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Jasmine and Fire: A Bittersweet Year in Beirut

3.35  ·  Rating Details ·  324 Ratings  ·  92 Reviews
As Beirut exploded with the bombs and violence of a ruthless civil war in the ’80s, a nine-year-old Salma Abdelnour and her family fled Lebanon to start a new life in the States. Ever since then— even as she built a thriving career as a food and travel writer in New York City—Salma has had a hunch that Beirut was still her home.  She kept dreaming of moving back—and finall ...more
Kindle Edition, 336 pages
Published June 1st 2012 by HarperCollins (first published May 8th 2012)
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Julie Davis
May 03, 2012 Julie Davis rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This is an Amazon Vine book.

What a mish-mash.

I read to page 130 before this book solidified my thinking about bloggers who write books. They usually need to be very carefully edited and that doesn't happen enough of the time.

Too much description for every single thing from having coffee to walking down the street to going out at night. Description is welcome in a memoir/travelogue, to be sure, but not when everything mentioned explodes adjectives, including some that the author has made up such
Jun 17, 2012 Lizzie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: foodies and no one else.
I got about halfway through Jasmine and Fire before I decided that I just couldn't take it anymore. I don't permanently abandon books often. Here's why I abandoned this one:

1) Abdelnour starts off the introduction in past tense - this is considered normal and appropriate for a memoir. The actual story itself is told in present tense. I simply couldn't handle this, because...

2) ...NOTHING HAPPENS. I'm halfway through the freaking book and all she's done (I'm sorry, this is present tense - all she

At first I wasn't sure I was going to like this because the author did a bit too much hemming and hawing at the outset, about where she wanted to be and whether her relationship with her boyfriend could be sustained long-distance. but once she got to Beirut, I got totally caught up in her narrative. She is a travel and food writer and those passages of her memoir--descriptions of her walks around Beirut and short trips to other parts of Lebanon, not to mention her descriptions of FOOD--are wher
For anyone who's uprooted themselves and moved to another city or another country, this book will resonate because it handles the primary issue we'd all face about where we consider 'Home'. How long does one need to live in a place before we feel at home in it and not an outsider? Does one need to be born in a place? Does one need to have family around before it's considered home?

This is a memoir of the year the author spent in Beirut, the city in which she was born and from which she and her fa
Wellllll. I muddled through this book, and it took me almost a month to read after receiving it from Goodreads Giveaways. It wasn't a terrible book, but it certainly wasn't a good book.

I enjoyed it for the first quarter of the book. Salma is trying to discover what it means to be at home, by living in Beirut for a year (where she was born), after growing up in the States for most of her life. She balances her personal feelings, family, tourism, relationships, friendships, albeit perhaps not well
Richard Gazala
Jun 05, 2012 Richard Gazala rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Home is where your heart is, so the old saying goes. But what if, by virtue of fate and war, your heart is divided between a pair of cities in countries separated by oceans, continents and cultures? This is the question author Salma Abdelnour ponders with absorbing style and wistful grace in her new book, "Jasmine and Fire: A Bittersweet Year in Beirut."

Born in the States to Lebanese parents, then raised while young in Beirut before civil war forced her family to return to America, Abdelnour alw
Jun 20, 2012 Dawn rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-won
"Jasmine and Fire" was not the fast paced read that I anticipated. Weighing it at only 302 pages, I planned on quickly moving the book from my to-be-read stack. Unfortunately for my time table, that did not happen as the book is best enjoyed in smaller bites. The writer shares way too much on the everydayness of her time in Beruit; my interest increased when she related the atmosphere during the Arab Spring. But, the writing quickly turned back to musings over her food. The goal of Abdelnour's y ...more
This is part of my "238 books in 238 days"-challenge. You can follow my progress here.

