Wendy Pearlman

 

“Many of these voices are unforgettable … Pearlman shapes her subjects’ narratives, winnowing interviews down to stirring examples of human adaptation … essential reading.” New York Times Book Review

“[Wendy Pearlman] foregrounds the extraordinary heroism of ordinary Syrians, both those who are trapped in the country and those who struggle to make new lives. Her work is an essential addition to the emerging body of literary reportage from Syria in English.” New York Times Book Review ‘Editor’s Choice, Recommended New Books’

“Everyone talks about Syrians, but very few actually talk to them … We Crossed a Bridge and It Trembled bucks the trend … These best of all possible informants – the people who made the events, and who suffer the consequences – provide not only gripping eyewitness accounts but erudite analysis and sober reflection … The result is testament both to Syrian expressive powers and the translation’s high literary standard. These heart-stopping tales of torment and triumph are perfectly enchained, chronologically and thematically, to reflect the course of the crisis .” Robin Yassin-Kassab, in The Guardian

 

About the book:

In 2011, against the backdrop of the wave of demonstrations known as the Arab Spring, millions of Syrians took to the streets demanding freedom and dignity. The government’s ferocious response, and the refusal of the demonstrators to back down, sparked a brutal war that escalated into the worst humanitarian catastrophe of our times, including the deaths of hundreds of thousands of men, women and children, incalculable destruction, and the flight of millions of Syrians from their homeland.

Too few outside Syria understand the conflict as Syrians have experienced it. We Crossed a Bridge and It Trembled changes that. Based on interviews with hundreds of Syrians conducted over four years across the Middle East, Europe, and the United States, it chronicles the war from its origins to its present horror, solely through the words of ordinary people transformed by its unfolding. Parents, children, students, teachers, web designers, artists, playwrights, bloggers, poets, doctors, engineers, lawyers, activists, government employees, rebels, refugees, military defectors, prisoners, hipsters, Christians, Muslims, shopkeepers, grandparents—these are just some of the voices that cohere into a breathtaking mosaic. Some of the gathered testimonies are eloquent narratives that could stand alone as short stories; others are only a few commanding sentences. Together, they form a testament not only to the power of storytelling but also to the resilience of those who face darkness with hope, courage, and moral conviction.

“It was the revolution that allowed me to see people for who they really are,” one woman from Aleppo tells us. “It showed me that every Syrian has a hundred stories in his heart. Every Syrian is himself a story.” We Crossed a Bridge and It Trembled is an unforgettable journey into some of those stories.

Critical Praise:

“This book cannot be reduced to a short summary, just like the speakers in the book are not reduced to any one model or just a few models. We Crossed a Bridge is a book to be read and reread, Hopefully someday passages from it will be included among the readings in Syrian children’s schools …. The American author has succeeded in the challenge of offering a humanistic account that does not dissolve Syrians into lofty or abstract rhetoric, such a geopolitics … Their diverse voices are not lost behind some single, all-knowing voice, nor are their contradictions and multiplicity obscured. And nonetheless, they remaind clearly and unequivocally allied in their ardurous struggle.” Yassin al-Haj Saleh, Winner of the 2012 Prince Claus Award and author of The Impossible Revolution and Salvation O Boys: 16 Years in Syrian Prisons, among other books

“This profoundly important book draws on hundreds of interviews to create an oral history of the Syrian uprising and the unfolding catastrophe that has followed. Pearlman, an accomplished political scientist, has chosen to let her Syrian interlocutors speak for themselves. What emerges is a complex, engaging and difficult oral history, which deserves a wide readership.” Marc Lynch, Professor of Political Science at George Washington University

“Pearlman masterfully stitches together a collective journey, stories moving seamlessly from one to the next…The disparate voices, ranging from defiant, funny, mournful, wistful, and tragic, form a complex narrative of the Syrian tragedy—my story, my family’s stories, the stories of the people and lives that we lost.” Lina Sergie Attar, cofounder and chief executive of Karam Foundation

