Dave Eggers: The Monk of Mokha



When Mokhtar made a mistake Hamood was angry only if Mokhtar made an excuse Own the error and correct it he said Hamood had a thousand proverbs and maxims His favorite was Keep your money in your hand never in your heart He used to say that a ot What does it mean Mokhtar asked It means that money is ephemeral moving from person to person Hamood said It s a tool Don t et it get into your heart or your soul page 28The Monk of Mokha tells the amazing adventure of Mokhtar Alkhanshali s efforts to revive the art of making uality coffee in Yemen While Mokhtar s adventure is amazing unfortunately the book itself disappoints in two ways They way it is written and the actual information that is providedThis is a non fiction book that is part biography part adventure story and part business book The standard for the combination biography business book is set by Walter Isaacson s superb biography about Steve Jobs Isaacson combines a ayered multifaceted description of Jobs character with key business insights On both of these dimensions the Monk of Mokha falls shortThe main problem In this book Mokhtar is a one dimensional superhero with one superpower He can talk himself out of any situation Detailed descriptions that would give depth to his character are mostly absent For instance his relationship with Miriam who seems such a vital influence in Mokhtar s DJ Rising life in his early twenties is only mentioned in passing The information we get is that they dated for a year or so but the odds wereong page 3 because they belonged to different ethnic backgrounds How he really feels about her and their apparent breakup is not mentioned Even Deepening Desires - Scratching the Surface less attention get her feelings for himThere are also some contradictions or paradoxes that if explored could have given a detailed idea of Mokhtar s personality Two examples Mokhtar grows up in a dodgy neighborhood in San Francisco called the Tenderloin The Tenderloin taught you to think uick talk fast page 31 Mokhtarearns these Natural Selection lessons By middle school Mokhtar had become a fastearner a fast talker and a corner cutter pag 16 However at his first coffee conference when he wants to introduce himself to someone all these Sahir and Jaadu lessons have strangely disappeared and Mokhtar is all of a sudden described as shy page 100 This is not necessarily inexplicable but it would have given his character depth if this contrast had been explored Both in school and at an after school program at a mosue Mokhtar is a corner cutter who finds trouble difficult to avoid However not muchater he is described as an autodidact who reads plenty of books Again an exploration of this contrast that could give understanding of his personality is missing from the bookAnother aspect that I didn t ike about the way the book is written is the abuse of explicit suspense Several times it is mentioned explicitly that Mokhtar thought he was going to die If the threat of death is mentioned often it becomes ess believable I appreciate it when a writer describes an event or a situation in such a way that the reader himself can only draw one conclusion This is scary or dangerous Here in order to create the suspense the writer has the main character saying many times that he thinks he is in a dangerous situation which I came to feel as The Girl Who Could Move Sh*t with Her Mind less powerful than a possible better description of the very real threats Examples He figured the odds of survival were about 60 40 page 171 Mokhtar knew he might die here page 223 Now Mokhtar believed he might die page 256 Grim possibilities ran through Mokhtar s mind Secret prisons Illegal detentions page 289 Thinking that there was a remote chance he d be detained send to Guantanamo page 295I also had several uestions about the information that is provided 1 Mokhtar of course is on a noble mission reviving the Yemeni coffee culture and providing the Yemeni coffee farmers with a betterife On his second visit to Yemen Mokhtar promises Malik a coffee farmer in Haymah that he will buy all his coffee at a price 5 times what he d been paid before page 186 Wonderful Then once the business is starting to take off it is mentioned that his farmers would be making 30 % than what they d been making before page 300 30 % is not uite the same as 5 times but still wonderful Then in the epilogue it turns out that Mokhtar s specialty coffee from Yemen is sold at US 16 a cup Now I start to wonder Before Mokhtar arrived on the scene Yemeni coffee was a commodity product For a cup of commodity coffee US 3 seems reasonable He sells his coffee for than 5 times than the commodity coffee and his suppliers just see a 30% increase while they had been promised 5 times Of course it is well possible that my reasoning is too simple but without further explications on these numbers the books Work by Referral leaves unpleasant uestions unanswered2 On pages 93 to 95 Mokhtar s explains the benefits of direct trade without interference ofoan sharks and brokers between himself and Yemeni coffee farmers Direct trade will remove the middle men All this sounds Squeaky Clean like a good idea Then two things happen First the first time he meets an actual middle man in his grandfather Hamood s city Ibb Mokhtar describes this middle man as Highly ethical and fair page 129 Strange because apparently he had millions of dollars under his control while coffee in Yemen was sold so cheap mostly to brokers andoan sharks that it was nearly unworkable for any Yemeni farmer page 95 Loan sharks are bad but the first one Mokhtar happens to run into is OKSecond after his first visit it turns out that he has access to 3 farmers who can provide superior coffee Now The Monk of Mokha is the exhilarating true story of a young Yemeni American man raised in San Francisco who dreams of resurrecting the ancient art of Yemeni coffee but finds himself trapped in Sana’a by civil war Mokhtar Alkhans.

