Suzy Hansen at Bookforum:
Several books on Syria have emerged over the past few years, but those, too, often slip by without making the impact you might expect. There have been conventional nonfiction narratives like Burning Country: Syrians in Revolution and War by Robin Yassin Kassab and Leila Al-Shami, The Battle for Syria by Christopher Phillips, and Syria Burning by Charles Glass; journalistic dispatches like The Morning They Came for Us by Janine di Giovanni; memoirs like The Crossing by Samar Yazbek; Arab Spring compendiums like Robert Worth's A Rage for Order; and books that concentrate, like Patrick Cockburn's The Age of Jihad, on the rise of ISIS. But the Syrian tragedy seems not to have received the sort of intensely focused, character-driven-nonfiction treatment that has brought to life for readers other societies under siege, such as Anand Gopal's account of the war in Afghanistan, No Good Men Among the Living, or Anthony Shadid's Night Draws Near, about Iraq. Even after almost six years of war, I suspect most foreigners have little sense of either Syria's past or its daily life, which is why Alia Malek's new memoir, The Home That Was Our Country, feels like such a necessary, conscious corrective. Malek, an American-born Syrian journalist and lawyer, entwines the story of Syria with that of her family, from the birth of her great-grandfather to her own arrival as an adult during the Arab Spring. The power of her narrative suggests that the one thing that might counteract the numbing effect of incessant disconnected images is the rootedness of written history.