LONG-LISTED FOR THE CARNEGIE MEDAL
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.
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.
Yet despite all the reporting, the video, and the wrenching photography, the stories of ordinary Syrians remain unheard, while the stories told about them have been distorted by broad brush dread and political expediency. This fierce and poignant collection changes that. Based on interviews with hundreds of displaced Syrians conducted over four years across the Middle East and Europe, We Crossed a Bridge and It Trembled is a breathtaking mosaic of first-hand testimonials from the frontlines. Some of the testimonies are several pages long, eloquent narratives that could stand alone as short stories; others are only a few sentences, poetic and aphoristic. Together, they cohere into an unforgettable chronicle that is not only a testament to the power of storytelling but to the strength of those who face darkness with hope, courage, and moral conviction.
We Crossed a Bridge and It Trembled: Voices from Syria by Wendy Pearlman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This books shares powerful testimonials of Syrian refugees and the tragedies they have faced. I think everyone should read it. I read this one for Life’s Library Book Club.
The book largely presents a compilation of narratives about life in Syria as a refugee. I think the author did a fantastic job organizing and curating each story to give an overall picture of the horrific tragedies and conflicting circumstances that people have faced in Syria. It was incredibly heartbreaking to read about and each person so brave and strong for sharing.
The beginning paragraphs of the book took an informative, somewhat introspective approach to the conflict faced in Syria. Within the introduction, I did find some of the seemingly avoidant inclusion of religious and social ideology as part of a driving forces of oppositional groups interesting choices to note. It touched a bit on the topics later on in the book, but didn’t go into expanded detail. I found some of the translations of terms and phrases, such as “Allah akbar” or the use of ISIS as an organization instead of ISIS militants, ISIS fighters, or other variants to be an interesting approach by the author as well. I would have been interested in these additional details as I think it would have helped to convey the internal conflict that some of the people experienced.
The writing built upon a thought-provoking focus on the political motivation of forces and the emotional responses of the Syrian people which ended up being the overall theme in the rest of the writing. I really appreciated the extensive time and effort the author put into this book as well as the courage of the people who were willing to talk about their experiences and the compassion they had for others who would be willing to hear them.
I imagine trying to convey a complete picture of the historical context and meaning was probably difficult for the author to hone down in the beginning paragraphs, especially when it came to the overarching theme in supporting personal testimonials rather than depicting a complete account of the opposition’s biogeographical movement and underlying motivation.
This book will really bring perspective into your life and help you understand the oppression, hope, and endurance experienced by the Syrian refugees.