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The Orange Trees of Baghdad: In Search of My Lost Family [Hardcover]

Leilah Nadir
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Sept. 12 2007
Born to an Iraqi-Christian father and a British mother, and raised in Britain and Canada, Leilah Nadir has never set foot on Iraqi soil. Distanced from her Iraqi roots through immigration and now cut off by war, the closest link she has to the nation is through her father, who left Baghdad in the 1960s when he was sixteen to pursue his studies in England. His Iraq is of mythical origins; his beginnings are in a garden at the family home that now lies vacant. Through her father’s memories, Leilah recounts her family’s lost story, from Iraq at the turn of the twentieth century during the British occupation, to the Iraq-Iran War and the Gulf War. Through her cousins still living in Baghdad, she experiences the thunderous explosions of the present-day conflict, and Leilah’s friend, award-winning photographer Farah Nosh, brings home news of Leilah’s family after her visits to Iraq, as well as stunning photos of civilians and their often tragic stories. The Orange Trees of Baghdad is at once harrowing, touching and painfully human. An unforgettable debut. Praise for Leilah Nadir: "Leilah Nadir’s The Orange Trees of Baghdad reminds us that Iraq is not just a war; it is a country. Lovingly woven together from inherited memory and family lore, her Iraq is infinitely more vivid, more textured, and more heartbreaking than what we see nightly on the news. In the debates about winning and losing the war, this is a book about what loss really means – the theft of history and of homeland." --Naomi Klein, author of No Logo and The Shock Doctrine “Leilah Nadir’s insightful, searching story about her Iraqi roots, family, exile and survival, told in absorbing and moving language, reveals the great civilization now under assault and the human beings under perpetual blast, condemnation and bombardment.” —George Elliott Clarke, author of George & Rue “ The Orange Trees of Baghdad is a stunning book, the best I’ve read in the past year. Leilah Nadir takes us with her in her quest to meet the members of her family whose lives have been uprooted by war. In the process, we are drawn into the heart of the world’s most ancient civilization. In the haunting, dreamlike pages of this book, we discover that as Baghdad is destroyed, the roots of our own deepest past are being torn asunder. Hypnotically readable.” —James Laxer, author of The Border and The Acadians “A detailed exploration of life in Baghdad filtered through the voices and memories of the Iraqi diaspora.” —Devyani Saltzman, author of Shooting Water “A very finely written, deftly crafted work about Iraq that translates this epic disaster into human terms and makes us understand the endless suffering of its people. Touching, insightful and poignant.” —Eric Margolis, author of War at the Top of the World " In The Orange Trees of Baghdad: In Search of My Lost Family (Key Porter), Leilah Nadir writes about a place she has never been to—a country her father last saw in 1960, when he left Iraq to go to school in England. By telling her story of exile, she is giving voice to so many émigrés who have been cut off from their past by war and insurrection." — Elle Canada September 2007

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Product Description

Review

"A detailed exploration of life in Baghdad filtered through the voices and memories of the Iraqi diaspora." -- Devyani Saltzman, author of Shooting Water

"A very finely written, deftly crafted work about Iraq that translates this epic disaster into human terms and makes us understand the endless suffering of its people. Touching, insightful and poignant." -- Eric Margolis, author of War at the Top of the World

"Leilah Nadir's The Orange Trees of Baghdad reminds us that Iraq is not just a war; it is a country. Lovingly woven together from inherited memory and family lore, her Iraq is infinitely more vivid, more textured, and more heartbreaking than what we see nightly on the news. In the debates about winning and losing the war, this is a book about what loss really means---the theft of history and of homeland." -- Naomi Klein, author of No Logo and The Shock Doctrine

"Leilah Nadir's insightful, searching story about her Iraqi roots, family, exile and survival, told in absorbing and moving language, reveals the great civilization now under assault and the human beings under perpetual blast, condemnation and bombardment." -- George Elliott Clarke, author of George & Rue

"The Orange Trees of Baghdad is a stunning book, the best I've read in the past year. Leilah Nadir takes us with her in her quest to meet the members of her family whose lives have been uprooted by war. In the process, we are drawn into the heart of the world's most ancient civilization. In the haunting, dreamlike pages of this book, we discover that as Baghdad is destroyed, the roots of our own deepest past are being torn asunder. Hypnotically readable." -- James Laxer, author of The Border and The Acadians

About the Author

LEILAH NADIR has written and broadcast political commentaries for the CBC, The Globe and Mail and the Georgia Straight, and a feature article in Brick magazine. She has a Master?s degree in English Literature from the University of Edinburgh and a Joint Honours Bachelor?s degree in English and History from McGill University.

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
3.8 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
Format:Paperback
A disappointing book. Despite the subtitle the author has never been to Iraq, and does not travel to Iraq in the book. The best information of the book is taken from the experiences of a journalist that travels to Iraq and brings back photos. Other information is from emails and brief cell phone calls with her relatives.

The author attempts to pieces together a personal narrative from other people's stories as a family history. She even visits an old friend of her grandfather, events that certainly must hold great meaning for her, but don't succeed in as a story. Between the lines one can sense the frustration of being generation removed from one's heritage, but such alienation has been expressed better by many other writers. She attempts to write an insider's story, when as a Canadian that does not speak Arabic, and has never been to Iraq, it is is a story she can't write.It is a shame, because her distance, her seperation from Iraq is part of the nation's tragic history.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This book brings the deads to life. 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
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful window on Iraq and its people 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
3.0 out of 5 stars A Labour of Love 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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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars startling Anecdotes from the War, but the author's narrative falls flat Aug. 6 2014
By Kirk R. Jones - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
A disappointing book. Despite the subtitle the author has never been to Iraq, and does not travel to Iraq in the book. The best information of the book is taken from the experiences of a journalist that travels to Iraq and brings back photos. Other information is from emails and brief cell phone calls with her relatives.

The author attempts to pieces together a personal narrative from other people's stories as a family history. She even visits an old friend of her grandfather, events that certainly must hold great meaning for her, but don't succeed in as a story. Between the lines one can sense the frustration of being generation removed from one's heritage, but such alienation has been expressed better by many other writers.
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