The Impossible Revolution: Making Sense of the Syrian Tragedy (2017)

£10

By Yassin Haj Saleh

One of the most prominent intellectual voices of the Syrian revolution, who spent 16 years in the Syrian regime’s prisons, describes with precision and fervour the events that led to Syria’s 2011 uprising and the metamorphosis of the popular revolution into a regional war. Where conventional wisdom has it that Assad’s army is now battling religious fanatics for control of the country, Saleh argues that the emancipatory, democratic mass movement that ignited the revolution still exists, though it is beset on all sides.

 

Dancing in Damascus: Creativity, Resilience, and the Syrian Revolution (2016)

£15

By Professor Miriam Cooke

The book traces the first four years of the Syrian Revolution and the activists’ creative responses to physical and emotional violence.

“It shows how, despite everything thrown at it, the revolution has democratised moral authority, turning artist-activists into the Arab world’s new “organic intellectuals”. As such it is an indispensable corrective to accounts that erase the Syrian people’s agency in favour of grand and often inaccurate geopolitical representations. It is a testament to the essential role of culture anywhere in times of crisis.” (The Guardian)

 

Burning Country: Syrians in Revolution and War (2016)

£10

By Robin Yassin-Kassab and Leila Al-Shami

Burning Country explores the horrific and complicated reality of life in present-day Syria with unprecedented detail and sophistication, drawing on new first-hand testimonies from opposition fighters, exiles lost in an archipelago of refugee camps, and courageous human rights activists among many others.

“For Yassin-Kassab and al-Shami, the Syrian civil revolt was and is built around democratically-minded heroes. It failed, they argue, because of Assad’s ruthless military response and ability to “sectarianize” the conflict, thereby, manipulating the international community’s response” (Kaspar van Laarhoven, Muftah.org)

 

Syria Speaks: Art and Culture from the Frontline (2014)

£10

By Malu Halasa, Zaher Omareen, Nawara Mahfoud (eds)

In Syria, culture has become a critical line of defence against tyranny.

Syria Speaks is a celebration of a people determined to reclaim their dignity, freedom and self-expression. It showcases the work of over fifty artists and writers who are challenging the culture of violence in Syria. Their literature, poems and songs, cartoons, political posters and photographs document and interpret the momentous changes that have shifted the frame of reality so drastically in Syria.

“An invaluable and deeply moving testimony to resistance in word and image” (The Independent)

 

The Crossing: My Journey to the Shattered Heart of Syria (2016)

£6

By Samar Yazbek

Since fleeing Syria in 2011 Samar Yazbek, a well-known Syrian writer and journalist, has been determined to bear witness to the suffering of her people, she revisited her homeland by squeezing through a hole in the fence on the Turkish border. Here she testifies to the appalling reality that is Syria today. From the first innocent demonstrations for democracy, through the beginnings of the Free Syrian Army, to the arrival of ISIS, she offers remarkable snapshots of soldiers, children, ordinary men and women simply trying to stay alive.

“The Crossing is not simply reportage or political analysis. It bears comparison with George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia as a work of literature. Yazbek is a superb narrator who knows how to pace her text, craft dialogue and convey a universal sense of grief; this is how she crosses the line from journalism to high literary art.” (The Guardian)

 

Syria: Recipes from Home (2017)

£10

By Dina Mousawi and Itab Azzam

Not only is the book a celebration of the taste, culinary culture and raw materials of Syria, it is also a celebration of what food and memory represent and mean for people and their identity. The authors met Syrian women in the Middle East and in Europe, spending months cooking with them, learning their recipes, and listening to their stories.

We were given this recipe by Majdoleen from Dara’a; she was very shy and quiet when we worked with her in a theatre workshop but a confident, natural leader in the kitchen. We first realised this when she invited us into her home in the Shatila camp in Beirut, to teach us some of her specialities, and to our surprise, she turned out to be both a fantastic cook and a forceful character. We spent a couple of days cooking with her, her three friends and her fourteen-year-old daughter, who was eagerly watching everything to pick up her mum’s skills’ (from Radio 4’s ‘Woman’s Hour’ – for the full recipe buy the book, or follow the link.

 

The Story of a Place, the Story of a People (2018)

£10

Creative Memory

This book contains fifty informative and documentary texts about fifty locations in Syria; cities, villages, towns, suburbs and neighbourhoods that revolted in the year 2011. These texts talk about the beginning of the revolutionary movement, its expansions and repercussions on each region, through initiatives that reflect the engagement, widespread and type of revolutionary movement, as well as the developments it went through.

Each text has its image, whether it is an artwork by artists or by activists and residents of these places… or even by anonymous.

 

The Battle for Home: The Vision of a Young Architect in Syria (2016)

£7

By Marwa Al-Sabouni

Drawing on the author’s personal experience of living and working as an architect in Syria, this timely and fascinating account offers an eyewitness perspective on the country’s bitter conflict through the lens of architecture, showing how the built environment and its destruction hold up a mirror to the communities that inhabit it.

 

We Crossed a Bridge and It Trembled: Voices from Syria (2017)

£10

By Wendy Pearlam

Against the backdrop of the wave of demonstrations known as the Arab Spring, in 2011 hundreds of thousands of Syrians took to the streets demanding freedom, democracy and human rights. The government’s ferocious response, and the refusal of the demonstrators to back down, sparked a brutal civil war that over the past five years has escalated into the worst humanitarian catastrophe of our times.

“Reminiscent of the work of Nobel Prize winner Svetlana Alexievich, an astonishing collection of intimate wartime testimonies and poetic fragments from a cross-section of Syrians whose lives have been transformed by revolution, war, and flight.” (Google Books)

 

The Merchant of Syria: A History of Survival (2018)

£10

By Diana Darke

Barely literate, and supporting his mother and sisters from the age of ten, Abu Chaker built up a business empire, despite twice losing everything he had. Diana Darke follows his tumultuous journey, from instability in Syria and civil war in Lebanon, to his arrival in England in the 1970s, where he rescued a failing Yorkshire textile mill, Hield Bros, and transformed it into a global brand. The Merchant of Syria tells two parallel stories: the life of a cloth merchant and his resilience, and the rich history of a nation built on trade. Over millennia Syria has seen great conflict and turmoil, but like the remarkable story of Abu Chaker, it continues to survive.

 

In Praise of Hatred (2006)

£5

By Khaled Khalifa

With this layered novel, Khaled Khalifa has crafted a thrilling yet heartful coming-of-age tale of a girl who must examine her loyalties and fight to prove them both to others and to herself. In Praise of Hatred is a stirring story narrated against the backdrop of real-life events that feel less like history and more like the present, echoing the violence plaguing the Middle East today.

“Add this one to the growing list of thought-provoking novels about Muslim women caught in the crossfire of politics and personal life.” (Booklist)

 

Breaking Knees: Breaking Knees: Modern Arabic Short Stories from Syria

£10

By Zakaria Tamer

The first of Zakaria Tamer’s collections of stories to be published in English as a complete unit, “Breaking Knees” is a daring work of art that deals with taboo subjects like religion and sexuality in a frank manner and expresses an urgently felt need for change. The general theme of “Breaking Knees”, as of much of Tamer’s work, is repression: of the individual by the institutions of state and religion and of individuals by each other, particularly women by men. Thus the question of authority – political, social, sexual and religious – forms the thematic core of the book, with (female) sexuality receiving the lion’s share of concern.