Home That Was Our Country : A Memoir of Syria
by Malek, Alia

Transliteration Notevii
Map of Syria
Prologue: Leavingix
PART 1 Generations
1 Origins
2 Sheikha
3 Adrift
4 Pack Your Bags and Go
5 Locked In
PART 2 Locked Out
6 Anywhere but Here
7 No-man's-Land
8 They Did It to Themselves
PART 3 In the Eye of the Belly
9 Return
10 Tahrir Squares
11 Psychodrama
12 Fatherland
13 In the Cards
14 Routine
15 Suspicion
16 Unraveling
17 Power
18 Displaced
19 Gone
Epilogue: Bound314(11)
A Note on Sources329

In The Home that Was My Country, Syrian-American journalist Alia Malek chronicles her return to her family home in Damascus and the history of the Jabban apartment building. Here, generations of Christians, Jews, Muslims, and Armenians lived, worked, loved, and suffered in close quarters. In telling the story of her family over the course of the last century, Alia brings to light the triumphs and failures that have led Syria to where it is today. Her book bristles with insights, as Alia weaves acute political analysis into intimate scenes, interlacing the personal and the political with subtlety and grace. After being in and out of Syria growing up, Alia came back to Syria as a journalist at the time of the Arab Spring, striving to understand it as the country was beginning to disintegrate. As days go on, Alia learns how to speak the language that exists in a dictatorship, while privately confronting her own fears about her country's future, and learns how to carry on with everyday life. This intimate portrait of contemporary Syria will shed more light on its history, society, and politics than all of today's war reporting accounts written from the Syrian front. It makes for an eye-opening, highly moving, and beautiful read, and finds the humanity behindthe disastrous daily headlines.

Alia Malek is an award-winning journalist and civil rights lawyer. She is the author of A Country Called Amreeka and editor of Patriot Acts and EUROPA. Her reporting has appeared in the New York Times, Foreign Policy, Nation, and Christian Science Monitor, among others.

*Starred Review* Lawyer and journalist Malek's powerful memoir beautifully captures the history of her family and of their country. Born in Baltimore to Syrian immigrant parents, Malek (A Country Called Amreeka, 2009) always felt connected to her Syrian family, especially her grandmother Salma. Her narrative begins in 1889 with Salma's grandmother, known for opening her doors to anyone in need, and Salma's father, a charismatic community leader. Malek traces their stories through Salma's life in Damascus, her parents' engagement and move to Maryland, and her childhood visits back to Syria. As an adult, Malek lives and travels extensively in the region. She experiences daily life under the oppressive Assad regime, where citizens live in constant fear of informants and state violence. In 2011, Malek moves to Damascus to renovate her grandmother's apartment while reporting anonymously on the rise of resistance, activism, and armed conflict in Syria. She operates under the ever-present threat of the secret police, known for detaining and torturing suspected dissenters. Malek's writing vividly captures the personalities of her family members and friends as well as her own impressions of Syria, allowing readers insight into the personal stakes of the ongoing war. Copyright 2017 Booklist Reviews.

A Syrian-American journalist/civil rights lawyer interweaves narratives about her family with the history of modern Syria. Malek (A Country Called Amreeka: Arab Roots, American Stories, 2009, etc.) moved to Damascus in the wake of the Arab Spring. Brimming with optimism, she intended to finish restoration work on her grandmother Salma's house while helping Syria transition from "decades of stifling and corrupt dictatorship." But by 2013, she had returned to the United States, disillusioned. In this book, the author narrates a multigenerational family saga that begins with a charismatic maternal great-grandfather but focuses mostly on Salma's life. When a newlywed Salma moved into the house that Malek would finish restoring more than 60 years later, Syria was independent from Ottoman rule and French influence. Like Salma's life, the country was "more potential and possibility than broken promises." Both Damascus and Salma's apartment building were home to people from all walk s of Middle Eastern life: "Turks, Kurds, Arabs…all of different classes, some Christian and others Muslim." By 1970, the year Hafez al-Assad staged the coup that would catapult him into power, Salma lost the rights to her apartment, which Malek's parents would not be able to reclaim for three decades. By the time they did, Syria had become a place in which the government divided the people from each other through tactics intended to breed fear and distrust. After anti-government, pro-democracy protests and uprisings swept through Tunisia, Egypt, and other parts of the Arab world, Malek decided to return to the place where she had been conceived but from which she and her parents seemed destined to be separated. However, as an independent, unmarried American female, she felt unwelcome. Some of her relatives wanted her to leave because they feared for her safety and their own, while others saw her presence as a way to "curry favor with the [al Assad] regime." Moving and i nsightful, Malek's memoir combines sharp-eyed observations of Syrian politics, only occasionally overdone, with elegiac commentary on home, exile, and a bygone era. Provocative, richly detailed reading. Copyright Kirkus 2016 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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