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The Morning They Came for Us: Dispatches from Syria
     

The Morning They Came for Us: Dispatches from Syria

by Janine di Giovanni
 

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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

Overview

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 people—among 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.

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times - Michiko Kakutani
…devastating…Ms. di Giovanni gives us a visceral understanding of what it is like to live in wartime Syria, recounting some of the individual stories behind the numbing statistics…Like the work of the Belarussian Nobel laureate Svetlana Alexievich, Ms. di Giovanni's book gives voice to ordinary people living through a dark time in history; and like Anthony Shadid's powerful 2005 book, Night Draws Near…it chronicles the intimate fallout that war has on women, children and families. A longtime reporter who covered the wars in Bosnia, Chechnya and Sierra Leone, Ms. di Giovanni writes here with urgency and anguish—determined to testify to what she has witnessed because she wants "people never to forget." Her sorrow comes through in the writing—in the book's staccato sentences, in its flashbacks to similar scenes of suffering in the Balkans, in its helpless empathy for people she met in Syria…[The Morning They Came for Us is a] searing and necessary book.
The New York Times Book Review - Anand Gopal
…Janine di Giovanni's heartbreaking The Morning They Came for Us: Dispatches From Syria…[is] a moving portrait of a country divided by and under siege from its own president…it's a haunting reminder of what the Syrian revolution, ultimately, is about. "Every time they hit me," a man, paralyzed from torture, tells di Giovanni, "they screamed at me: 'You want freedom! O.K., take this! Here is your great freedom!'" Amid our obsession with ISIS, these tales are worth remembering.
Publishers Weekly
★ 01/18/2016
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)
Booklist (starred review)
“With a potent mix of sensitivity and outrage, Di Giovanni relates firsthand accounts of deprivation and suffering from the people caught up in the conflict…[T]heir stories reveal in harrowing detail the horrific nature of the war. The expert perspective of this seasoned war correspondent proves invaluable to understanding Syria today.”
Michiko Kakutani - New York Times
“Devastating . . . . Like the work of the Belarussian Nobel laureateSvetlana Alexievich, Ms. di Giovanni’s book gives voice to ordinary people living through a dark time in history; and like Anthony Shadid’s powerful 2005 book, Night Draws Near (which recounted the aftermath of the American invasion of Iraq), it chronicles the intimate fallout that war has on women, children and families. A longtime reporter who covered the wars in Bosnia, Chechnya and Sierra Leone, Ms. di Giovanni writes here with urgency and anguish — determined to testify to what she has witnessed because she wants ‘people never to forget.’ . . . . Her testimony is contained here in this searing and necessary book.”
Robin Yassin-Kassab - The Guardian
“Necessary, difficult and elating. [Di Giovanni’s] reporting from the Syrian revolution and war is clear-eyed and engaged in the best sense – engaged in the human realm rather than the abstractly political. . . . Such reporters as Giovanni, who not only visit but also live (and often die) through wars not their own, are heroic. These are the Marie Colvins, Paul Conroys, Ali Mustafas of journalism, reporters motivated by commitment to the act of witnessing.”
Elif Shafak - Financial Times
“It is crucial to reveal the human stories behind the news – and in The Morning They Came for Us,Janine di Giovanni does this with heartbreaking eloquence…Her account of Syria is a testimony to the power of empathy, conscience and understanding.”
Library Journal
05/15/2016
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
Kirkus Reviews
★ 2016-02-18
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.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780871407139
Publisher:
Liveright Publishing Corporation
Publication date:
05/03/2016
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
224
Sales rank:
184,574
Product dimensions:
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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