Monday, October 28, 2013

One American's Personal Encounter With Syria

The Bread of Angels: A Memoir of Love and FaithThe Bread of Angels: A Memoir of Love and Faith by Stephanie Saldana
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In August of 2012, the Wall Street Journal featured a column by Stephanie Saldana on the kidnapping and execution of Jesuit priest and Abbot Paolo Dall'Oglio by rebel forces. At the end of the poignant column, the credit said that Stephanie Saldana was the author of "The Bread of Angels," and I knew that I had to read it.  It paints an intimate portrait of a young woman of Mexican-American heritage from San Antonio, Texas, who decides to spend a year in Damascus.  It could be described by readers as a travelogue, a story of broken romance, or yet another story of a spiritual quest.  I has elements of all of these.  For me, in light of our possibly deciding to attack Syria, it had a different impact.  It showed how little we know about places with rich histories, like Syria.  Even the author, who had studied Arabic in university and knew about Middle East history, she was unprepared for what she found.

The people in her story are richly drawn, and they all welcome her, and her 'landlord' adopts her as a granddaughter and invites her for coffee two or three times a day.  Syrians too know very little about Americans, and Stephanie certainly opens their eyes too. Understanding among countries will never be advanced by politicians no matter how high minded or well educated.  International amity and cooperation is built on the thousands of little interactions among real people, like Stephanie and her grandfather, called the Baron. This would be a great selection for a book club, and I'm going to offer it to my wife as an idea.  It's a timely, but timeless read.  Highly recommended.

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