Syria Speaks: Art and Culture from the Frontline (2014)
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).
Burning Country: Syrians in Revolution and War (2016)
By Leila Al-Shami and Robin Yassin-Kassab
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).
Dancing in Damascus: Creativity, Resilience, and the Syrian Revolution (2016)
By Professor miriam cooke
The story of the attempted crushing of the revolution is known. Less well covered has been the role of artists and intellectuals in representing to the world and to their people the resilience of revolutionary resistance and defiance. Dancing in Damascus 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 (Syrian) 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).
Dissident Syria: Making Oppositional Arts Official (2007)
By Professor miriam cooke
“Miriam Cooke describes meeting, and recounts conversations with, Syrian political artists and intellectuals during her residence in Damascus between autumn 1995 and spring 1996. These memories serve as the launching ground for analysis of oppositional films, plays, poetry, novels, and sculpture produced between 1989 and 1996—the first date marking the end of the Soviet system, and the second one marking the point of her direct contact with artists as well as the rise of communication technologies that would undermine Ba’ath control of cultural production.
“Cooke sets out to deliver Syrian writing to the West, in eight chapters that weave together close readings of short stories, novels, poetry, and films with biographical sketches and interviews with Syrian women writers, filmmakers, intellectuals, and political prisoners.” (Jill M Hoslin, Oxford Academic).
No Knives in the Kitchens of This City (2016)
By Khaled Khalifa
Set between the 1960s and 2000s, No Knives in the Kitchens of this City unravels the systems of fear and control under Assad. With eloquence and startling honesty, it speaks of the persecution of a whole society.
“The writing is superb – a dense, luxurious realism pricked with surprising metaphors. It is lyrical, sensuous and so semantically rich that at times it resembles a prose poem. A sad but beautiful book, providing important human context to the escalating Syrian tragedy.” (The Guardian).
In Praise of Hatred (2006)
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)
My House in Damascus: An Inside View of the Syrian Crisis (2016)
By Diana Darke
With the unique perspective of an Arabic-speaking British woman, Diana Darke became deeply embedded in all levels of Syrian society when she bought and restored a house in a mixed neighbourhood of the walled Old City of Damascus. By following her experiences and struggles with the realities of life on the ground inside Syria, the reader will arrive at a clearer understanding of why the country remains locked in conflict and why most ordinary Syrians are caught between a repressive government and a splintering opposition.
“A unique perspective on the ongoing Syrian crisis with a deep understanding of the complexities of Syria’s society” (Hurriyet Daily News). “Her sensitive, knowing story captures a rare view of Syria and the stakes of the conflict from an up-close observer deeply versed in its culture.” (New Republic).
The Crossing: My Journey to the Shattered Heart of Syria (2016)
By Samar Yazbek
Samar Yazbek was well-known in her native Syria as a writer and a journalist but, in 2011, she fell foul of the Assad regime and was forced to flee. Since then, 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).
We Crossed a Bridge and It Trembled: Voices from Syria (June, 2017)
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).
Tiger and Clay – Syria Fragments (2017)
By Rana Abdulfattah
Rana is a young Syrian woman writer exiled in Turkey. “Tiger and Clay – Syria Fragments”, her collection of poetry and memoir, charts the corrosive impact of being unable to return home. How can she move forward if putting down new roots in Turkey feels like denying her Syrian heritage? Her story takes the reader to the heart of what it means to lose one’s birthplace.
“The second half of the title—Syria Fragments—bears witness to the harsh realities of Abdulfattah’s exile in Turkey. Not only is she separated from the homeland in which she grew up, but she also experiences a fragmentation that seriously compromises any sense of identity and wholeness.”