The Center for Arab and Middle Eastern Studies (CAMES)
The Department of English
Cordially invite you to a book reading and discussion
The Home That Was Our Country: A Memoir of Syria
Monday Oct 16, 2017
5:30-7:30, College Hall B1
At the Arab Spring's hopeful start, Alia Malek returned to Damascus to reclaim her grandmother’s apartment, which had been lost to her family since Hafez al-Assad came to power in 1970. Its loss was central to her parents’ decision to make their lives in America. In chronicling the people who lived in the Tahaan building, past and present, Alia portrays the Syrians—the Muslims, Christians, Jews, Armenians, and Kurds—who worked, loved, and suffered in close quarters, mirroring the political shifts in their country. Restoring her family’s home as the country comes apart, she learns how to speak the coded language of oppression that exists in a dictatorship, while privately confronting her own fears about Syria’s future. The Home That Was Our Country is a deeply researched, personal journey that shines a delicate but piercing light on Syrian history, society, and politics. Teeming with insights, the narrative weaves acute political analysis with a century of intimate family history, ultimately delivering an unforgettable portrait of the Syria that is being erased.
Alia Malek is a journalist and civil rights lawyer. She is the author of A Country Called Amreeka: US History Re-Told Through Arab American Lives(Simon & Schuster 2009) and editor of Patriot Acts: Narratives of Post 9/11 Injustices (McSweeney's 2011). With collaborators the Magnum Foundation and Al Liquidoi, Alia edited and co-conceived EUROPA أوروپا : An Illustrated Introduction to Europe for Migrants and Refugees, released in Europe in 2016. Her narrative nonfiction book, The Home That Was Our Country: A Memoir of Syria, was released on February 28, 2017. Her reportage has appeared in the New York Times, Foreign Policy, the New Yorker, the Nation, the Christian Science Monitor, Jadaliyya, McSweeney’s, Guernica and other publications. Born in Baltimore to Syrian immigrant parents, she began her legal career as a trial attorney at the U.S. Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division. After working in the legal field in the U.S., Lebanon, and the West Bank, Malek, who has degrees from Johns Hopkins and Georgetown universities, earned her master's degree in journalism from Columbia University. In April 2011, she moved to Damascus, Syria and wrote anonymously for several outlets from inside the country as it began to disintegrate. Her reporting from Syria earned her the Marie Colvin Award in November 2013. She returned to the U.S. in May 2013 for the launch of Al Jazeera America, where she was Senior Writer until October 2015. After her departure, she was a Puffin Foundation Writing Fellow at the Nation Institute and in residence at the MacDowell Colony. In November 2016, she was honored with the 12th annual Hiett Prize in the Humanities. The New York Foundation for the Arts named her a fellow in Nonfiction Literature in the summer of 2017.