It is difficult for me to try and review this objectively, because I was looking for a different kind of book. I wanted the author to discover her love for Lebanon, and then stay there and show the reader all the different sides of this fascinating country. Which is not a good assumption to make, because ultimately this is her life and not mine. And indeed, basically from the first page this turne
Virginia Campbell
Jul 08, 2012 Virginia Campbell rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: autobiography
I find myself in my middle age eager to learn about other cultures--the people, the food, the everydayness and also the history. "Jasmine and Fire: A Bittersweet Year in Beirut" was of particular interest to me because the author, Salma Abdelnour, is a very well-regarded food writer and editor. Her knowledge of subject and her rediscovered ties to her home city of Beirut, Lebanon, along with wonderful food passages make this book a pleasure for foodies like me. Bravely deciding to return to Beir ...more
May 28, 2012 Jaylia3 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Salma Abdelnour is a travel and food writer so this memoir of her year back in Beirut is full of the sights, smells and tastes of this cosmopolitan city on the Mediterranean Sea. Beirut was her childhood home, but her family left during the civil war, and though she'd grown to love her life in America she still sometimes feels like an outsider there. Much of the memoir is a meditation on what home is, and Abdelnour wonders if she can feel at home again in the city she's longed for since she was ...more
Shirine Coury
May 04, 2012 Shirine Coury rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've been interested lately in reading more personal perspectives on life in the modern Middle East, even though I usually don't read memoirs much. This book comes as a much needed and very pleasant surprise.
Salma Abdelnour writes a poignant and sensitive account of her quest for home. Her reflections touch many of us who struggle with understanding the multicultural and diverse landscape we now live in.
Jasmine and Fire offers a vibrant, intelligently written narrative of this Lebanese-American
I was eager to be transported away and learn about Lebanon. I learned that the author eats pastries, lamb and chickpeas and goes to nightclubs with a plethora of relatives and just-met friends. Endless names, pastry crumbs and moaning about home and a difficult boyfriend. Too bad, Lebanon deserves more than food, strangers (to me), and awkwardly placed research about sites.
Kayla Jerome
Jun 12, 2012 Kayla Jerome rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This harrowing memoir had me on the edge of my seat. As someone who reads a variety of books -- many of them primarily about life in the Middle East -- the take on the conflict in Beirut had me riveted. The reflections that come towards the end of the book are my favorite part, by far. A strong work about a difficult time in Middle Eastern politics -- and life.
Oct 08, 2016 Tonya rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Three and a half stars. My brother was born in Beirut and left as a baby during the winter of 1981 - the beginning of the Lebanese civil war. Over the years, he has expressed a desire to return to Lebanon - to know it and about it. I, on the other hand, must admit, that I haven't ever really considered Lebanon until recently. I studied the politics and history of the region in college and everyone follows the news about the various events in the Middle East. Earlier this year I read Rabih Alamed ...more
May 01, 2014 Dewlanna rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014, autobiography
I'm a bit sad about this book. It could and should have been really good.

Why did I add it to my TBR list? I don't really remember but I suppose it had to do with the "What is home?" question the author tries to answer with this book. Having moved around a lot during the last years, both within my country and abroad, I can totally relate to this interrogation.
And as an icing on the cake, this book promised an interesting insight into the Lebanon country and culture.

Well I'm sorry to say that th
Lisa Barbour
There was no true insight regarding her return to Lebanon and after a while, I really didn't care if she stayed or returned to the US. Her insecurities were annoying.
Stephanie Moran
Book 4 of my Library Biography challenge.

I have mixed feelings about this book. I appreciate the idea of what the author was going for - taking a year of moving to her homeland, Beirut, Lebanon and recording her time spent there to decide whether she will move there full time or move back to the States. This account wasn't horrible, but there were some strange spots - sometimes the topics were choppy.

My problems with the book was mainly the way it was structured - I understand she was presentin
Jan 06, 2017 Cathie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed the writing, learning more about Lebanon, and the descriptions of (& recipes for) food. I found the ongoing debate of stay/go & where home is a little tiresome.
I enjoyed the book but it was too long. Also, she made such a point of including her Jewish boyfriend in the story so I was waiting to see how the relationship ended. She never told us. If one is interested in foods from the area, she talked a lot about food and included recipes in the back of the book. As I said, I enjoyed the book, but it took a lot of persistence for me to finish it.
Jun 04, 2012 Sara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads, memoir, 2012
3.5 stars. This memoir follows the author's experience moving from New York City to Beirut, Lebanon, for a year. She had fond memories of her childhood in Beirut, and since nothing was holding her back, she headed there again as an adult to see whether it still felt like "home" to her. There, she becomes reacquainted with her Lebanese relatives and friends, explores the country, debates the meaning of "home", eats lots of food, experiences some of the "Arab Spring" firsthand, and tries to figure ...more
Jun 07, 2012 Lora rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
**I received this in a Goodreads Giveaway**

I wanted to like this book. I love traveling and hearing about other countries. I even love food. Sadly, I didn't really enjoy this book, it took me two years to finally finish it. Part of the reason was, I thought this book would be more of a storytelling, than a travel and food guide with a running inner monologue. I also thought it would have funny bits to break up all the heaviness, but this book was dry as a bone. At first I found the constant deta
Jasmine and Fire: A Bittersweet Year in Beirut by Salma Abdelnour was a disappointment to me. At first, I loved learning about the different food of Lebanon, and her experiences but as the book went on, I felt that her idea for a book was too thin.

