© Family photo, circa 1928. Author's great-grandmother with her children, including author's grandmother



“Malek's memoir is one of the finest examples of this new testimonial writing [... and] will remain essential reading in the emerging body of literary reportage from Syria in English [..] particularly necessary is [its] insistence on foregrounding the extraordinary heroism of ordinary Syrians […] Such stories couldn’t be more urgent." more...

— New York Times(featured on the cover of the Book Review)


“A brilliant combination of geopolitics and family history... eloquently exploring grief, resilience, and loss. [Malek] is a deft reporter and storyteller [and] courageously tells the stories of unforgettable family members and friends." more...

– Publisher's Weekly (starred review/ Pick of the Week)



“Malek’s powerful memoir beautifully captures the history of her family and of their country... [Her] writing vividly captures the personalities of her family members and friends as well as her own impressions of Syria, allowing readers insight into the personal stakes of the ongoing war” more...

- Booklist (starred review)


"A necessary, conscious corrective… [Does] what hasn't been done often enough thus far--wrest back the story of Syria for ordinary Syrians, showing us a place that has been lost and that most of the world never knew. [A] remarkable book.” more...

- BookForum (featured review)



"Moving and insightful, Malek's memoir combines sharp-eyed observations of Syrian politics... with elegiac commentary on home, exile, and a bygone era. Provocative, richly detailed reading." more...

– Kirkus



“If you only read one book about modern-day Syria, THE HOME THAT WAS OUR COUNTRY should be it. … Malek has a genius for conveying precisely the utter devastation that many of us Syrians now feel … On behalf of many of us, Malek tells not only her story but ours too … She has the proximity and intimacy of an insider, and the distance and clinical professionalism of an outsider …” more...

– Mada Masr



“While there have been many books written about the current Syrian conflict, Malek’s stands out …  [It] places everyday citizens, who are so often erased by the debates and news coverage, at the center of Syria’s conflict. They are the protagonists – the ones who have endured stifling repression and, in many cases, have sacrificed their lives. Most importantly, however, Malek reminds us of the beautiful place her family still calls home, even if they are forced to be separated from it, for now.”  more...

– Muftah



“Malek captures the multifaceted nature of [the Syrian] cataclysm very effectively in her gripping new book … her vivid picture-painting and scathing intelligence turn and turn on that same unspoken question, ‘What has happened to our country?’” more...

– Christian Science Monitor



Alia Malek’s memoir takes us into the heart of Syrian culture. Here we see the everyday beauty and the everyday fears of living under Assad’s oppressive regime. … Her book shows us a Syria that is far more alluring than the war-torn morass we encounter in the news. more...

– The Washington Post



"In THE HOME THAT WAS OUR COUNTRY, Alia Malek masterfully weaves together the personal and the political, and in so doing creates an unforgettable portrait of modern Syria in all its complexities and tragedies. Malek renders multiple generations of family, friends and neighbors vividly but unsentimentally, and what emerges is a portrait of a great people held back by tyranny. As Syria suffers through its darkest days, she reminds us of the humans behind the statistics. Completely engrossing and lucid, the book explains Syria’s devolution better than anything I’ve read."

— Dave Eggers


"What Alia Malek has done in THE HOME THAT WAS OUR COUNTRY is nothing short of extraordinary. With deep love and clear-eyed honesty, she weaves together the story of a family and the history of a country. Malek addresses the personal and the political like no other writer I have read recently. This book is an urgent and necessary read."

— Laila Lalami


"Alia Malek’s beautiful, arresting portrait of a Syrian family over generations takes you straight to the heart of that country’s agony. Malek brings you inside the intimate world of a Damascus apartment building, while weaving in her own experiences as a journalist—laying bare the struggle for freedom like no other work I know. The Syrian war is perhaps the most profound moral and political crisis of our era, and this unforgettable book will forever change the way you see it and the Middle East."

— Anand Gopal


"Alia Malek has written a beautiful, nuanced account of Syria recalling its complex political and social history, its many peoples, and her own family in this vividly detailed memoir. For a deeper understanding of the past and of the present Middle East, read this book. It offers not easy answers, but the “rougher edges of truth” that allow for a more profoundly humanistic portrait of the region and the causes of the current unrest. I missed home as I read: the hospitality and customs and cuisine; the diverse inhabitants that make up the rich tapestry of the old cities and villages; the women, of all socioeconomic backgrounds, who form the backbone of family life—the way it once was."

— Micheline Aharonian Marcom


"Alia Malek takes us on a journey through time as she travels from her birthplace of Baltimore to the country from which her family hails, Syria. There she rediscovers her own family history through the renovation of her grandmother’s home. She finds the meaning of what it is to be Syrian through the diverse characters that lived in her grandmother’s building in Damascus. But as Malek restores her grandmother’s home she watches her country fall apart with the Syrian conflict unfolding in the background. She tells the story of violence engulfing Syria as a brutal war shatters the mosaic of ethnicities and faiths that make up the Syria she’d always known. A beautiful, nuanced and human memoir that weaves the tale of Syria’s history through Malek's own family and leaves the reader with the vivid sense of loss, alienation and fear likely common to all Syrians trapped in this conflict.”

— Leila Fadel





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