The Orange Trees of Baghdad: In Search of My Lost Family Paperback – Feb 26 2009
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""Far more even than the terrifying bare facts and statistics, this moving memoir, vividly evoking real people and their lives and homes, lets us understand why Iraqis feel that Americans destroyed their country."" - Noam Chomsky
Winner of the George Ryga Prize 2008
Praise for The Orange Trees of Baghdad by Leilah Nadir from Canada, Australia, Italy, France and Turkey
“This is a powerful and important book.” — Vancouver Sun
“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…. 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
In The Orange Trees of Baghdad, Leilah Nadir writes about a place she has never been to … giving voice to so many émigrés who have been cut off from their past by war and insurrection.” — Elle Canada
“Skillfully told with extraordinary warmth, her story gives us an incredible and often surprising insight into a Middle-Eastern culture that is simultaneously exotic and familiar, comforting and terrifying ... This is a compelling, touching and beautifully written book that thoughtfully challenges assumptions about a place and a people lost in the miasma of war.” — Brisbane Courier Mail
“The book belongs as much to her father as it does to Nadir: she uncovers her own past through his experiences ... her attempt to trace her family tree in an uncommon land makes this a compelling first book from a thoughtful writer.” — Quill and Quire
“Nadir’s work is stunning in its brilliance and poignant in its elegance…. The Orange Trees of Baghdad is a compelling memoir, worthy of every reader’s time, precisely because it eschews a simplistic understanding of all the issues it discusses.”
— Canadian Literature
“The Orange Trees of Baghdad is unique in that it is not firsthand reportage…. But this remove is what gives Nadir’s book its terrible poignancy.” — Georgia Straight
“… at once moving, disturbing, confusing, and wonderfully hopeful.... Nadir succeeds in defining a face of contemporary war that is rarely discussed, though it is the matter of a wealth of historical literature. With incredible intricacy and remarkable sensitivity she presents a portrait of the human struggles of war…. These are lasting images that … underscore the resilience of the human spirit.” — Dr. Ivan Townshend, head judge of George Ryga Award 2008
“In a book that somehow manages to be both journalistic and intimate, the author eloquently reminds us that Iraq’s heart is a country, not a war. Her quest for her roots shows us the tragedy of this people whose land and history has been stolen from beneath them.” — France Culture
“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 insightful, searching story about her Iraqi roots, family, exile, and survival, told in absorbing and moving language, reveals the great civilization now under assault.” — George Elliot Clarke, Poet Laureate of Toronto
“The Orange Trees of Baghdad is a stunning book, the best I’ve read in the past year. Leilah Nadir takes us on 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 part are being torn asunder. Hypnotically readable.” — James Laxer, author of The Border and The Acadians
In this “powerful and important book” (Vancouver Sun), Leilah Nadir uncovers her lost roots, in the Iraq her father left behind decades ago. In the brutal aftermath of the invasion, a surprise reunion brings east and west together. Orange Trees won the George Ryga Award; Naomi Klein called it “Lovingly woven together … reminds us that Iraq is not just a war; it is a country.”
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.
Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
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.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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.