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The Orange Trees of Baghdad: In Search of My Lost Family Hardcover – Sep 12 2007


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 328 pages
  • Publisher: Key Porter Books; 1 edition (Sept. 12 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 155263941X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1552639412
  • Product Dimensions: 21.8 x 14.7 x 2.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 408 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #800,472 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Claire H on Oct. 8 2009
Format: Paperback
Every day when I drive to work I listen to the news on the radio and more often than not, hear that people have been killed in Iraq. At the end of August, 95 people died in Baghdad after a car exploded. But we were told that the death toll for that month was an "improvement" compared to a couple of years ago. How can 95 dead can be an improvement on anything?
Yet, like many westerners, I must confess that I have become less sensitive to such news. People just become numbers. But reading this book, I have felt more engaged by what is happening in Iraq than from any news bulletin, newspaper article or documentary. Leilah Nadir's Iraqi family now feel like much-loved neighbours and Baghdad like a familiar place. I cared for every single one of them (especially her fascinating grandfather - I defy you to read this book and not wish you could have met him).
The author herself has never been able to visit Iraq, stay in her family house in Baghdad and meet many of the people who are so important to her and such a central part of her family history. And it's a real tour-de-force that she evokes them and their stories with such power.
But this isn't just a tale of sorrows, of a family wrenched apart by politics, history, and international relations gone mad. There are wonderful snatched moments, family reunions in London or in more peaceful parts of the Middle East, magical encounters with friends and relatives in the most unlikely places. I came out of reading this book touched by its people; sad for all the hardship they have known and still endure but above all, glad that I knew so much more about Iraqi people. They are not just numbers now.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Mister S on Jan. 7 2009
Format: Hardcover
This is an astonishing book, and well worth reading. Despite all the endless news coverage of the war, reading Leilah Nadir's beautifully written memoir made me realise how little any of us actually know about Iraq or its people. She is Iraqi-Canadian, though her father left Baghdad in 1960 never to return, so her connection to the country is slowly disappearing as her aunts and other relatives leave one by one, oppressed by poverty and fear. The book is an attempt to re-connect with this heritage before it's too late, by plumbing the memories of her father and other relatives, who describe in loving detail the relatively prosperous and secular world of the 40s and 50s, and the horrible process by which the country has been dismantled since. Parallel to this is the story of the country today, being ripped apart by a pointless and extremely bloody invasion and occupation. The result is deeply moving, sad and elegiac but with an odd under-current of hope, mostly because the people we meet are so lovely and dignified. A very fine read that will forever alter your view of the country. Highly recommended.
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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful By book lover on Aug. 14 2008
Format: Hardcover
I am originally from Toronto but I live in France. This book was a labour of love. I appreciated the considerable time, effort and especially research that went into this writing project as well as the attention to detail and, of course, the human element in the face of war.

I loved the similes (on pages 22, 23, 24) of the author's grandfather Khalil (a glass of chestnut-tinted cardamom tea); the grandmother (rosewater and pistachio Turkish delight); the father (warm pita bread dipped in lebne) and the mother. Lovely.

I was a bit disconcerted, however, to learn that the author does not speak Arabic and, in the beginning of the book, didn't seem to know much about her Iraqi heritage. Almost as if the father had erased his past when he first emigrated to England, married an Englishwoman and then had his children. This is a shame, I thought, that the father did not transmit more of his culture on to his children as they were growing up. All throughout the book, this lack of knowledge is apparent (page 196, the author's mother and sister Rose attend a memorial service for Lina in England: "my mother and sister have never been in such a large gathering of Iraqis. They are in the minority, speaking English. Rose feels incredibly awkward to be around all these Iraqis......she realizes that she doesn't know much about the culture or the people...."

As a reader, I think "Well, why not? Why does she not know much about these people? She's half-Iraqi herself." So I find the disinterest a bit off-putting.

Me, I would have taken a crash course in Arabic to learn the language as fast as possible in order to not only better communicate with Iraqis, but also to show my Iraqi family members that I took a genuine interest in their culture.
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