Recent Books of Interest
Burning Country: Syrians in Revolution and War
By Robin Yassin-Kassab and Lelia Al-Shami; published January, 2016; available in hardcover, paperback and Kindle editions
Burning Country explores the horrific and complicated reality of life in present-day Syria with unprecedented detail and sophistication, drawing on new first-hand testimonies from opposition fighters, exiles lost in an archipelago of refugee camps, and courageous human rights activists among many others. These stories are expertly interwoven with a trenchant analysis of the brutalization of the conflict and the militarization of the uprising, of the rise of the Islamists and sectarian warfare, and the role of governments in Syria and elsewhere in exacerbating those violent processes.” The Nation says,” Burning Country avoids the easy indulgence of indignation; instead, it elicits the voices of many different Syrians involved in the uprising, acknowledging their suffering as well as their courage, intelligence, and humanity, while explaining the terrible choices that have been forced on them.
A Deadly Misunderstanding: Quest to Bridge the Muslim/Christian Divide
By Ambassador Mark Siljander; in paperback; published June, 2016; available from Amazon in paperback
The author shares “a spiritual and political journey that started with an in-depth linguistic study of the Bible and led to the discovery that Christianity and Islam share many base words and concepts. In his role as ambassador to the United Nations Siljander began sharing his insights on the connections between Islam and Christianity, with surprising results.”
The Dirty War on Syria: Washington, Regime Change and Resistance
By Dr. Tim Anderson; published June, 2016; Available through Global Research: store.globalresearch.ca or Amazon in paperback
“This book is a careful academic work, but also a strong defense of the right of the Syrian people to determine their own society and political system. That position is consistent with international law and human rights principles, but may irritate western sensibilities, accustomed as we are to an assumed prerogative to intervene. At times I have to be blunt, to cut through the double-speak. In Syria the big powers have sought to hide their hand, using proxy armies while demonizing the Syrian Government and Army, accusing them of constant atrocities; then pretending to rescue the Syrian people from their own government.”
Frustrated with God: A Syrian Theologian’s Reflections on Habakkuk
By Riad A. Kassis; published May, 2016; available through Amazon in paperback and Kindle editions
“The dilemma of pain and suffering has always been a subject of discussion for theologians, philosophers and ordinary people. This dilemma becomes more complicated when it is related to God’s holiness, love and mercy. Many questions come to mind when we face pain and suffering. We even become frustrated with God himself as we ask him “Why?” and “How long?” This book, that was born out of the so-called “Arab spring” particularly the Syrian crisis addresses these and other questions from the perspective of an ancient prophet called Habakkuk. Will we be able to find the right answers? Will God respond? This is what you will discover as you read this book. But I must caution you that it is not an easy one.”
The Home That Was Our Country: A Memoir of Syria
By Alia Malek; published February, 2017; available through Amazon in hardcover, paperback and Kindle editions
“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 parent's 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.”
Not in God’s Name: Confronting Religious Violence
By Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks; published October, 2015; available from Amazon in hardcover, paperback and Kindle editions
“But through an exploration of the roots of violence and its relationship to religion, and employing groundbreaking biblical analysis and interpretation, Rabbi Sacks shows that religiously inspired violence has as its source misreadings of biblical texts at the heart of all three Abrahamic faiths. By looking anew at the book of Genesis, with its foundational stories of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, Rabbi Sacks offers a radical rereading of many of the Bible’s seminal stories of sibling rivalry: Cain and Abel, Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau, Joseph and his brothers, Rachel and Leah.”
Additional Books and Articles
Fisk, Robert, Pity the Nation: The Abduction of Lebanon. NY: Nation Books, 1990, 1991, 2001, 2002
"Fisk’s reportage has a power which one expects but so often does not get from journalists.” Edward Said. Once you start this book, you will finish it! Fisk provides in-depth coverage of the years of the Israeli invasion (1976-78 and the war during the 1980’s). Lebanon’s history of war is a primary reason the country has avoided war in subsequent years.
Glass, Charles, Tribes with Flags: A Dangerous Passage Through the Chaos of the Middle East. NY: The Atlantic Monthly Press, 1991
Glass tells of his journey from Turkey into Lebanon in 1987 and is a journalist’s account of Lebanon’s history. The factions in Lebanon are, he says, really more like tribes. This account is very helpful in understanding Lebanese politics.
Hirst, David, Beware of Small States: Lebanon, Battleground of the Middle East. NY: Nation Books, 2010
Hirst focuses on the history of Lebanon, from the end of Ottoman rule to the Hisbullah and Hamas wars of today. The book has helpful maps that show where various religious groups live in Lebanon…the Maronites, the Sunni and the Shia, and the Druze.
Kerr, Ann Zwicker, Come with Me from Lebanon: An American Family Odyssey. Syracuse U Press, 1994
Married to Malcolm Kerr, Jan writes about the day (1.18.84) he was assassinated on the campus of AUB. The book is a readable account of their life together, her history as a JYA (junior year abroad) student earlier, and the AUB days of his presidency.
Mahoney, John, Jane Adas, and Robert Norberg, Eds., Burning Issues: Understanding and Misunderstanding the Middle East: A 40-Year Chronicle. Americans for Middle East Understanding, 2007 (See www.ameu.org website for more on this organization.)
A compilation of articles published by AMEU since 1968.
Makdisi, Ussama, Artillery of Heaven: American Missionaries and the Failed Conversion of the Middle East. 2008: Cornell U Press, Ithaca, NY
The name “Artillery of Heaven” is how the missionaries regarded their work: “divinely inspired men and women who could unilaterally reshape the face of the world…” (p. 4). Makdisi explains later that the point of the book is not to dismiss the work of missionaries as imperialist only, but to study their relationships inside Lebanon more closely. He is now a professor of history at the
first holder of the Arab American Educational Foundation Chair of Arab Studies at Rice University (Houston, Tx).
Makdisi, Ussama, Faith Misplaced: The Broken Promise of U.S.-Arab Relations: 1920-2001. USA: Perseus Books, 2010
Following his first book closely is this one that begins with the words “The American University of Beirut’s most famous building, College Hall, was destroyed by a bomb in the early morning of November 8, 1991.” It goes on to describe and analyze American involvement.
VanDeMark, Brian, American Sheikhs: Two Families, Four Generations, and the Story of America’s Influence in the Middle East. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2012
Gives the history of American missionaries in Lebanon since 1866 when the Syrian Protestant College (later AUB) was founded. Fascinating account of our history and background as a denomination (and the Congregational church, too). Examines our attitude of “manifest destiny” as the intent was to convert Muslims to Christianity. “Through hard experience, these Americans learned to engage Middle Easterners on their own terms.”
Young, Michael, The Ghosts of Martyrs Square: An Eyewitness Account of Lebanon’s Life Struggle. NY: Simon & Schuster, 2010
Young was raised in Lebanon by his Lebanese mother after his father died. The book helps one understand the growing tensions with Syria. He is opinion editor for the Beirut Daily Star.
The Nation.com: “The United States Was Responsible for the 1982 Massacre of Palestinians in Beirut”
Rashid Khalidi writes in The Nation about U.S. responsibility for the massacre of Palestinians in
Beirut in 1982--Sabra Shatilla Refugee Camp.
“The Cradle of Our Faith”: booklet, 2006
Teaching resources detailing the countries of the Middle East and the Christians found there. Access this material from the Israel Palestine Mission Network website, under the "Study Resources" tab.