically. Since Ezzie’s birth, though, the urge to protect had become even more visceral and powerful. It was as if a channel inside of me had been opened up and I would never again be able to close it.” Powerful, right? As it is most likely with many people around the world. Might “the urge to protect” be the base/primal reason for war?

9. Ward offers personal reflections on her parents and grandparents. She also reflects on her husband, Philipp, as the “most patient and loving man I know.” After a ten-year, global courtship with each being on opposite ends at times, they finally married. How do you think they each helped or hindered?

Women for Women International Book Club
Discussion Questions

Check out the discussion questions below and connect with readers on Instagram to share your reactions, thoughts and questions by using the hashtag #WFWIBookClub, and tagging us with @womenforwomen. We want to hear what you think—share with us your take on the book!

1. Much of the first few chapters follow Clarissa’s early experiences reporting internationally as she learns to navigate other cultures. What are some of the ways her womanhood impacts her ability to go through the world compared to her men counterparts?

2. In what ways do people’s expectations of Clarissa performing womanhood change because of her being a Western woman?

3. What are some of the challenges Clarissa faces as a woman journalist? How does being a woman help her journalism?

4. What are some examples of how Clarissa demonstrates the difference between women’s experiences of conflict versus men’s? The different impact of conflict on women versus men?

5. Clarissa laments the reduction of complex situations to the binary ideas of good and evil. What are the dangers of seeing the world with a black and white ideology?

6. What does the book suggest is the role of journalism and storytelling in relation to these binaries?

WMBC Questions compiled by:
Elaine Gallant
West Maui Book Club
Feb. 2022