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H his famous storytelling touch Not to mention that Mokha s story is absolutely crazy My only complaint is a small one I thought the ending didn t have enough detail Then again t Truth is stranger than fiction but it is because fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities Truth isn tMark TwainThis is one of those nonfiction books that seems so unbelievable that if it were fiction you d think the author should have tried for something realistic But had the subject of this biographical novel Moktar Alkhanshali stuck to what was considered possible he wouldn t have achieved all that he has and at such a young age Though maybe his youth and optimism with a touch of na vet thrown in for good measure had something to do with it Moktar a Muslim Yemeni American who grew up in a tough neighborhood in San Francisco called The Tenderloin was a restless young man who knew how to s In a world filled with misery and pain it s refreshing to read a well written non fiction story of a member of our race who overcomes all shades of adversity to succeed when every deck is stacked against him Like his excellent Zeitoun Eggers writes in an easily accessible narrative style that draws the reader into every facet of the story whether it s the personal history of the protagonist or an encompassing background on the world of coffee the prose is mesmerizing I ended up playing hooky from work today because I couldn t put this down Highly recommended This book made me appreciate coffee This is the kind of book that keeps you on the edge of the seat while rooting for the main guy to get over the obstacles and attain the goals they need to get Mokhtar Alkhanshali was born and raised in California His parents are from Yemen He discovers while working as a door attendant in a Crystal Rapture - Girlbot Marie large residential building that Yemen was a major exporter of coffee beans for centuries and had a monopoly over coffee trade through the port of Mokha He wants to revive the high uality of the Yemeni beans and goes back to Yemen to explore the situation but then 2011 and the Arab Spring changes everything in the region He goes back and forth between Yemen and some coffee businessmen in California heearns how to grade coffee he teaches Yemeni workers and farmers how to improve the farming harvesting of the beans and improve their How to Manage Projects life This book delivers on manyevels it shows the real region it describes what people go through every day in a region plagued with war A must read for any person who enjoys coffee politics history and human stories There is a Soft Bots - Logic Bomb lesson in this oneor two Don tet anyone tell you can t do something And once you set your mind to something you can do anything Well in this case said person was almost killedmultiple times But he DID IT He did what he set out to do which seemed Soft Bots - Changing Roles like an impossibilityOK this tells the story of Mokhtar Alkhanshali A young Yemeni growing up in San Francisco just running around being a punk not caring about much of anything But he begins to see the way after being talked to and tries to better himself He tries to go school but a mistake where heooses a Soft Bots - Fuzzy Logic lot of money he was given for school isost So he goes to work really pushing hard and earning He sells shoes sells cars and then is a door man in a uxury apartment building His girlfriend makes a passing statement to him about a statue and that sets Mokhtar on his next path er uest erobsession er goal He wants to bring Yemeni coffee to America You Timbre Composition in Electroacoustic Music (Contemporary Music Review learn about coffee cultivation roasting and importing and so much about coffee I m not a coffee drinker at all never had the desire But I found this utterly fascinating You hear of harrowing stories of his time in Yemen and trying to get out Yemen when violence erupts On multiple occasions he thinks he is about to die A great storyand in the end he brings his dream toife Yemeni coffee can be found many places in the US these days And along the way helping the coffee farmers and workers back in YemenFor years I have been wanting to read Eggers works Many rave about them there have been movies which I have not seen of his works I even own a book of his but I just never plucked him from my TBR pile I don t know what it was about this one that when I saw it I had to read it immediately OK cover Instruments of Darkness love drew my attention first I m so glad I read this one and ignited my desire to read of his books And I found out he is coming along with Mokhtar to aocal author speaker series that I attend So I get to hear of this fascinating story by these two men The only downfallit will not turn me into a coffee drinker I just can t So I My Uncle Oswald ll just drink my tea while I read his books and wait for his talk Sounds perfect to me The rags to riches story of a coffee importer it s interesting than that sounds Details are suspiciously sparse toward the end but Iike a happy ending Waffling between three and four stars True account of Yemen American When he earns that coffee originated in Yemen he employs passion courage creativity humanitarianism to make Yemen coffee the world s best All that amid daunting poverty war politics Pulitzer prize author Audio narrator passable but not a uite right fit mispronounced eide Story was engaging all the same Wow By the end of The Monk of Mokha without a sip of coffee or tea for me in me I felt the stimulant of Dave Eggers non fiction book raising my energy This is one heck of an amazing rags to riches storyFrom DOORMANto CEO COFFEEMANour uplifting boost of energy comes from a guy name Mokhtar AlkhanshaliYemeni American Mokhtar grew up dirt poorin San Francisco s most impoverished distr. The country’s rugged mountains and meet beleagured but determined farmers But when war engulfs the country and Saudi bombs rain down Mokhtar has to find a way out of Yemen without sacrificing his dreams or abandoning his people.