We Crossed A Bridge is an important book for anyone who wants to understand the root causes of the Syrian tragedy, as well as the way the conflict has changed the lives of millions of Syrians since 2011. There are many different competing “realities” of the Syrian conflict and the many voices recorded in this book capture this perfectly. Only when we listen to the Syrian people can we hope to contribute to a political solution of the conflict.” Andreas Krüger, Ambassador for the Negotiations on Syria, Federal Foreign Office of Germany

“Incendiary—this heart-wrenching testament could not be more timely. Beyond headlines or breaking news or political posturing, this work of witness allows real people to expose Syria’s terrifying heart.” Luis Alberto Urrea, author of The Devil’s Highway and Into The Beautiful North

“To read these pages, to meet these men and women, is to cross a bridge ourselves, and to tremble: at the fragility of social order…but also at the love, anger, terror, trauma, compassion, endurance, awe, and determination a single human voice can convey.” Larry Siems, author of The Torture Report and editor of Mohamedou Ould Slahi’s Guantanamo Diary

“A heartbreaking, human, and necessary book. Recommended for anyone who wishes to better understand the Syrian conflict.” (Library Journal)

“Pearlman spoke with hundreds of displaced Syrians…. Common among the spare and haunting testimonies of these mothers, fathers, brothers, and sisters are the loss and reappearance of hope, humanity, and dreams of new freedom. This powerfully edifying work of witness is essential reading.” (Booklist (starred review))

“It’s unsurprising to see the anger not just toward Syrian president Bashar al-Assad but also toward the international community…Nonetheless, the book is filled with hope, informed by an understanding of the unity possible in spite of the discord sowed by Assad.” (Publishers Weekly (starred review))

“A timely and useful exploration into the events leading up to and following the Syrian uprising and ongoing refugee crisis.” (VICE)

“A gut-wrenching collection of true experiences of Syrians whose lives have been transformed, often torn apart, by the ongoing conflict. A breathtaking yet haunting work of nonfiction, this necessary book could not have come at a better time.” (Bustle)

“The West has been repeatedly numbed to the human rights travesty of the authoritarian Assad regime—or worse, encouraged to think of its victims as outsiders—but these accounts fly in the face of that selfish idea.” (Elle.com)

“An important work — vivid, moving, and unforgettable.” (Omnivoracious)

“Pearlman ends her book by thanking all the people she met for trusting her and sharing their stories. In turn, I would like to thank her for her generosity in giving her entire book to the Syrians themselves. Readers can learn about their ideas, dreams, heartbreaks, and mistakes. I would recommend reading this book to anyone interested in knowing what was and is going on in my country, as the truth appears in the voices of those who have lived through the history.” (Al-Fanar Media)

“A moving collection of personal accounts from Syrians covering the time before the conflict with Bashar Al-Assad to now.” (Rebellious Magazine)

“Pearlman’s book is not only important because it puts names to suffering, but also because it reminds readers—especially in the final segment, “Reflections”—that in the Syrian conflict, “there is no right or wrong,” only problematic “shades of gray.” A poignant and humane collection.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“A powerful must read book for anyone wanting to understand what’s happening in Syria and why it matters.” (Chicago Review of Books)

“A stunning mosaic of narratives told in vignettes of varying lengths. It’s hard to fathom the humanitarian disaster of the Syrian war. These testimonies—wrenching but also deeply hopeful—help us wrap our minds around it.” (Splinter News)

“There are few other places where so many personal accounts can be found, and this book is something of a treasure trove, bustling with insight. In addition to giving Syrians a voice, it should be a companion to anything watched or read on Syria. It puts the very real, humanising voices of Syrians back into the spotlight, which is precisely where they belong.” (The New Arab)

“As a vital and powerful document of suppressed perspectives, We Crossed a Bridge and It Trembled should be required reading for not just all Americans, but everyone.” (The Riveter)

“After more than six years of war, it can be hard to cut through the noise about high-level negotiations ,ceasefires, rebel splits, and to what they all mean for ordinary Syrians. Northwestern University professor Wendy Pearlman has managed just that.” (IRIN News)

“Pearlman’s collection is a chance to remind ourselves of the humanity behind the UNHRC’s ticking number of displaced people and what’s reported in the daily news.” (WBUR)