The Fires of Spring (Hardcover)

A Post-Arab Spring Journey Through the Turbulent New Middle East - Turkey, Iraq, Qatar, Jordan, Egypt, and Tunisia

By Shelly Culbertson

St. Martin's Press, 9781250067043, 384pp.

Publication Date: April 19, 2016

List Price: 29.99*
* Individual store prices may vary.


Turkey, Iraq, Qatar, Jordan, Egypt, and Tunisia

The “Arab Spring” all started when a young Tunisian fruit seller set himself on fire in protest of a government official confiscating his apples and slapping his face. The aftermath of that one personal protest grew to become the Middle East movement known as the Arab Spring—a wave of disparate events that included protests, revolutions, hopeful reform movements, and bloody civil wars.

The Fires of Spring is the first book to bring the post-Arab Spring world to light in a holistic context. A narrative of author Shelly Culbertson’s journey through six countries of the Middle East, The Fires of Spring tells the story by weaving together a sense of place, insight about issues of our time, interviews with leaders, history, and personal stories. Culbertson navigates the nuances of street life and peers into ministries, mosques, and women’s worlds. She delves into what Arab Spring optimism was about, and at the same time sheds light on the pain and dysfunction that continues to plague parts of the region. The Fires of Spring blends reportage, travel memoir, and analysis in this complex and multifaceted portrait.

About the Author

Shelly Culbertson has lived, worked, and traveled extensively in the Middle East. She is a Middle East analyst at the RAND Corporation and formerly worked at the U.S. Department of State. Her commentaries about the Middle East have appeared in Newsweek and U.S. News & World Report, on, and elsewhere.

Praise For The Fires of Spring: A Post-Arab Spring Journey Through the Turbulent New Middle East - Turkey, Iraq, Qatar, Jordan, Egypt, and Tunisia

"A well-documented, brave, and useful overview." - Kirkus STARRED review

"[A] comprehensive and probing analysis of the Arab Spring’s impact... A book rich in invaluable information about both current conditions and possible future trends in Middle Eastern life and politics." - Booklist

"Culbertson walks through the citadels of Amman and Carthage and the pyramids of Egypt, vividly illustrating the omnipresence of the ancient in the modern; her treatment of the Ottoman Empire's demise is particularly illuminating."—Publishers Weekly

"An engaging meander that weaves history, culture, politics, and economics into a cohesive narrative....the reader comes away with a sense not only of what went wrong, but also what has gone right, along with an appreciation for the diversity of the region and its people."—The Christian Science Monitor (Best Books of April)

"Shelly Culbertson takes her readers on a post-Arab Spring political tour of six of the countries touched by the 2011 uprisings. Her interviews and observations are careful and shrewd; she knows the region and understands how systemic inertia slows the processes of political change."Dallas Morning News

"This recommended overview of a complex set of upheavals in the Middle East explains both the causes and outcomes of the widespread unrest with clarity and a tone of affection and concern for the region."—Library Journal

"A glorious tapestry of people, history and sometimes unspoken analysis that provides the reader the raw material to draw his or her own conclusions... truly an excellent book."—Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

"Highly readable...This first-person account...matches the professional rigor of RAND with her open eyes and heart."Pittsburgh Quarterly

"The Fires of Spring is exceptionally well written, balanced, judicious, and insightful. It is an impressive blend of travelogue, history, and analysis that shows that the changes initiated by the Arab Spring are still working themselves out in ways that are not fully predictable, but perhaps more positive than the current scene might lead one to believe."—James Dobbins, Senior Fellow with the RAND Corporation and former Assistant Secretary of State

"Shelly Culbertson is a sensitive observer with a deep knowledge of the developments in the Middle East since the Arab Spring. Travelling through six very different countries, she unravels the similarities and differences of their predicaments, and shows that long term optimism is still possible despite the huge challenges they face. Her book is an example of what travel writing should really be, and shows that no one should despair despite the dreadful conflicts that are raging in parts of the region."—John McHugo, author of A Concise History of the Arabs and Syria: A History of the last Hundred Years

"The Fires of Spring is a wonderful, penetrating, and sympathetic look at six Middle Eastern societies rent by the turmoil of the Arab spring and deep-rooted conflict. Through interviews with a multitude of characters and travelogue of the highest order, Culbertson opens a window into the cultural dilemmas, daily hardships and political dramas playing out from Ankara to Cairo."—Linda Robinson, New York Times bestselling author of Masters of Chaos, Tell Me How This Ends and One Hundred Victories

“The Arab Spring set in motion processes of change in the Middle East that will last for decades. We can try to understand its significance through statistics and expert reports. Or we can follow the stories of individuals, trying to understand the region in the round. The Fires of Spring tells those stories across six countries. It is a compelling and enlightening read.”Anne-Marie Slaughter, President and CEO, New America

"This book has captured the essence of this historic transformation the Arab world is going through. The complexities, frustrations and hopes of the period which was at first romantically called 'the Arab Spring' are vividly brought to the reader through a journey across countries with different experiences and people with varied outlooks. Shelly Culbertson has masterfully painted a picture of the current challenges facing the region, and more importantly of the promise the future might bring."—Marwan Muasher, Vice-President of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and former Deputy Prime Minister of Jordan