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Expected him to focus on those and trade directly But no he ends up buying from that same middle man from Ibb page 198 What happened to direct trade3 On his first visit to Yemen as a coffee enthusiast Mokhtar first visits his grandfather Hamood in Ibb There he sees the coffee plant again They came to the row of coffee trees hugging the wall of Hamood s compound Do you remember these Hamood asked Mokhtar touched the glossy eaves He remembered page 127 Some time The Witch’s Warning (Aberrations later during that very same first visit Mokhtar mistakes an olive tree for a coffee plant That s not coffee Yusuf said Mokhtar had been carefully examining an olive tree page 150 I don t understand 4 Sometimes characters seemed to appear out of nowhere Best example is Abdo Alghazali on page 195 He advises Mokhtar not to get in touch with Andrew Nicholson an American coffee mill owner in Yemen Without uestioning Mokhtar follows this advise 5 pagesater Andrew and Mokhtar do meet and almost instantly get along well Almost immediately Mokhtar realized that Abdo Alghazali had wanted to keep Andrew and Mokhtar apart page 200 Who is this Abdo Why did Mokhtar follow his advise without uestioning And why did Abdo want to keep Andrew and Mokhtar apart We are Beach Blanket Bad Boys left in the dark My conclusion Mokhtar s adventure is amazing and his efforts to help and improve theives of Yemeni coffee farmers are admirable I am just sorry the book doesn t match Mokhtar s exciting story and his good intentions It s hard to articulate my thoughts on this book better than Michael Lindgren already has in the Washington Post but what the hell I Kingdom of Souls (Kingdom of Souls, ll give it a shot Iiked the book I don t regret reading it but I won t recommend it to others because after having read Eggers fiction and memoir I m frankly disappointedMonk of Mokha is the remarkably true story of Mokhtar Alkhanshali a Yemeni American Millennial who overcame some pretty harrowing odds to become a successful importer of specialty coffee from war ridden Yemen This story traces Mokhtar s journey from being an aimless 23 year old doorman in San Francisco into the bourgeois world of specialty coffee into Yemen that was just starting to break out in civil war in 2013 and ultimately back to San Francisco for a victory ap as a resident in the uxury building where he was once the doorman Mokhtar s story is truly gasp worthy full of danger narrow misses remarkable charisma fortunes and misfortunes It s a good ole swashbuckling picaresue bootstraps and all However Eggers is suited to fiction and memoirs The accounting of the story is a bit dry Eggers Watching Ice And Weather Our Way lays out the facts his prose is clear and vivid And yes there is artistry to his exposition when he diverts us toittle histories of coffee and Yemen culture and yes there s craft to how he undoubtedly chiseled secondary diversions away to eave behind a taught narrative However the thing that made heartbreaking and you shall electric with energy and infused with magic was I think his icense to invent The Love Will Follow literaryicense in these previous works allowed him to toe into the realm of Maruez Rushdie and the best travel writers who reveal the truth through telling A Fabulous Creation lies This is what art after all is supposed to do right I believe the right way to tell character non fiction stories is toet the Os Guardiões da História I - Começa a Tempestade (History Keepers life and history with all its peculiarityead and ultimately determine the themes and narrative Eggers immigrant trilogy in contrast is very much a framework first then fill in appropriate content The Sun on My Head later enterprise It s a noble thought but this approach stifles the possibilities of the stories unfolding in interesting and unexpected ways In this book it s obvious Eggers is on a mission to to valorize ideals of democracyiberalism diversity tolerance empathy all ideals I agree with by the way the cost of this is that the book comes off as ess imaginative pedantic and ultimately flatThere remains certain moments of utmost satisfaction guilty pleasure passages In one Mokhtar recently back to capital Sana a from exploratory coffee visits out in the Yemen countryside he appears out of place as a gruffed up provincial yokel in an internet cafe A posse of wealthy Yemeni girls take pleasure in mocking him in English and are shocked when he retorts in perfect American English In another a group of rough Yemeni gun toting types are target practicing with their AK s failing repeated to hit a bottle in the distance They see Mokhtar as a soft city slicker from America and are shocked when he hits the bottle on the first shot then cooly walks off into the sunset I only allow myself to enjoy these moments because they actually happened Scenes this satisfying in a novel would just be obvious and overwroughtLastly Mokhtar s story while truly amazing actually gets to be a bit tiresome toward the ends The stakes always felt high but there emerged a repeating pattern of hero walks up to the cusp of catastrophe catastrophe never uite materializes instead dissipating serendipitously hero casually continues his journey toward pre destined glory His story is truly a remarkable and fortunate and TRUE one but it just feels ike Claimed by the Wealthy Magnate lazy screenwriting Eggers was the reason why I picked up this book someone at work handed me an ARC and I wasike sure why not I didn t even realize it was non fiction until after the first chapterBut holy cow it was spectacular It s about a Yemeni American who wants to bring high uality Yemen coffee back to the US and the rest of the world I had no idea about the history of coffee and wouldn t have thought I would find it so interesting but Eggers writes the history portions wit. Hali is twenty four and working as a doorman when he discovers the astonishing history of coffee and Yemen’s central place in it He eaves San Francisco and travels deep into his ancestral homeland to tour terraced farms high in.

Dave Eggers is the author of ten books including most recently Your Fathers Where Are They And the Prophets Do They Live Forever The Circle and A Hologram for the King which was a finalist for the 2012 National Book Award He is the founder of McSweeney’s an independent publishing company based in San Francisco that produces books a uarterly journal of new writing McSweeney’s uarterly