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A Woman in the Crossfire

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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About the Author

Samar Yazbek is a Syrian writer and journalist, born in Jableh in 1970. She is the author of several works of fiction. An outspoken critic of the Assad regime, but also of what she identifies as erroneous perceptions of ideological conformity within the Syrian Alawite community, Yazbek has been deeply involved in the Syrian uprising since it broke out in March, 2011. Fearing for the life of her daughter she was forced to flee her country and now lives in hiding. Yazbek was awarded the PEN/Pinter International Writer of Courage Award in 2012, awarded to an author of outstanding literary merit who casts an 'unflinching' eye on the world. She is also the author of the novel Cinnamon (2012).


'An essential eyewitness account, and with luck an inaugural document in a Syrian literature that is uncensored and unchained.' 20120415 '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 20120622 '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 20120702 "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 20120709 '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 20120718 'This is a handbook for nonviolent activists.' -- Mary Russell 20120728 '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 20120804 '[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 20120809 'Impassioned and harrowing memoir of the early revolt...' 20120829 'The heartbreaking diary of... a Syrian who risked her life to document the regime's brutal attacks on peaceful demonstrators.' 20120907 '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.' 20120915 '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.' 20120916 '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.' 20121029 '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.'

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