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Jasmine and Fire: A Bittersweet Year in Beirut

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3.38  ·  Rating details ·  430 ratings  ·  105 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 CitySalma has had a hunch that Beirut was still her home.  She kept dreaming of moving backand finally ...more
Paperback, 328 pages
Published June 5th 2012 by Broadway Books (first published May 8th 2012)
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Average rating 3.38  · 
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Julie Davis
May 03, 2012 rated it did not like it
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
...more
Diane in Australia
Jun 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
4 Stars = Outstanding. It definitely held my interest.
Lizzie
Jun 17, 2012 rated it it was ok
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
...more
Marieke


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
...more
Caroline
Jan 09, 2013 rated it liked it
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
...more
Aryn
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
...more
Richard Gazala
Jun 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
...more
Dawn
Jun 20, 2012 rated it liked it
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 ...more
Nancy Millwood
Apr 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
Much like a travellog with an emphasis on cultural foods in Beirut. There is a romance woven throughout and the decision process of the author who is making a choice where to settle. I found the cultural information and anecdotes spurred me on to read more.
Sovotchka
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
...more
Virginia Campbell
Jul 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Jaylia3
May 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Stephanie
Jan 13, 2017 rated it it was ok
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
...more
Shirine Coury
May 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
...more
Michelle
Sep 17, 2012 rated it really liked it
Lovely book--author was born and spent her childhood in Lebanon, but her family left to escape the long civil war. Now, she's continually drawn by her homeland, but also still has family and boyfriend in the US. Much of the book describes her long walks, visits with family, food, always food, and how these things affect her choice of where to live. Lyrical, passionate, and made me very hungry. Recipes included at the end. :-)
Berrendsci
Oct 19, 2012 added it
Shelves: travel
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 rated it it was amazing
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.
Lisa Barbour
Dec 20, 2016 rated it it was ok
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.
Camilla
May 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
For one year, Salma leaves New York where she has a career as a successful food journalist, a steady boyfriend, and an established life. She sublets her apartment, packs her bags, travels to Lebanon, and moves into her family's apartment in Beirut. While she's there, she explore the sites, sounds, and tastes of her childhood. She gets reacquainted with family members and childhood friends; she also vividly details her love affair with Lebanese food. And, as a food writer, her descriptions of ...more
Rebecca
Aug 10, 2019 rated it it was ok
There was too much talk about food, I should have been prepared for this, the author, is apparently a food writer, but it was too much food for me. I did love, however, the picture she painted of Beruit, the bustling crazy, social city where things dont always work as they should, but this could have been painted in one chapter, rather than many. I felt like I was reading the same thing over and over - I walked here, the street was like this, the cafe was like that, I ate so and so, I miss New ...more
Dewlanna
May 01, 2014 rated it it was ok
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
...more
CathyD
Jun 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
This was pretty entertaining. It made me eat and buy lamb and feed it to my husband and child. The main character was quite wealthy which afforded her a pretty desirable lifestyle of travel. It was nice to see someone from Texas not fitting into the perceived Texas stereotype. I enjoyed it. It's not a book that will cure cancer or launch a space shuttle but it's pleasant enough. She is a food critic so her descriptions of food made me want to branch out and try new things. Also in the age of ...more
Julie
Feb 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
What makes a place home? Memories? Friendships? Love? These are the questions the author ponders as she moves back to Beirut for a year. She wonders if it is possible to make a life there and if she will ever really feel she belongs somewhere. While re-discovering the city she shares her journey with the reader. But while deeply personal, it also gives a sense of the place, history and culture.
I learned far more about Lebanon than I had previously known. There are also some mouth watering
...more
Nancy barrett
May 26, 2017 rated it liked it
While I could feel for Abelnour and her being unsure where she should finally live and had a hard time with this book. I had to leave it at times just so I could finish it. There was way to much repetition in the story telling. Yes, she is a food writer but good grief there was way to much about the meals and not enough about the country.
Mariana
Nov 23, 2017 rated it liked it
More like 3,5* - too much repetition of some thoughts which was off-putting at times. But overall an interesting read.
Gjscollins
Aug 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018-read
This was more than 3 stars but not a hard core 4 Star so I rounded up. Loved reading about the culture in Beirut.
Mel Brannen
Nov 07, 2019 rated it it was ok
Sort of boring & plodding.
Anna Elizabeth
A bit slow to get into but a nice little insight into life in Beirut and the foods they eat there. Plus she included recipes in the back!
Jennifer
Jul 06, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Very rambling and slightly whining.
Sara
Jun 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
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Read It Forward: * JASMINE AND FIRE by Salma Abdelnour 3 16 Jul 23, 2012 08:21AM  
Goodreads Librari...: Please Combine: Jasmine and Fire 3 15 Jun 02, 2012 05:15PM  

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