Review: ‘Woman in the Crossfire’

If you still haven’t read Yazbek’s “تقاطع نيران : من يوميات الانتفاضة السورية ,” well, you can always begin today. 

Samar Yazbek’s “A Woman in the Crossfire” brings its readers into the dark, tense space where the author has found herself: “within the range of two or more lines of fire, from both enemy and ally alike.”

The memoir, Yazbek’s first work of nonfiction, takes us back to the hopeful and chaotic beginning of Syria’s now 19-month fight against the ruling regime. In the book, we see relatively little of the perilous street protests, assaults on towns and bombings that have killed tens of thousands. For the most part, Yazbek experiences the revolution indoors, vicariously, and in a hurry. “I have been here ever since the protest movement began,” she writes, “looking out my window and watching. My voice doesn’t come out.”

The book makes neither a fast nor an easy read. It is not structured around a single story line, but is instead composed of dozens of interviews with Syrians who fill in parts of the larger picture. The book also follows Yazbek’s sometimes uneasy participation in the protest movement, her fears and her attempts to protect her adolescent daughter.

“A Woman in the Crossfire” is thus a mix of genres: It is neither a journalistic work nor a personal memoir. Rather, it is a hastily and sensitively written diary, a record of Yazbek’s struggle to unearth truth and find a role for herself in her country. It is this struggle — to find a place amid the factions— that makes her narrative so relatable to an international audience. If you remain undecided, well, keep reading on The Chicago Tribune.