Herstory Memoir Monday Read Harder Recommendations WIT

The Crossing: My Journey to the Shattered Heart of Syria by Samar Yazbek, translated by Nashwa Gowanlock and Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp

I didn’t really know what to expect with this book. I knew that there was conflict in Syria, that much is hard to miss, but I had no idea how the revolution that had been happening turned into ISIS. I also had no idea that it was exactly that story that would develop while Yazbek was making her crossings.

The subject matter seemed interesting, which it was, and the book was perfect for both WIT Month and Read Harder 2019 task 5 to read a book by a journalist. Throughout the book, Yazbek learns about and reports the way the revolution is basically hijacked by ISIS. The Syrian people wanted freedom, democracy, a government that isn’t based on one set up beliefs and they were fighting their dictator for it. But then it slowly changed and this is the story of how that change happened and some of the people who were on both sides of it. Ultimately, it’s a study of how ISIS came in like a virus and infected Syria and what the Syrian people had hoped for. Unfortunately, this conflict continues to be unsettled and the people of Syria continue to suffer on account of it.

The Crossing covers three crossings into Syria by Yazbek, the people she encountered, and the stories they told of their experience within the conflict. Though Yazbek reports on the conflict within the country and revolution, it remains a memoir of her crossings. It’s a personal story of her crossing into this war zone and meeting people and missing people and missing home and wanting people outside of her country to see how desperately her countrymen want freedom. She not only reports that there are bombings, but relates her story of experiencing those bombings and the effects they have on the people around her.

There are stories of coming into and crossing out of the country, attempting to help the local population, meeting the war fights, and experiencing some of the hostility for “the opposition” as an Alawite herself. This is her account of obtaining the story and Yazbek is acutely aware of this, even mentioning that she is both Scheherazade and Shahryar.

Given that the conflict is ongoing, this is a book for anyone interested in the story and/or history of Syria as well as those interested in journalism, women’s memoir, women’s stories, or women in translation. Reading more memoir throughout the year and targeting that of women in translation every August has been eye-opening to all the things that women do and see in the world. Add The Crossing to your Goodreads or Litsy TBR.

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