The Morning They Came for Us: Dispatches from Syriaby Janine di Giovanni
Doing for Syria what Imperial Life in the Emerald City did for the war in Iraq, The Morning They Came for Us bears witness to one of the most brutal, internecine conflicts in recent history. Drawing from years of experience covering Syria for Vanity Fair, Newsweek, and the front pages of the
Once in a decade comes an account of war that promises to be a classic.
Doing for Syria what Imperial Life in the Emerald City did for the war in Iraq, The Morning They Came for Us bears witness to one of the most brutal, internecine conflicts in recent history. Drawing from years of experience covering Syria for Vanity Fair, Newsweek, and the front pages of the New York Times, award-winning journalist Janine di Giovanni gives us a tour de force of war reportage, all told through the perspective of ordinary peopleamong them a doctor, a nun, a musician, and a student. What emerges is an extraordinary picture of the devastating human consequences of armed conflict, one that charts an apocalyptic but at times tender story of life in a jihadist war zone. Recalling celebrated works by Ryszard Kapuściński, Philip Gourevitch, and Anne Applebaum, The Morning They Came for Us, through its unflinching account of a nation on the brink of disintegration, becomes an unforgettable testament to resilience in the face of nihilistic human debasement.
Veteran foreign correspondent di Giovanni (Ghosts by Daylight) brings her history of covering battle zones (among them Iraq, the Gaza Strip, Lebanon, and Sarajevo) to this account of her experiences inside Syria from June to December 2012. Her work, informed by her extensive experience as a journalist, shows a keen ability to capture violent conflicts from multiple sides. Starting from the point when Syria, after a short-lived cease-fire, fell back into fighting, she describes the collapse of communities with reputations for diversity and tolerance—among them Aleppo, “the oldest continuously inhabited city on earth.” The peculiarities of modern urban warfare, in which the smells and sounds of war permeate everyday life, are graphically conveyed. Hunger prevails; vanquished diseases (polio, typhus, cholera) return; children are traumatized; and rape, torture, kidnapping, and beheading become conventional weapons. This book, haunted by the international failure to intervene effectively, gives readers an on-the-ground experience of the devastating seasons that followed the promise of the Arab Spring. Though di Giovanni does not make Syria’s civil war and its repercussions rationally comprehensible, she makes its reality fully tangible and tragic. Agent: Kim Witherspoon, InkWell Management. (May)
Journalist di Giovanni (Middle East editor, Newsweek) has experience in the Middle East and other war-torn regions and traveled to Syria in 2012 after covering the Balkan Wars in the 1990s. Over the final six months of the year, she observes the transformation of the 2011 peaceful demonstrations demanding greater freedom to civil war. Visiting various towns and presenting individuals with different roles, the author shows how increased fighting with more powerful weapons destroyed villages and urban neighborhoods and killed fighters and civilians alike. Government forces arrested rebels and noncombatants, and jails were often torture sites. Di Giovanni emphasizes the horror and brutality of civil war, especially the widespread sexual violence. As both government and rebel forces became more extreme and vicious, Syrians of all political loyalties mourned the loss of the tolerant and cosmopolitan community they once shared. Still shaken by the unchecked cruelty that tore apart Yugoslavia, the author decries the failure of the international community to prevent this humanitarian crisis. VERDICT Di Giovanni presents a devastating picture of the horrors of civil war and the disintegration of Syrian society. Her vivid depictions of suffering may be overwhelming for some readers. [See Prepub Alert, 11/2/15.]—Elizabeth Hayford, formerly with Associated Coll. of the Midwest, Evanston, IL
Newsweek Middle East editor di Giovanni (Ghosts by Daylight: A Modern-Day War Correspondent's Memoir of Love, Loss, and Redemption, 2013) dives headfirst into the nightmarish shadow world of modern Syria. At the beginning, the author relates how a diplomat friend told her "not to start working in Syria. He said it would engulf me as Bosnia had done, and he suggested gently that this was probably not a good thing emotionally. Even so, I went." Throughout the story, di Giovanni's quest seems almost suicidal, but the fruits of her labor are astonishing. She profiles ordinary Syrians struggling to survive while also chronicling her own death-defying journey. Locals guided her through ruined churches, bomb-addled tenements, and dubious border crossings. Even as Western readers have gradually begun to understand the complexities of the Syrian conflict, di Giovanni brings daily life into focus. "What does war sound like?" she asks. "The whistling sound of the bombs falling can only be heard seconds before impact—enough time to know that you are about to die, but not enough time to flee. What does the war in Aleppo smell of? It smells of carbine, of wood smoke, of unwashed bodies, or rubbish rotting, of the heady smell of fear." In her gutsy and sensitive narrative, the author offers the surreal imagery of a place without reason. During her first drive to Damascus, she stopped at a roadside Dunkin' Donuts serving only cheese sandwiches. Later, a physician took a break from his dying patients to play a lonely game of foosball on the hospital roof. Di Giovanni interweaves biblical references and anecdotes about her own motherhood into the story, which may strike some readers as forced or even melodramatic. But the author is a master of war reporting, especially its civilian side. Thanks to her bitter sacrifice, Western readers may begin to appreciate the chaos that Syrian refugees continue to flee. This brilliant, necessary book will hopefully do for Syria what Herr's Dispatches (1977) did for Vietnam.
- Liveright Publishing Corporation
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- New Edition
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- 5.60(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.00(d)
Meet the Author
Janine di Giovanni, Middle East editor of Newsweek and contributing editor at Vanity Fair, has won seven major awards, including the National Magazine Award and two Amnesty International Awards. Her work is widely anthologized, and her article from Harper’s, "Life during Wartime," was chosen by Paul Theroux for The Best American Travel Writing. The author of seven books, di Giovanni is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, where she was a Pakis Fellow. She lives in Paris.
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