Joseph Braude is a difficult person to dislike.
How can you resist liking a man who saw truth in another soul’s story when no one else would listen? Joseph stumbled onto an unemployed, 57-year-old father of eight’s story—that of the conspiracy behind his best friend’s homicide—when everyone else had written the man off. Muhammad Bari met Joseph while he had unprecedented access to an Arab security force in Casablanca. Joseph didn’t travel there with grandiose ideas of solving a murder. He secured his position as an embedded journalist because he was interested in authoritarian states and the masses they are in command of. But instead he met a man with a story of his best friend’s murder, a man who refused to believe the “robbery gone wrong” story fed to him by the police.
Joseph says that Bari’s “sadness touched me deeply” and his own grief from the loss of his best friend drove him to begin looking into the beating death of Ibrahim Dey. The result of this investigation is The Honored Dead: A Story of Friendship, Murder, and the Search for Truth in the Arab World, narrative nonfiction that Publisher’s Weekly calls “lyrical and engrossing.” Braude drew on his own background as a confidential informant to the FBI on counterterrorism in the 1990s. Additionally, Braude was once the subject of a federal prosecution for illegally importing Iraqi artifacts. At the time, Harvard Law School professor, Charles Neeson, told the New York Times, “I just got the sense that this kid was being railroaded. Why they’re prosecuting it like a major felony seems like serious overkill to me.” Eventually, the judge ruled that it appeared Braude didn’t take the items for financial gain, and sentenced him to six months home confinement. Fluent in several languages, Braude’s time spent in the Middle East, and his unique background served him well and made it possible for him to write a story no other Western writer could’ve undertaken.
Joseph is half-Jewish, and half-Iraqi, who grew up in Rhode Island. His father side of the family boasts five generations of rabbis. His mother was born in Bagdad to an Iraqi-Jewish family that goes back 2700 years to the Babylonian exile, but eventually left and grew up in Jerusalem. He’s considered a specialist on the Middle East, numerous publications in such journals as The New Republic, Playboy, Foreign Policy, and his weekly radio address, “Letter from New York,” is aired nationally in Morocco. His study of languages took place both in his own home growing up as well as at Yale and Princeton. He has also worked as a business consultant to governments and companies in the Middle East.
Another one of his loves is music. He’s considered a semi-professional oud player and sits in with bands when he is in the Middle East. (If you’re unfamiliar with the oud, it’s a pear-shaped stringed instrument common in Middle Eastern music.)
When asked about what brought him to write The Honored Dead, he responded: “It started in my head, evolved in my gut, and finally came full circle.” The book has been described as “Casablanca Confidential,” in the same vein as the 1997 film, L.A. Confidential.
Another book from Joseph Braude is The New Iraq, which is a critically acclaimed part-history, part-predictions—many of which came to pass. Braude, who was barred from entering Iraq due to his heritage, practiced “anthropology from afar” much like Ruth Benedict’s The Chrysanthemum and the Sword, which analyzed Japan’s culture in 1964. The Arabic edition became a bestseller in Jordan.
Braude does not shy away from the tough topics and seems to follow his own gut, interests, and loves as a writer. This unusual man is certainly a person of conviction and passion.