A Woman in the Crossfire

by Samar Yazbek / translated by Max Weiss

‘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.’
The Guardian

‘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.’
Egypt Independent

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.’
The National

It’s heavy and horrible, like sp much related to the war. But the book also reminds us that Syria is – was – utterly beautiful. Yazbek takes us to its mountains. We can smell its lemon tress and ride along its country roads.’

it offers 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...’
The Globe and Mail

‘A Woman in the Crossfire is [Yazbek’s] 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 that reality of the Syrian uprising from the inside.’
Mashallah News


‘An essential eyewitness account, and with luck an inaugural document in a Syrian literature that is uncensored and unchained.’
Kirkus Reviews

‘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.’
Library Journal

the heartbreaking diary of Samar Yazbek, a Syrian who risked her life to document the regime’s brutal attacks on peaceful demonstrators.’
Trudy Rubin, The Mercury News

‘This is a handbook for nonviolent activists.’
Mary Russell, author of The Blessings of a Good Thick Skirt

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.

SAMAR YAZBEK is a Syrian writer and journalist, born in Jableh in 1970. She is the author of several works of fiction, including Cinnamon. 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 on 15 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 2012, awarded to an author of outstanding literary merit who casts an ‘unflinching’ eye on the world.

Find Samar on Twitter @SamarYazbek

MAX WEISS is an American scholar and translator, specialising in the culture and history of the Middle East.

Interview with Samar

Read the New York Times profile on Samar, here.

The Political and the Cultural: A Conversation with Samar Yazbek’. Nayla Mansour interviews Syrian novelist and human rights acvocate Samar Yazbek on Syrian, politics, Assad triumph and Islamist counter-revolutionaries, and the role of intellectuals and politicians amidst all of the mess. Read full interview here.

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