This is a brilliant book that is must reading for all who want to understand the tragedy that is the Syrian civil war. It is full authentic voices speaking from the heart about the excitement of a revolution, the terrible civil war that resulted, the horrors of war, as well as the challenges and opportunities of refugees. The book does an outstanding job of organizing those voices into a broad narrative and letting them speak for themselves. One challenge of the book is that is only telling one side of the civil war and you really do not hear the voices of those who support the Assad regimne not those that have turned to violent extremism. That said, this is a book that is easily the best I have read on the Syrian civil war and is brilliant cautionary tale that I strongly recommend for all those interested in the middle east.
This book is remarkable. I read the entire thing in 24 hours because it draws you in from the beginning. In somewhat chronological order, the book shares stories from Syrians detailing the era before the conflict, the protests, the regime's response, flight from Syria, etc. The book's style reminds me of Humans of New York. It is so raw and authentic that I found myself feeling all of the emotions along with the Syrians portrayed. The humanizing perspective that the author gives helps readers imagine what it would have been like to be there. It evokes empathy and understanding in a way that only the most talented writers can. I have such deep respect for Syrians, and this book honors their stories and experiences so well.
I cannot recommend this book enough for anyone who is interested in learning about what happened in Syria. Wendy Pearlman provides a brief background of the socio-political context of the uprising and civil war but leaves the reader to learn directly from the reflections of those who have lived it. The book is built around hundreds of interviews with Syrians woven together chronologically to transport the reader from the feelings of hope and release that the Arab Spring unleashed to the sense of betrayal at the hands of the international community to the feelings of loss and alienation of a people who have been forced to rebuild their lives countless times. Ultimately, what the reader emerges with is the conviction that no one is fully a victim nor fully a perpetrator of violence and that it is not our place to judge whether or not the revolution was "worth it" in the end. Pearlman's thoughtful tribute to Syria serves as a reminder that the only people who can speak about Syria are the Syrians themselves. It is a gentle (and much needed) rebuke for us to step away from the political image of Syria as a land of militias and sectarianism and to view it from the eyes of Syrians who believed in hope for the future and freedom.
What a powerful way to enable Syrian voices be heard! In the introduction of the book, Dr. Pearlman provides a valuable geo-political orientation to the events that led to where Syria is today, and why. She then uses this as a backdrop to allow the compelling tales of the Syrian people to speak for themselves. Throughout the narratives, we are exposed to the revolutionary spirit of the people, their heart-wretching stories of struggle, their feelings of abandonment by the world, and the fear of living in an oppressive society.
If you want to understand Syria, this is the book to read!
This remarkable collection of Syrian voices is a must-read. The depth and intimacy of the stories highlights the vast range of experiences of Syrians over the past several decades. Pearlman interviewed the speakers in Arabic, allowing a trust and openness that shines through in the translated excerpts. Thank you to the author for bringing the voices and stories of so many Syrians to the readers of this book, and thank you to each of the men and women who were willing to share their experiences with the world.
For anyone trying to understand - truly understand - the complexities of the Syrian conflict, this is a must-read. By weaving stories from real people, the author is able to provide a rich, textured, and complex understanding of Syrians, and how the conflict has affected them (and the rest of the world). Further, Pearlman's ability to take hours of interviews and compress them into their essence makes this a compelling read. Put simply, this is one of the best books that I've read in the last several years. I finished the book in two days and I have a much richer understanding of the conflict as a result.
Far too many years have gone by with this horrific story not being told. "We Crossed A Bridge And It Trembled" finally gave us a personal insight to what extremes these people, young and old have endured. Ms. Pearlman's dedication to visit the Syrians in many different locations gives the reader a small window into what has been happening for years. Hopefully, she will continue her interviews so people around the world will finally wake up and see what the Assad regime has done to millions of displaced Syrians.
There is something powerful about hearing people tell their stories and Wendy Pearlman did an excellent job in how she helped many Syrians share their powerful accounts. Like Studs Terkel, she got out of the way and lets the reader and the story teller connect directly. I would have given five stars, but I wanted to hear more and found the book a bit short. Maybe, for some, this is an advantage.