Books by Elmaz Abinader

Released: April 15, 1991

A poignant account by Abinader (Creative Writing/John Jay) of the immigration experience of her Lebanese Christian family, who left a beloved but dying village, hoping to return some day ``with knowledge and fame.'' Relying on family memories and diaries, Abinader divides her book into sections narrated by the two generations most affected by the decision to leave Lebanon. She begins with her father, Jean, who left the country in 1937. In 1973, on his first visit back to his native village, Jean recalls how the family of three brothers, once prosperous, had built their houses on a hillside facing the sea, connecting them by a stony terrace-the ``roomje''-where the families would congregate in the evening. Now, he notes sadly, the lands are unplanted, the village depopulated, and the remaining members of the family live and work in Beirut, visiting the village only in the summer. Jean's father, Rachid, continues the narrative, and describes the terrible conditions during WWI. His family was starving, desperate relatives stole from one another, and an epidemic of Spanish flu killed many. Two generations of women then take up the story; Rachid's sister-in-law, Mayme, and her daughter, Camille, who later married Jean. Mayme recalls how she had taken her two daughters to America to join her husband, and returned to Lebanon with him only when he was dying. Camille remembers the early hardships, and a happier life in America, punctuated by a brief return to the old country-an experience she found stifling- and her marriage to Jean. Abinader describes the countryside lyrically; and the personal stories, if sometimes rambling and incomplete, do engage. A readable book, then, about a less familiar immigration experience and a timely locale. Read full book review >