At the Arab Spring's hopeful start, Alia Malek returned to Damascus to reclaim her grandmother's apartment, which had been lost to her family since Hafez al-Assad came to power in 1970. Its loss was central to her parents' decision to make their lives in America.
In chronicling the people who lived in the Tahaan building, past and present, Alia portrays the Syrians - the Muslims, Christians, Jews, Armenians, and Kurds - who worked, loved, and suffered in close quarters, mirroring the political shifts in their country. Restoring her family's home as the country comes apart, she learns how to speak the coded language of oppression that exists in a dictatorship while privately confronting her own fears about Syria's future.
The Home That Was Our Country is a deeply researched, personal journey that shines a delicate but piercing light on Syrian history, society, and politics. Teeming with insights, the narrative weaves acute political analysis with a century of intimate family history, ultimately delivering an unforgettable portrait of the Syria that is being erased.
"Moving and insightful, 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." (Kirkus Reviews)
"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." (Laura Chanoux, Booklist)
"The Home That Was Our Country, is one of the finest examples of this new testimonial writing... Malek's memoir will remain essential reading in the emerging body of literary reportage from Syria in English... Such stories couldn't be more urgent." (New York Times Book Review)