July 28, 2012
Jasmine and Fire: A Bittersweet Year in Beirut by Salma Abdelnour
I've never really thought about Beirut, or even Lebanon much before. Sure I can point to them on a map and I know a little bit, but it's one of the areas of the world that never really captured my attention. I now think that should change, and thanks to this book, I know a little more.
Salma was born in the United States, but with her parents, moved to Lebanon at a very early age. Then, when civil unrest made it dangerous to stay, her parents moved she and her brother back to the United States, to Texas. But she's always felt the longing for Beirut and decides to move back there for a year. Luckily her career as a journalist and writer allows her to do so, even though she'll have to leave behind a relationship to uncertainty and find her way around a city that hasn't been her home in awhile. But as she stays she meets with friends and family, learns about the political unrest and problems the city still has, and samples amazing food.
There is a lot of people to keep track of in this book. Salma is easy enough, since she's the writer, but I never feel as if I'm really getting to know her outside of her relationship woes. Her other feelings just seem to take a back burner. There's a little there, but not as much as I thought there would be. The rest of the people are her friends and relatives and there was just so many that I couldn't keep track of who was who or really gain interest in any of them.
What did capture my interest in this book was the descriptions of the food. I could feel my stomach rumbling as I read and the only thing in my city is a Greek restaurant, which was not nearly the same but the closest I could get. (Yes I did take a break from reading and went to get some food). Everything just sounded so delicious and Salma did a great job describing the different Lebanese dishes. She even included some recipes at the end. I also like the way she touched on the social and religious problems in Beirut. It was enough to make you realize that there are still problems with it, but it wasn't a predominant thing in the book. Which made the book more of an enjoyable read rather than a political one.
An enjoyable read. It made me want to visit Beirut and explore (and eat the food), but I also learned a lot more than I would have expected to about Lebanon.
Jasmine and Fire