Reviews & Praise

The Tenth Parallel

Griswold may be the first to explain how global warming intensifies religious conflict. For as she travels the climactically vulnerable region near 10 degrees latitude, she sees climate change exacerbating tensions dividing 700 million Muslims and 1.2 billion Christians. These tensions emerge in probing interviews with religious leaders—Christian and Muslim—aflame with spiritual passions now rare in the secular West. Yet Griswold also discovers how the West has helped incubate the region’s interfaith hostility. It was, after all, Western colonizers whose arbitrary boundaries helped harden religious differences: in Sudan , for instance, the British established the tenth parallel as a partition between the Islamic north and the Christian south. More recently, it was the U.S.-led invasion of distant Afghanistan that triggered bloody clashes between Muslim and Christian mobs in the Middle Belt of Nigeria. And in Indonesia , Griswold listens to angry jihadists certain that the spread of fast-food restaurants signals a threatening Christian onslaught. Here and elsewhere Griswold teases out the threads of a complex fabric of religious doctrine, capitalist economics, ethnic pride, and power politics. Despite the complexities, Griswold retains her hope that authentic faith can yet transcend theological differences and foster peace. A compelling portrait of embattled human communities yearning for more-than-human succor.

– Bryce Christensen, Booklist (starred)

Griswold keenly investigates how the global clash of religions especially takes its toll on women and children. She visits religious leaders on both sides and debates finer points of their arguments. An important ongoing venture in the West’s attempts to understand the conflicts of this region.

– Kirkus Reviews

Award-winning journalist Griswold chronicles her travels along the 10th parallel, the line of latitude 700 miles north of the equator and home to many Christian-Muslim standoffs. Griswold does her best to counter the received wisdom of interfaith fighting by astutely pointing out where religion is simply used as a tactic in a nonreligious conflict over land, resources, or the like. As examples of war-rejectors, multifaith, and environmental advocates, the author introduces many organizations and individuals with hopes for peace, such as the Nigerian pastor, who in addition to working with a Muslim imam to stop fighting between their communities, also distributes green stoves that burn less wood, thereby preventing further deforestation and possibly inter-religious fighting over land and rights. The reader also meets Nigerian Christian warriors, quasi-military Filipino Catholic gangs, and Indonesian jihadis who sell herbal cures door-to-door to raise funds. Though not a scholar of Islam, Griswold has a profound grasp of the misinterpretation and manipulation of Islam. Her insight that no single, unified sharia (Islamic law) exists is a conclusion that has eluded eluded more celebrated authors; among other perceptions, she notes that Islam was spread more by intermarriage than the sword. Always maintaining a journalist’s objective view, Griswold, a published poet, nevertheless enchants the reader with her lush, flowing prose.

– Publishers Weekly (starred)

Eliza Griswold is a courageous reporter, a gifted writer, and an acute observer of life. In The Tenth Parallel she takes us on a crucially illuminating tour of some of the most volatile terrain in the world, acquainting us with people who are far away both spatially and culturally but whose fates are intertwined with our own.

– Robert Wright, author of The Evolution of God

Eliza Griswold’s The Tenth Parallel deals with a geographical slice of the Muslim world spanning Africa and Asia. With a sharp eye and equally sharp wit, Griswold dissects the events and issues that have gripped the region, uncovering their nature through memorable encounters and personalities. The story brims with insightful details and instructive lessons. Seldom does a book of this nature ranging over such vast terrain succeed in maintaining a steady focus and an engaging lightness of touch. In her hands, Islam resounds through the voice of Muslims, and religion lives through its followers and devotees. The book is a triumph of the human imagination and capacity for intercultural exploration.

– Lamin Sanneh, author of Whose Religion is Christianity?

Eliza Griswold’s talent runs through this book like a blinding light. Through her daring travel, quiet observation, empathy and gift for language, she humanizes and clarifies conflicts in Africa and Asia that are often neglected or misunderstood. The Tenth Parallel is both vitally important and beautifully written.

– Steve Coll, author of The Bin Ladens

Ingeniously conceived and beautifully wrought, The Tenth Parallel traces the uneasy fault line of two great faiths, which have so much bloody history between them. In exploring the potent tensions that underlie so many of the conflicts of the present age, Eliza Griswold gives us a rare look at how complex and interwoven these two cultures actually are.

– Lawrence Wright, author of The Looming Tower

Eliza Griswold, poet and war correspondent, takes her readers on a journey through the birthplace of terror. She marches into unspeakably frightening places, alone, with only her pen as protection. And then she speaks. The poetry of Griswold’s prose draws the reader in, even as she foretells great terrors to come. The Tenth Parallel is an important book by a courageous American.

– Jessica Stern, author of Terror In The Name Of God

In this revolutionary work, Griswold has dedicated the last seven years of her life to traveling in the world’s least known places to explore the encounter between Christianity and Islam in Africa and Asia. She has brought back the unforgettable stories of Christians and Muslims along the tenth parallel whose faith is shaping the world’s future. Griswold’s courageous pilgrimage changes the way we think about Christianity and Islam by exploding any simplistic “clash” narrative. She returns us to the most basic truth of human existence: that the world and its people are interconnected.

– Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Based on years of first hand experience and observation, The Tenth Parallel is a deeply impressive achievement, which so often challenges our common assumptions. The book will be immensely rewarding for anyone who wants to make sense of the relationship between those long-estranged sister faiths, Christianity and Islam. It should be required reading for policy makers, and for anyone interested in the spiritual dimensions of the ‘clash of civilizations.’

– Philip Jenkins, author of Jesus Wars

The Tenth Parallel is one of the most important books you will ever read. Eliza Griswold combines the fearlessness of an investigative journalist and the bold vision of a poet to take readers on a perilous journey along the fault line between Islam and Christianity. No one else could have written this book.

– Reza Aslan, author of No god but God

Wideawake Field

Poet’s Choice by Robert Pinsky
– Washington Post

“It’s Not Enough to Feel This”
The poet-as-witness in Wideawake Field and three more collections.
– Poetry Foundation