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A Woman in the Crossfire: Diaries of the Syrian Revolution [Paperback]

Samar Yazbek , Max Weiss
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
RRP: 12.99
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Book Description

2 July 2012
A well-known novelist and journalist from the coastal city of Jableh, Samar Yazbek witnessed the beginning four months of the uprising first-hand and actively participated in a variety of public actions and budding social movements. Throughout this period she kept a diary of personal reflections on, and observations of, this historic time. Because of the outspoken views she published in print and online, Yazbek quickly attracted the attention and fury of the regime, vicious rumours started to spread about her disloyalty to the homeland and the Alawite community to which she belongs. The lyrical narrative describes her struggle to protect herself and her young daughter, even as her activism propels her into a horrifying labyrinth of insecurity after she is forced into living on the run and detained multiple times, excluded from the Alawite community and renounced by her family, her hometown and even her childhood friends. With rare empathy and journalistic prowess Samar Yazbek compiled oral testimonies from ordinary Syrians all over the country. Filled with snapshots of exhilarating hope and horrifying atrocities, she offers us a wholly unique perspective on the Syrian uprising. Hers is a modest yet powerful testament to the strength and commitment of countless unnamed Syrians who have united to fight for their freedom. These diaries will inspire all those who read them, and challenge the world to look anew at the trials and tribulations of the Syrian uprising.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 270 pages
  • Publisher: Haus Publishing (2 July 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1908323124
  • ISBN-13: 978-1908323125
  • Product Dimensions: 21.5 x 13.9 x 2.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 320,105 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

'An essential eyewitness account, and with luck an inaugural document in a Syrian literature that is uncensored and unchained.' (2012-04-15)

'She has the novelist's eye for telling detail... Hers is the urgent task of showing the world what is happening. Thanks to her, we can read about the appalling things that go on in secret, underground places.' (Francis Beckett 2012-06-22)

'Well before the Syrian uprising, Samar Yazbek was challenging the existing taboos of Syrian society in her novels. Since the early days of the revolution, she was involved in the pro-revolutionary movements on the ground, despite the daily threats she was submitted to. On four occasions, Yazbek was taken to detention centres in order to “improve her writing” as one regime officer once put it. A Woman in the Crossfire is her diary of the first four months of the revolution, in which she mixes first-person chronicles of her everyday life and exclusive testimonies of various eye-witnesses (doctors, officers, activists). Some of her chronicles were initially published in the Arab press as early as during spring 2011; hence Yazbek was one of the first voices to describe the reality of the Syrian uprising from the inside.' (Isabelle Mayault 2012-07-02)

“A Woman in the Crossfire” is elevated beyond politics or reportage by Yazbek’s intimate style and her willingness to reveal and involve herself in the book... The book is not about any particular party or movement, but about freely telling Syria’s stories. It is a stand against all the forces silencing and misrepresenting Syrians... Many people, including Yazbek, risked their lives to bring us this book. “A Woman in the Crossfire” is thus an act of fierce resistance against the forces of silencing and simplification. It is anything but an effortless read, but it does wedge open a space wherein, for a moment, it feels possible to genuinely listen. (Marcia Lynx Qualey 2012-07-09)

'Yazbek writes that "intellectuals live in a frozen environment, the world has passed them by. And the mobilisation that has taken place in Syria, what spurred people into the street, was not the writers or the poets or the intellectuals." But they can still bear witness, and Samar Yazbek’s document does that with courage, lyricism and mordant wit.' (Max Dunbar The Siege Diaries: Samar Yazbek’s Syria 2012-07-18)

'This is a handbook for nonviolent activists.' (Mary Russell 2012-07-28)

'Thanks to her [Yazbek] skills as a fiction writer, her book is infused with a hauntingly poetic narrative style. Chilling, disturbing, but irresistibly compelling, “A Woman in the Crossfire” paints a picture of how, in four months, a peaceful uprising turned into a bloodbath.' (India Stoughton 2012-08-04)

'[F]our new books confront the [Syrian] revolution head-on... Of the four writers, Samar Yazbek provides the most arresting, novelistic prose... In its uncompromising reportage from a doomed capital, Yazbek’s book recalls the late Iraqi artist Nuha al Radi’s Baghdad Diaries, a searing chronicle of the disintegration of Saddam’s Iraq during the embargo of the Nineties.' (Justin Marozzi 2012-08-09)

'Impassioned and harrowing memoir of the early revolt...' (2012-08-29)

'The heartbreaking diary of... a Syrian who risked her life to document the regime's brutal attacks on peaceful demonstrators.' (2012-09-07)

