26 Sep / The Home That Was Our Country: A Memoir of Syria by Alia Malek [in Library Journal]
American by birth, Syrian by parentage, journalist and civil rights lawyer Alia Malek (A Country Called Amreeka) has the cultural and linguistic fluency to be both insider and outsider in either country. Through four generations of extended family stories – from her wealthy businessman great-grandfather who outlived the Ottoman Empire to contemporary cousins trying to survive the Assad regime – Malek traces a century-plus of tumultuous Syrian history. That she’s her own narrator proves ideal, moving between the personal and political with agile familiarity.
Arriving in Damascus in 2011 to finish restoring her late grandmother’s home, which belonged to her mother but was occupied for decades by a trenchant relative, Malek reveals, “I wanted to be there at a moment when the entire region was in the throes of change. For an optimist, Syria was on the precipice of something better. For the pessimist, it teetered dangerously on the abyss.” Initially that self-declared optimist, Malek experiences intimidation, abuse, and terror – both hers and others’ – that sends her back stateside in May 2013, leaving her family and friends relieved for her safety … and their own.
Verdict: Readers seeking to learn more about the human side of international tumult will find inspiration and insight in this affecting memoir.