My Father's Rifle: A Childhood in Kurdistan by Hiner Saleem, Paperback | Barnes & Noble
My Father's Rifle: A Childhood in Kurdistan
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My Father's Rifle: A Childhood in Kurdistan

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by Hiner Saleem
     
 

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This beautiful, spare, autobiographical narrative tells of the life of a Kurd named Azad as he grows to manhood in Iraq during the 1960s and 1970s. Azad is born into a vibrant village culture that hopes for a free Kurdish future. He loves his mother's orchard, his cousin's stunt pigeons, his father's old Czech rifle, his brother who is fighting in the mountains.

Overview

This beautiful, spare, autobiographical narrative tells of the life of a Kurd named Azad as he grows to manhood in Iraq during the 1960s and 1970s. Azad is born into a vibrant village culture that hopes for a free Kurdish future. He loves his mother's orchard, his cousin's stunt pigeons, his father's old Czech rifle, his brother who is fighting in the mountains. But before he is even of school age, Azad has seen friends and neighbors assassinated, and his own family driven to starvation.

After being forced into a refugee camp in Iran for years, his family realizes, on their return, that the Baathist regime is destroying the autonomy it had promised their people. My Father's Rifle ends with Azad's heartbreaking departure from his parents and flight across the Syrian border to freedom.

Stunning in its unadorned intensity, My Father's Rifle is a moving portrait of a boy who embraces the land and culture he loves, even as he leaves them.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Written with clarity, simplicity and even a touch of humor, My Father's Rifle vividly captures the history behind the news--and the people who have lived it.” —Merle Rubin, The Wall Street Journal

“Harrowing.” —The New Yorker

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A child of the '60s and '70s, Saleem grew up in Kurdistan, and in this slender volume he has painted a vivid portrait of his childhood, one that takes readers beyond politics and statistics to the heart of a compelling people and one young boy.

Readers follow young Azad's journey from boyhood to manhood under the looming presence of Saddam Hussein. Even before Azad begins to attend school, he has lived through bombings, persecution, and starvation. He witnesses the assassinations of friends and relatives, and his family suffers the indignation of life in a refugee camp. Yet, in the face of terrible suffering, Azad has an irrepressible joy.

Betrayed and abandoned by their allies, the Kurdish people are in despair. Like Azad's father's precious rifle -- once the most potent symbol of liberty -- their hopes and dreams are now rusted and obsolete. Azad briefly flees to the mountains to join his brother in the fight for Kurdish freedom, but his efforts are useless. He returns home, determined to find a new way to fight for liberty, even if it means abandoning everything he loves.

For readers spellbound by The Kite Runner, Saleem's sparely written memoir is a worthy successor, a poignant coming-of-age story told by a child that is understated and disarmingly gentle. In its own way, Saleem's tale is a weapon as powerful as any rifle. (Spring 2005 Selection)

Publishers Weekly
Using a child's unsparing, detailed eye, this boyhood chronicle of life in embattled 1960s and '70s Kurdistan portrays a time of soaring nationalist pride, family tragedy and government betrayal. With stirring lyricism, Saleem writes of his oppressed Iraqi homeland, his mother's fruit-laden orchard, his cousin's stunt pigeons, his father's ancient Czech rifle and his own place in a unified village community where every man would fight for the Kurdish way of life. Saleem and his family join those Kurds who, leery of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party's promises of peace, flee to the mountains, where they put up fierce resistance and are finally forced across the Iranian border into refugee camps. After the Iraqi government eventually prompts the Kurds to return to their villages, Hussein then moves hundreds of Arabs to their territories to establish homes and businesses, transforming much of Kurdistan into a haven for true believers in the Baath Party, although the Kurdish peshmerga (volunteer fighters) continue to battle for their homeland. Saleem's family goes home, but the Baath pressure forces the author and his brothers to settle in Europe; his sister remains in a concentration camp (and thus is not able to attend their father's funeral). Saleem, who's now a filmmaker in Paris, offers a haunting, sympathetic account of a young life amid the horrors of a war zone. (Jan.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Well-done but dispiriting memoir of growing up in Iraq during the 1960s and '70s, when Kurdish aspirations for independence were increasingly suppressed. Now a filmmaker living in Paris, Saleem memorably depicts the close family ties and the comfort of Kurdish culture. His story also grimly reminds us of the Kurds' long-time persecution by Turks, Iranians, and, most recently, Saddam Hussein. Perhaps understandably, considering how badly they have been treated, the Kurds too have contemplated violent solutions to their problem. Saleem's father, who kept a rifle on hand, supported General Barzani, a Kurdish military leader who led a group of armed guerrillas into the mountains in hopes of establishing an independent state. His older brother, 18-year-old Dilovan, joined them, and later, when the Baathist party took over Iraq and bombed their village, adolescent Saleem also wanted to work for the cause of independence. At one point the family fled to the mountains to fight with Kurdish troops, but the resistance was forcibly quashed. After a dreary spell in a refugee camp, they decided to return to their native village of Aqra. Under Saddam's leadership in the late 1970s, Iraqis increased their efforts to eliminate the Kurds. In measured prose, Saleem recalls soldiers arriving in their village and setting up barracks, where they were rumored to torture Kurds. Baathist teachers took over the schools, and Iraqi doctors would not help his sick niece, who eventually died. His education was cut short: instruction at school was only in Arabic, a language he did not know, and opportunities for further study were denied to Kurds. Saleem knew there was no way he could go to film school. Increasinglyhe began to accept that exile might be his only option, though even that would not be easy, since Kurds were denied passports. Timely-and most depressing.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780312424756
Publisher:
Picador
Publication date:
01/24/2006
Edition description:
First Edition
Pages:
112
Sales rank:
1,234,924
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.26(d)

Meet the Author

Hiner Saleem, an internationally acclaimed filmmaker, was born in 1964 in Iraqi Kurdistan. After fleeing Iraq in the late 1970s, he lived in Syria, Florence, and then Paris, where he began making movies. His feature films include Vodka Lemon.

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My Father's Rifle: A Childhood in Kurdistan 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
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