Salma was born in the United States but her early childhood was spent in Beirut. At the time that the family decided to flee the capital because of the bombings and unrest in 1981 she begged them not to leave. She loved the feeling of Beirut, its food
Jun 18, 2012 Ashley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was really excited when I received this book from the Goodreads First Reads giveaway. The idea of the book intrigued me, a grown woman's search for the definition of home, something that I think we all wonder at some point in our lives. The other thing that drew me to this book was a desire to learn more about Lebanese culture. My husband's family came to the United States from Lebanon a few generations ago, and I have been enthralled with their history and especially their food. I love that t ...more
May 07, 2012 Camille rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
I really enjoyed this book, probably in part because I have a fascination with the middle east (and middle-east based memoirs). Prior to this book I didn't really know much about Lebanon, so I liked learning about the culture there. I feel like I have so much empathy for the people of Lebanon after reading this book.

I have to admit, some parts of the book were a little dull--I didn't particularly enjoy reading the long descriptions of the author's walks through Beirut--and especially towards th
Allison Backman
I won this book in a Good Reads giveaway and am glad that I did. It fits into one of my enjoyed literature categories of "woman-goes-to-the-Middle-East-for-a-year-and-finds-herself-while-writing-about-the-experience-in-memoir-form." So yes, in that regard, the book was a bit cookie cutter with a very neat-and-tidy ending. However, that being said, I did enjoy it for what it was. Abdelnour spends most of the book meditating on the ideas of "home" and "travel," both of which are near and dear to m ...more
Tanya Eby
Jun 04, 2012 Tanya Eby rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I won a copy of this through Goodreads and was really excited. I enjoyed the book (and LOVE that there are recipes in the back. For a foodie like me, that's a nice bonus). I think the book accomplishes a lot: it tells of a heart-felt journey, and it also challenges stereotypes readers might bring with them to the book. I loved just learning about the Middle East through her return there. I honestly thought it was a place of deserts and I never really understood how cosmopolitan it is. I loved le ...more
Daniel Lewis
May 04, 2012 Daniel Lewis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
very enjoyable to read
After I read the very positive review of Jasmine and Fire by Publishers' Weekly,I got hold of a galley of Salma Abdelnour's book and read it this week.I found it to be a moving,passionate,and a very personal story of a search for the meaning of home.not only the physical,but the deeper sense of belonging and identity.
It also gives a refreshing perspective on the complicated politics and social discourse in the area,without getting too tangled up in that aspect.Abdelnour's m
Jul 04, 2012 Johnna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Disclaimer: I received this book from the Read It Forward program at no charge.

I really enjoyed Jasmine and Fire, Salma Abdelnour is definitely a talented writer. I think she should have subtitled the book "A search for home" because the underlying theme here was definitely a search for what defines home, what leads you to a place and ultimately keeps you there. Another strong player in this memoir was the food, not surprising for a food writer. I dreamed of food last night after finishing this
Very interesting, written by a woman who was born in Beirut. Her parents decided to move her family to Houston, TX during the civil war that occurred in Beirut from 1975 to 1990. They kept their apartment, though, and came back to visit when ever they felt that it was safe. The neighborhood is in the same area as the American University. The author, Salma Abdelnour, decided to return to Beirut to live there for a year. This book is about her year there (I believe it was mid-2010 to mid- 2011. I ...more
Jun 18, 2012 Melissa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Reading Jasmine and Fire felt like an afternoon of sitting in a quiet cafe discussing a recent trip with a friend. I found myself relishing her descriptions of the foods and sites of her journey. I could almost taste the many dishes about which she wrote. Her travel writing experience comes into EXCELLENT play here.

Her emotional journey, was poignant. Again, I felt as though I were sitting with a friend, discussing her coming into her own after years of wandering about her path. I was particular
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Read It Forward: * JASMINE AND FIRE by Salma Abdelnour 3 16 Jul 23, 2012 08:21AM  
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