Saturday, November 7, 2015

Torn From Today's Headlines, Author, Jonah Pierce, Takes Readers Inside Syria To Meet Anissa...

Dedication –––––––– 
To the people of Syria. The world let you down.

“This follows the disturbing pattern that we have seen from the State Department of ignoring the particular targeting of Christians by ISIS, while giving preferential treatment for asylum to other groups with expedited processing — like Somalis, Iraqis, and Syrians, some of whom could very well be members of jihadist movements.”

A shootout ensued and part of me felt too resigned to fate to move – almost as if a preordained defeat had left me stuck to the sofa, waiting to die from a bullet or a knife-wielding Islamist. But then the impassioned words spoken by my father not even an hour ago bellowed through my mind: “... you can do far more for us from America than you can from here, where you’re just another defenseless Christian.” I had to survive this nightmare, I told myself. I somehow had to make a difference, from a position of power and strength – not like this. I realized that I had to flee, however I could, in whatever minutes of fighting remained. I dropped to the floor, getting on my hands and knees to stay below the gunfire, as I scrambled further into our house, until I reached the corner, where I turned left towards the stairs. With the sound of fighting and shots still raging on the other side of the wall now protecting me, I stood and sprinted up the stairs as fast as I could to my room, until I reached my bags.

Anissa of Syria:
 A Christian Refugee’s Saga From
  the Syrian War To the American Dream

By Jonah Pierce

Used to provide illustrative example...not a part of this book...

No matter what you might have read in the newspapers or seen on television, I have found that authors who have researched a topic and created a story to present all issues is the most effective manner for me to gain insight into the realities faced by men, women, and children around the world. We all have already formed strong feelings about what ISIS is doing... but when one single individual, and/or her family become real to us, the impact reaches each reader in a uniquely personal manner as we become concerned with those met in fiction. However, the refugee situation is the present...this brings an overpowering influence that forces, yes, forces, a reaction!

Anissa's father was a doctor; and mother, a pharmacist until the danger demanded that they consider relocating. What they chose was to send their children to relatives... Anissa, alone, was going to be sent to America. But right before she was scheduled to fly out, trouble had arisen and it was arranged to have their neighbor drive Anissa to the airport...

So it was that this young girl, at age 16, had barely escaped, her family having been killed and she was forced to either live with what had happened, or accept a different reality. She did the latter--each night she would go through the ritual of talking to herself, begging her parents not to get in the car, where they were killed... She was lying to herself, every night, trying to prevent the devastating nightmares she'd been having of the reality that had actually happened...

Sometimes emotional survival means deceiving everyone – including yourself. And ever since that infernal night, on January 18, 2012, I’ve been trying to lie to myself by pretending that certain things didn’t happen – because sometimes it’s the only way for me to stay sane. So I don’t know if I’ll ever tell you those details. With God’s mercy, maybe I’ll finally believe the falsehoods that I recite to myself every night in bed, in the hope that I can, at last, sleep with some solace. And if that happens, then even you, My Dearest, will never know those details, because the lies of my imagination will be all that I can remember.

The book is written as a diary, so that Anissa captures her thoughts, as was 
suggested by her therapist--her relatives had realized that she needed to have counseling after leaving Syria. [So the "My Dearest," is her choice of salutation as she begins each diary entry.]

I must admit that, after arriving in America to live with her relatives, I expected to learn more about that family. Instead the author chose to immediately place her into our American setting. Anissa had been her father's choice to send to America because of her intelligence and drive in her educational requirements, as well as her interest in helping Christians remaining in Syria.

Thus Anissa was almost immediately moving onto campus and beginning her college education--thrown quite inexperienced into the routine of college life. For most of the time, she would spend all of her time studying.

Anissa had met Michael on line and immediately developed a crush on this vibrant man who was actively working to help the refugees in Syria, while dreaming of a future where Christians could be safe in the Mid-East...

I had mixed feelings on what began to happen; however--with a forewarning for those who don't like books leaving you right smack in the middle of a dramatic setting--but, when I was left hanging, I was happy to be able to immediately learn that the sequel was already published... So expect my review on that book soon!

On a personal note, I have to share that my mind hearkened back to a book I reviewed last month, No Other choice by Paula Rose Michelson, when it was those of the Christian faith who were persecuting Jews in Spain. This was an historical novel, but the circumstances were the same. How can the world continue when group after group attacks others on the basis of religion? How can force, violence be the basis of demanding conversion to another religion? To me, it is only through the demonstration of that faith in action, not in violence, that could ever possibly be effective...but I digress... Except to say that it is my belief that history has continuously proven that the demand for conversion into another's religion has never proven effective.

That does not downgrade, however, the impact of this book as I watched a naive Syrian refugee fall immediately into contemporary college campus protective motherly instincts wanted to be her adviser in dealing with what she was facing... We know the reality of the refugees is very much today's news... Considering the after-lives of those who move to other countries, especially America, was, to me, a heartbreaking eye-opener...

Perhaps a must-read for many of you who are concerned about what is happening in Syria...and ISIS...?

Please note that this book and its sequel is also available under a different title and different name...the books I am reading center on the actual relocations of family, while the other, by Zack Love, emphasizes the relationships with Anissa's two admirers...Choose the one you prefer...G or Romance ratings...

Free thinkers don't
  charge for advice...

Jonah Pierce graduated from Harvard College, where he studied mostly literature, psychology, philosophy, and film. After college, his first job brought him to New York City, where he was working during the attacks of September 11 – an event that profoundly marked him and deepened his interest in global affairs and the Middle East. Almost fifteen years later, Jonah was moved by headlines about the tragedy in Syria and the threat of ISIS, and wondered how these developments might feel from the perspective of a Syrian refugee. He began to envision a young Syrian woman fleeing fear, violence, and tragic loss, and finding a new life in the United States. Thus was the character of Anissa Toma born, and The Love of Antioch series recounts her saga.