'Yazbek's is not a crafted memoir but an immediate record of three months of fear, torture, intimidation and, eventually, flight from her home told through diaries that stop and start, sometimes repeat, and always offer another detail of popular will and regime cruelty. Its importance is in its existence, the effort of so many Syrians to share their stories and Yazbek's own courage and ability to record them. It is a hard, painful read, not only for what Yazbek witnesses and suffers but also for that of the other Syrians that she interviews. Their testimonies come through on the page as atrocities happen all around her.' (2012-09-15)

'It's heavy and horrible, like so much related to the war. But the book also reminds that Syria is -- was -- utterly beautiful. Yazbek takes us to its mountains. We can smell its lemon trees and ride along its country roads.' (2012-09-16)

'Samar Yazbek is excellent on the dress and behaviour of the demonstrations. Pro-Bashar demonstrations were supported by well-dressed young people who looked as if they were off to a party... [she] is eloquent on the dehumanising brutality of the security forces.' (2012-10-29)

'A powerful account conveying the idealism and fear that united diverse religious and ethnic groups in Syria to rise against their autocratic government, with the outcome still uncertain.'

'A unique window into the anguish of Syria: an intimate journey into the head and heart of a woman trying to maintain her sanity, humanity and, above all, love for her deeply wounded nation...'

'[A]n unvarnished and sobering account of what she describes as the abuse and violence against the Syrian people.'

'[A] powerful narrative which contains many insights drawn from her closeness to what was happening, and knowledge of Syrian society.'

About the Author

Born in 1970 in Kable, in the Alaouite region of Syria, Samar Yazbek studied literature before becoming a journalist and a script writer for Syrian and cinema. Her novels include " Child of Heaven," "Clay," "Cinnamon" (forthcoming from Haus, 2013), and "In Her Mirrors."

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
Samar Yazbek's A Woman in the Crossfire: Diaries of the Syrian Revolution is the book that elicits strong feelings. For me, those were the feelings of disbelief that fellow human beings can inflict such pain upon each other but also the feelings of hope in the human spirit and its resilience.

Yazbek's book documents the first 100 days of the Syrian Revolution, which began with demonstrations in March 2011. As the conflict, which initially followed a `traditional Arab Spring scenario' with demands for freedoms and cessation of corruption, escalated into a civil war along sectarian lines, Yazbek analyses how that sectarianism was fostered. She also explores the beginnings of the Syrian refugee problem. A relatively small number of refugees in the period, documented by Yazbek, turned into hundreds of thousands of refugees and a few millions of internally displaced persons. The book captures the period when the exodus began.

Yazbek, through hundreds of interviews conducted with opposition leaders, reconstructs the events in Dar'a (in the southwest, on the border with Jordan) and Baniyas (in the northwest, on the Mediterranean coast), the two towns where some of the worst atrocities by the Syrian regime were committed. Yazbek also explores the roles of the Syrian army, the security services, and the shabiha (civilian sectarian militia) in the revolution.

Yazbek provides a perspective on the conflict that should not be taken for granted. She is an Alawi, of the same ethnic group as the president, but was shunned by her community for her oppositional beliefs. She is a woman and a mother in the revolution that we associate with pictures of young men in their 20s.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Bearing witness to the civil war in Syria 21 Jan 2014
By Sally G
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A difficult book in some ways but this is a first hand account of being caught in the civil war in Syria in 2011. The inhumanity of the regime torturing and killing its own young people without remorse is relentlessly portrayed and the evil of the government which tries to make this a sectarian war against radical Islam. It wasn't for most at the beginning but you can see it, in this account becoming so, because of the continuous killing and propaganda and the fact the moderates get murdered first. Samar Yazbek is partly protected because she is from a powerful Alawite family, but her determination to bear witness to what is happening means that she is forced after a few months to flee with her daughter.
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Format:Paperback
Here is evidence of the human capacity to work from the heart, with integrity in the most brutal and repressive of circumstances. Whatever the number of stars available to rate this book, I would give them all; reason being that the text goes beyond a literary endeavor. Samar Yazbek has managed to gather and disseminate on a global scale, personal accounts of the first 100 days of the Syrian Revolution, during a media blackout. This includes her own diaries as well as those of many other people whose experiences would otherwise be unknown, and are likely beyond comprehension of most readers of this work.
It was with sadness, and gratitude to the author that I read her accounts of Syria at this time, for she provided an insight to the struggle of many people whom will now have been killed, often without acknowledgement of their lives and deaths. They should not have been silenced and they should not be forgotten.
This book has been written and published with an urgency that anyone who worries about the few typos is probably very distanced from. The direct and selfless document about a current struggle for freedom, and the pitting of communities against each other is humbling. I do not see it as something to be entertained by. This is real, it is still happening. People are still being tortured, killed, manipulated, and displaced in their thousands.
The writer has done and is doing what she can, which is not enough. Who can do enough in such circumstances? Many of the people whom she references have given everything, it was not enough.
The least we can do is try to understand, and take influence from those who seek and speak the truth, despite terrifying pressures to do the opposite.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Great subject but a bit lost in translation. 28 Jan 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The book is written about a really interesting topic, and Yazbek is able to provide a realistic insight into what life is like in the middle of the Syrian revolution, which offers a completely different perspective from what we are presented with on the news. However, the phrasing is often really odd and often it doesn't make complete sense which spoilt it somewhat. I'm sure this is not the fault of Yazbek but comes down to the translation into English.
Overall, the content I read was definitely interesting but the awkward phrasings made it quite difficult to get caught up in.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful Account of the First 100 Days of the Revolution 15 Dec 2012
By Pskovian - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Samar Yazbek's A Woman in the Crossfire: Diaries of the Syrian Revolution is the book that elicits strong feelings. For me, those were the feelings of disbelief that fellow human beings can inflict such pain upon each other but also the feelings of hope in the human spirit and its resilience.

