The Scent of Jasmine
Coming of Age in Jerusalem and Damascus
published 2017 • 6" x 9" • 224 pages
ISBN 9781566560016 • paperback • $20.00 •
JOURNEY TO A WORLD LITTLE KNOWN TO WESTERN READERS
Palestinian sociologist and activist Anan Ameri weaves her sometimes poignant, sometimes funny personal experiences with the historical, political, and social changes that dominated the region in which she lived during the first thirty years of her life.
This memoir comprises twenty-three stories that take place in various Arab cities. It starts with a few vignettes about the displacement of Anan’s family during the 1948 Nakba (“Disaster”) and her constant movement from West Jerusalem, to Damascus, to East Jerusalem, to finally settling in Amman, Jordan. The book contrasts the instability of moving from place to place with the security, fun, and luxury offered by her mother’s large, wealthy Damascene family. It also takes the reader into the life of an elegant Damascene home, with all its elitist traditions, powerful women, as well as the intrigue of its many secrets and rumors.
The later stories focus on the author’s gradual coming of age during 1950s and 1960s—an era of Arab nationalism and international solidarity. Readers will venture with Anan to Amman, the capital of Jordan; to Cairo, the political and cultural capital of the Arab world; and finally to Beirut, the new home to the Palestinian Liberation movement.
Anan Ameri’s experiences reflect the evolving of post-colonial Arab societies of her time, and the contradictory world around her. The result is a compelling and unforgettable memoir.
Dr. Anan Ameri, author and activist, is the founding Director of the Palestine Aid Society of America and the Arab American National Museum. She currently resides in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Praise for The Scent of Jasmine
“This book is a celebration of the Palestinian quotidian, and Anan Ameri’s dialogic storytelling conjures up a theater of voices from her past, vividly bringing to life the lived experience of the making of a Palestinian woman. Moving back and forth, ever so beguilingly, between different times and places, she spins a cohesive yarn of family life in the fragmented Middle East, a life that starts with little Anan watching the birth of a baby goat and, years later, watching and mourning the crushed Arab Spring. A keen-eyed storyteller, and a reflective reader of Palestinian realities, Anan Ameri has written a nuanced, thoughtful, and animated Palestinian chronicle.”—Anton Shammas, University of Michigan
“I love this brilliant book. Dr Ameri, a master storyteller, humanizes the Syrian and Palestinian people, revealing her deep attachment to land and family. Given today's political climate, it is refreshing to read such beautifully written personal stories that illuminate hearts and minds.”—Jack G Shaheen, author of Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People
“Powerfully understated and elegantly written, Ameri’s unusual memoir invites us to experience episodes from her life, which inform us of the tumult of modern Arab history and enduring cultural traditions. Ameri enchants us with witty, subtle humor about Arab customs in her coming of age years. By contrast, she also pens with documentary honesty an indictment of the evolution of Arab state duplicity. Her sadness and sense of betrayal are depicted by events surrounding what was to be her distinguished father’s public memorial service. Her life spanned post-colonial history from the loss of Palestine, to refugee upheaval, to the dissolution of liberalism in Arab countries, to the death of the Arab hope, Egypt’s Nasser, to the perfidy of Arab rulers, and most importantly, to the unfulfilled dream for justice for Palestine and Palestinians. Her memoir is unique in that the worsening political crises through which she lived are exposed through ordinary stages in her life. The crises are not in the forefront of her vignettes, but they are powerfully present as part of her lived life. The volume is slim, but what it conveys is immense. Read it; you will learn more from it than from political tomes.”—Elaine C. Hagopian, Professor Emerita of Sociology, Simmons College
“Anan Ameri weaves together a colorful fabric of memories that capture how a young girl becomes a woman. Obtaining an education as well as being independent within her culture is at the center of The Scent of Jasmine. Ameri reminds us that privilege is no protection against war. Who we become is shaped by love and loss. A home is never destroyed as long as the heart survives. The bright gift of memory is what Anan Ameri shares with her readers. Let’s us cherish the tales of her time in Syria, Jordan and Lebanon. There is much to learn from this woman's life.”—E. Ethelbert Miller, literary activist and host of ON THE MARGIN (WPFW-FM) in Washington DC
“Ameri pens a delightful coming-of-age story in a tumultuous Middle East during the heady days of Arab nationalism. She captures the innocence and vulnerability of a Cairo and Beirut. We witness the growth of a defiant, independent young adult as Ameri immerses herself in activism, leaves home for college, experiences her first love and her first job. You’ll want to spend summers, holidays, and Tuesday nights at Beit Jido’s. Get ready to rethink what you thought it was like to grow up in the Arab world in the 1950s and 1960s.”—Evelyn Alsultany, Director of Arab and Muslim American Studies, University of Michigan and author of Arabs and Muslims in the Media: Race and Representation after 9/11
“With flair and humor, The Scent of Jasmine invites readers into intimate worlds where struggles with displacement and war are interlaced with the pains and joys of family, friendship, and community. This beautiful memoir is a must read that provokes readers to laugh and cry and to urgently rethink reductive portrayals of Arab women.”—Nadine Naber, Associate Professor, University of Illinois, Chicago and author of Arab America
“Anan Ameri’s stories are exquisite gems of humanity—her gentle, direct touch even when describing scenes of complication, confusion, or conflict—are filled with bright insight, detail, and care. I wish my father were still alive so he could read this book. Everyone should read it!”—Naomi Shihab Nye, poet, song writer, and novelist
“In the course of 23 vignettes spanning three decades The Scent of Jasmine: Coming of Age in Jerusalem and Damascus describes life as it had been from the early fifties to the mid 1970s in three major cities: Amman, Damascus and Jerusalem. Anan Ameri’s extraordinary rich life is described in lively and engaging prose. Her free rebellious spirit permeates these pages providing the reader with a Kaleidoscopic expose of life in these cities. Whether it is through running away from school to take part in political demonstrations or through the travails of her political father, Ameri succeeds in describing the political landscape of wars, political and social turmoil at crucial junctures in the history of the Middle East region. The book is a real pleasure to read.” —Raja Shehadeh, author, lawyer, activist, and founder of the Palestinian human rights organization Al Haq
“An endearing and intimate autobiography of coming of age during the era of Arab nationalism in the 50s and 60s and the radicalism of the 1970s. Ameri has succeeded in capturing a precious moment in her engaged life in Amman, Damascus, Cairo, and Beirut before the ensuing collapse.”—Salim Tamari, research associate at the Institute for Palestine Studies, Ramallah and author of The Remaking of Palestine and the Great War
Olive Branch Press
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