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'The Home That Was Our Country: A Memoir of Syria'47:16Download

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With guest host Jane Clayson.

A gripping memoir of home and history in a crumbling Damascus. A story of Syria, before and after civil war.

In this picture taken Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016, a general views shows buildings in Qasioun Mountain in Damascus, Syria. (Hassan Ammar/AP)
In this picture taken Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016, a general views shows buildings in Qasioun Mountain in Damascus, Syria. (Hassan Ammar/AP)

Every Syrian has a story to tell about living through hell. Civil war and a father-son dictatorship has decimated this beautiful, vibrant country. In 2011, Syrian-American journalist Alia Malek returned to her family’s home in Damascus and found the humanity amidst the chaos. People of all faiths living, loving, surviving together. She tells the story in a gripping new memoir. This hour On Point: "The Home That Was Our Country: A Memoir of Syria."

Guest

Alia Malek, journalist, author and civil rights lawyer. Her new book is "The Home That Was Our Country: A Memoir of Syria." (@AliaMalek)

Highlights From The Conversation

On Alia Malek's Grandmother, Salma: "She was in many ways just an ordinary woman, and an ordinary Syrian — she was extraordinary also in other ways. One of two sisters in a family of many brothers, she bristled at the kinds of eliminations placed on a woman of her generation . She had this deep, husky voice, because she was an incessant smoker. She was somebody who was very moved by the plight of other people who also felt locked out, or limited by their place in Syria...sadly, there wasn't a market for this kind of a book until the country starting falling apart."

On Life In An Authoritarian Regime: "I began to constantly have this sort of decoder filter in my head at the sort of ridiculous propaganda that had this hidden message behind it — life is still very much normal on the coastal areas, it depends on where you are in the country. It's very difficult. For my family, these were supposed to be the years of, where, okay, you've forgone civil rights and civil liberties, but these were the years where you were supposed to be able to enjoy retirement."

On The Future Of Syria And Syrians: "Europe will in many ways be enriched by the Syrians who come to live and work there, at the same time, it's such a drain for Syria — this is Syria's working middle class who have now left. The regime actually prefers this."

From The Reading List

The New Yorker: For Syrian-Americans, The Travel Ban Feels Alarmingly Familiar — "It is not uncommon for Syrians to find out that, because of their speech, beliefs, or dissent, they are on government blacklists that might prevent them from entering—and leaving—Syria safely. Until now, hearing the same about the U.S. was a rare experience."

The New York Times: The Syria The World Forgot — "Sectarian strife is not where the Syrian uprising started, but it is where many players — President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, Arab Persian Gulf states, Iran and some in the West — want it to go."

NPR: New Book Focuses On The 'Humanity Of Syria' Lost In The War — "You know, Syrians themselves are entertaining, are intelligent. They're the best people to tell their own story. And that's why, you know, I kind of invited the reader to come experience this as if they were a member of the building or a member of the household or a member of the neighborhood. That's the only way that I was going to be able to break through the sort of, like, stone-facedness with which I think a lot of us are looking at Syria these days."

Read An Excerpt Of "The Home That Was Our Country" by Alia Malek

This program aired on March 7, 2017.

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