Yazbek's book documents the first 100 days of the Syrian Revolution, which began with demonstrations in March 2011. As the conflict, which initially followed a `traditional Arab Spring scenario' with demands for freedoms and cessation of corruption, escalated into a civil war along sectarian lines, Yazbek analyses how that sectarianism was fostered. She also explores the beginnings of the Syrian refugee problem. A relatively small number of refugees in the period, documented by Yazbek, turned into hundreds of thousands of refugees and a few millions of internally displaced persons. The book captures the period when the exodus began.

Yazbek, through hundreds of interviews conducted with opposition leaders, reconstructs the events in Dar'a (in the southwest, on the border with Jordan) and Baniyas (in the northwest, on the Mediterranean coast), the two towns where some of the worst atrocities by the Syrian regime were committed. Yazbek also explores the roles of the Syrian army, the security services, and the shabiha (civilian sectarian militia) in the revolution.

Yazbek provides a perspective on the conflict that should not be taken for granted. She is an Alawi, of the same ethnic group as the president, but was shunned by her community for her oppositional beliefs. She is a woman and a mother in the revolution that we associate with pictures of young men in their 20s. She is also an intellectual, a prominent public figure in Syria before the revolution, who was personally targeted and vilified by the regime through the state-controlled media.

Finally, apart from its powerful content, it is a beautifully written book. Yazbek's diary-style narration, occasionally slipping into an artistic stream of consciousness, conveys exactly what a good memoir should: how she felt at a specific moment in history. This makes her story more personal and relatable, as we follow the evolution not only of the tragic events in Syria but also of the protagonist's feelings about the conflict, her identity, and her country. Max Weiss should be thanked for a remarkable English translation.

The book will be invaluable to those studying Middle Eastern history and politics, concerned about human rights and humanitarian conflicts, or interested in learning more about the Syrian Revolution in the broader context of the Arab Spring.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Riveting account of atrocities committed in Syria. 8 Jan 2013
By Charles F. Robinson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This author has done her country a great service by risking her life and her homeland to report through the medium of a diary the atrocities of the Assad regime. I will long remember and mourn for those Syrians demonstrating for some form of democracy. The cruelty will surely be recorded in modern history as the worst of any Arab country.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars beware of poor editing or printing... 12 Mar 2013
By jeff wade - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
My copy had a dogleg about 150 pages in where it went back to page 88 for about 20 pages & I never got back the missing pages. Unfortunately, not a big loss. As others said, it gets pretty repetitive and bleak.

Nonetheless, she is a great writer and the repetition and bleakness was Assad's fault, as he truly did and still does horrible things to his people. Hopefully his end is soon and my copy was a fluke.

Regardless, more people should read this to know what really is happening there.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but redundant 10 Dec 2012
By DrDan - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
If one were to judge the book just on the courage of the writer, then it would rate five stars. However, despite some interesting details and some literary flourish, the book drags on after the first 80 pages or so. The stories become rather predictable, the actors identical, the circumstances consistent. It brings home the brutality of the Assad regime as it hangs onto power, but it isn't something that continues to hold interest over time...
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