Library Journal Review
As she did for Palestinians in Occupied Voices, Pearlman (political science, Northwestern Univ.) again gives agency to a population under siege, this time to Syrians. Fluency in Arabic provides Pearlman direct access to hundreds of Syrian men, women, and children of varied social, political, and spiritual backgrounds, those who stayed, and those who fled. Following Pearlman's meticulous introduction rich in contextual history are eight sections tracing the unfolding of the Syrian Revolution through those who witnessed and survived. Erin Bennett, Assaf Cohen, and Susan Nezami take turns voicing Pearlman's subjects; while a multiperson cast should be enhancing, narrators occasionally falter when mismatched to the diversity of the 87 speakers. Cohen, for example, sounds too youthful to articulate older men's experiences convincingly. VERDICT Delivery seems insignificant to the gravity of understanding and acknowledging these searing, remarkable, adamant voices; libraries should consider offering this work in multiple formats to encourage accessibility to all audiences. ["A heartbreaking, human, and necessary book. Recommended for anyone who wishes to better understand the Syrian conflict": LJ 5/1/17 review of the Custom House hc.]-Terry Hong, -Smithsonian BookDragon, Washington, DC © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Booklist Review
*Starred Review* Between 2012 and 2016, Northwestern University professor Pearlman (Occupied Voices: Stories of Loss and Longing from the Second Intifada, 2003) spoke with hundreds of displaced Syrians. In her introduction to this collection of her interviewees' personal stories, told in their own words, Pearlman gives a valuable overview of recent Syrian history and explains the book's organization. She writes that Syrians are commonly viewed as victims of a catastrophic civil war, refugees to harbor, or radicals to fear, while they are for certain a population that meets with too few opportunities to represent itself. This book is just such an opportunity, and its gathered testimonies, most concise, are immediately gripping, varied, and echoing. We read of a man imprisoned for fleeing his job as a municipal driver after he was forced to bury a young, still-living girl; a revolutionary whose contact list, now that he's changed the names of friends who've been killed, reads Martyr, Martyr, Martyr; and strangers sharing both harrowing journeys and moments of peace. Common among the spare and haunting testimonies of these mothers, fathers, brothers, and sisters are the loss and reappearance of hope, humanity, and dreams of new freedom. This powerfully edifying work of witness is essential reading.--Bostrom, Annie Copyright 2010 Booklist
Kirkus Review
Testimonials from Syrians about life before, during, and after the 2011 rebellion.Between 2012 and 2016, Pearlman (Comparative Politics/Northwestern Univ.; Violence, Nonviolence, and the Palestinian National Movement, 2011, etc.) had the unique opportunity to interview hundreds of Syrian refugees. The men and women with whom she spoke included "housewives and rebel fighters, hair-gelled teenagers and businessmen in well-pressed shirts, die-hard activists and ordinary families caught in the crossfire." In this book, she gathers together the stories and organizes them into eight separate sections that reflect "the major phases of the Syrian revolutionary experience." "Authoritarianism" and "Hope Disappointed" highlight the experiences of her interviewees during the pre-rebellion regime. Many speak of the uneasiness they experienced speaking ill of the government, even outside of their country: "even outside Syria you feel that someone is listening, someone is recording." Others openly critique the regime, saying that at its best, Syria was "a country of closed communities held together by force" that only became more corrupt and internally divided over time. In "Revolution," interviewees express the "sadness and happiness and fear and courage" they saw around them as men and women from all the different Syrian communitiesChristian, Muslim, and othersprotested against tyranny. In "Crackdown," "Militarization," and "Living War," interviewees describe the regime's efforts at "put[ting] sects against each other and turn[ing] everything into a toxic environment," while one speaks frankly of how all the government-sanctioned killing transformed even the most peaceful Muslim citizens into "what we call jihadists and you [Americans] call terrorists." In "Flight," people talk about leaving loved ones behind in seeking asylum in the West. Some tell stories that end in success, others of lives lived "without dignity." Pearlman's book is not only important because it puts names to suffering, but also because it reminds readersespecially in the final segment, "Reflections"that in the Syrian conflict, "there is no right or wrong," only problematic "shades of gray." A poignant and humane collection. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.