Summary and book reviews of The Pianist from Syria by Aeham Ahmad

The Pianist from Syria

A Memoir

by Aeham Ahmad

The Pianist from Syria by Aeham Ahmad X
The Pianist from Syria by Aeham Ahmad
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  • Published:
    Feb 2019, 288 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs
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Book Summary

An astonishing but true account of a pianist's escape from war-torn Syria to Germany offers a deeply personal perspective on the most devastating refugee crisis of this century.

Aeham Ahmad was born a second-generation refugee - the son of a blind violinist and carpenter who recognized Aeham's talent and taught him how to play piano and love music from an early age.

When his grandparents and father were forced to flee Israel and seek refuge from the Israeli–Palestinian conflict ravaging their home, Aeham's family built a life in Yarmouk, an unofficial camp to more than 160,000 Palestinian refugees in Damascus. They raised a new generation in Syria while waiting for the conflict to be resolved so they could return to their homeland. Instead, another fight overtook their asylum. Their only haven was in music and in each other.

Forced to leave his family behind, Aeham sought out a safe place for them to call home and build a better life, taking solace in the indestructible bond between fathers and sons to keep moving forward. Heart-wrenching yet ultimately full of hope, and told in a raw and poignant voice, The Pianist from Syria is a gripping portrait of one man's search for a peaceful life for his family and of a country being torn apart as the world watches in horror.

PROLOGUE

A photo can never really tell you what happened before or what came after. Like that picture of me sitting at a piano, singing a song amid the rubble of my neighborhood. It was reprinted by newspapers all over the world, and some people said it's one of the photos that will help us remember the Syrian Civil War. An image larger than war. But when I think back to that moment, I think of another image, superimposed on all the rest, an image of three birds.

That morning before daybreak I had gone out for water, together with my friends Marwan and Raed. Getting water was backbreaking work. We had to rise early and push a 260-gallon tank on a cart to one of the last working pipes in the neighborhood, then fill up the tank and push it back home.

We lived in Yarmouk, a suburb of Damascus. The armies of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad had cut us off from the rest of the world. We had no water, no electricity, no bread, no rice. By that time, more than a hundred people had died of ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

By far one of the best memoirs I've read, The Pianist from Syria is relevant and timely, a story specific to Ahmad and his family while at the same time raising awareness of what must be an experience shared by many refugees from war-torn areas. I highly recommend it for anyone seeking a better understanding of the refugee experience in general and the Syrian conflict in particular. It would also be an excellent book group selection.   (Reviewed by Kim Kovacs).

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Media Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
Well-rendered and affecting, this is a fine delineation of the plight of an unwitting protagonist in the Syrian conflagration.

Booklist
A unique and affecting viewpoint on life in Syria before and in the midst of extreme violence.

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. A deeply moving account of one man's struggle to survive while bringing hope to thousands through his music.

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Beyond the Book

The Oud

OudIn previous "beyond the book" articles we've looked at different aspects of contemporary Syria - such as its culture and the refugee crisis. Now, we take a look at its music through a close up look at one of the Muslim world's most popular instruments.

Aeham Ahmad, author of The Pianist from Syria, owned a music store with his father that, among other endeavors, manufactured and sold musical instruments, the most important and profitable of which was a lute-like instrument called an oud.

In Arabic, the name "al oud" literally means "the wood," and may refer to the thin strips of wood that are glued together to make the instrument's gourd-like back. The name may also have served to differentiate it from earlier musical instruments ...

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