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The Clothesline Swing

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  424 ratings  ·  120 reviews
Winner of the Canadian Authors Association's Fred Kerner Award for Best Overall Fiction Book.
Winner of Independent Publisher Gold Medal - LGBT Fiction
Finalist for the Lambda Literary Award - Gay Fiction - 2018.
Shortlisted for The OLA's Evergreen Award - 2018
Longlisted for Canada Reads - 2018
Top Ten Books in 2017 by Toronto Star
Best 100 Books by The Globe and Mail.

Paperback, 288 pages
Published June 10th 2017 by Nightwood Editions
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Average rating 3.91  · 
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Jul 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
5 enthusiastic stars for this outstanding debut novel. I dont know what sort of alchemy brought this small-press novel to the shelves of my local library, nor do I understand the lucky chance that made me pick it up and read the description, but I feel absolutely blessed that it fell into my hands. I knew I would love it from its very first line, "The sweetest kisses are the ones we share in forbidden places."

This novel is a beautiful look into what it means to be a refugee on so many levels
Andrew Smith
Sep 27, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: indigo-press
When Hakawati told his father he was gay the reaction was extreme. Well, this was mid 20th Century Damascus so the backlash was, perhaps, predictable. We learn that in time Hakawati escaped the country of his birth with his lover and they eventually found their way to Canada. We catch up with them when they are in their eighties and are preparing for the end of their lives. There are, essentially, three characters here: Hakawati, his lover (who is gravely ill) and Death, who lingers in the ...more
A heartbreakingly beautiful story (apparently a fictionalized account of parts of the author's life) of a gay man living as a Syrian refugee in Vancouver. The format of "Tell me a story" works as well as it does for scheherazade: I eagerly listened to each and waited impatiently for the next.

Ramadan tells the story of a lost country, lost to dictators and war, the beauty of a city (Damascus) turned into rubble. Against this political story, is also the story of the struggle for acceptance as a
A poetic, elegiac first novel about an elderly gay Syrian man looking back on his life and telling stories while his partner is dying. The timeless, fairy tale feel of the stories he tells particularly reminded me of Helen Oyeyemi. Although dark at times (content includes suicide, mental illness, gay-bashing, sexual assault), the book is ultimately life-affirming as well as healing, for both the author and readers. Full review on my blog!

I can't imagine that Ahmad Danny Ramadan has never heard about Rabih Alameddine. Very spontaneously, I would say that the works of Rabih Alameddine inspired Ahmad Danny Ramadan for his very touching debut novel.

Beautifully written, heart-wrenching novel, an emotional mosaic out of memory fragments, a lyrical and very evocative prose.
Jan 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018
Tell me a story, please.....

This is a continuous echo in this 'story'. Our unnamed narrator's companion continuously asks him to tell him a story, and another one and another one. Because the stories create a tangible link between them, it staves of pain, fear, anger, gives them time to rest, to heal and also to know each other more intimately. Because each story is really made up of what the story teller tells you and how you hear it (or read it in our case), our own personal filter matters.
Mathis Bailey
Dec 10, 2017 rated it liked it

This reads like a collection of short stories, which was unexpected. I felt the narration jumped around a lot ...going back and forth in time, told by different characters. It was confusing for the most part. But I soldiered on and thought it was okay.

This was one of those books you can't fly through, or you'll miss everything. I don't think his writing style is for me. However, the prose is stunning. Every line was done with finesse. It read like poetry. It was just the structure I couldn't
Ella Gordon-Khen
Beautifully written and deeply moving story of love and war and fairy tales in modern Syria and future Canada.
Also, the hero is a fellow geek, which made me love him even more.
Every once in a while a book comes along that feels so personal, that the authour has laid so much bare, the it's beyond review; that was my experience with this book. In reading The Clothesline Swing, I couldn't help but feel that I was taking a peek into Ahmad Danny Ramadan's life in Syria that was never meant to be for me, but that he felt compelled to share. I don't know how much of this book is true or what was embellished, but it's clear that these stories were inspired by truths: in his ...more
Trevor Meehan
Jul 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book brings a completely different kind of perspective on the life of refugees. As a Canadian living among other Canadians with protectionist opinions about the recent influx of refugees, this book granted the idea that no one truly wants to leave their homes.

This book creates a whole new intimacy on the difficulties in the Middle East, forbidden and accepted love and the idea of home. We have to remember that as grateful as someone is to get away from war, that was still their home, and
Oct 20, 2017 rated it it was ok
This is a solidly-written book and the author's writing is beautiful in many parts. I felt the overall feel of the book was disjointed regardless of the multiple story construct. I would have appreciated a stronger unifying apparatus. The stories and the book need a build up and then a climax.

I did appreciate the settings of Syria, Lebanon and Egypt and the times in which the stories occurred. These were compelling.
Jul 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I read The Clothesline Swing in its entirety over the course of a weekend after it arrived last month. I should say devoured, really. At first I thought that I was consuming the book and then about halfway through I realized that the narrative was consuming me. The story is riveting. The narrative is enthralling. The style is undeniably brilliant and the voice of the narrator is unique, haunting. It made me weep and laugh out loud.

I have a lot of undigested feelings and thoughts still, but Mr.
שי סנדיק
May 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This novel has captivated my soul from its first line. It took me on an emotional journey to the world of Hakwati and his lover, made me an uninvited guest in their Vancouver residence and in their path of struggle, hope and love in Syria, Egypt and Lebanon all the way to Canada. Ramadan does not only tell us about his characters' life, he takes us there, immereses us in moments of beauty and ugliness, of compassion and hatred, of faith and despair in the human spirit.
The writing is stellar and
Mofi Badmos
Feb 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
From the first few pages of reading this, i thought to myself "I have never read anything like this before". Danny Ramadan's style of writing is so unique and poetic. This novel transcends time, space, and mortality while being so intimate. I felt a strong connection while reading. This is a book that I'll forever cherish.
Nevet Tachnai
Dec 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Ahmad Danny Ramadan opens the novel by dedicating it to the children in Damascus. He tells them that this is what he does with his pain and asks what about their pain.
As can be expected, the novel is about longing, nostalgia and loss, which the writer purifies, chapter after chapter, into a single emotion: love.
The plot revolves around the life of Al-Hakawati the story teller, a broken young man from a broken family who lives in Damascus while the city is torn apart, changes before his eyes
Lisa Gunn
Apr 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I devoured this book in a matter of days, which is rare for me. This book is one of the most beautifully written books I have ever read. The stories and relationships in this book are magical and heart-wrenching and eye-opening. It is a timely read that I cannot recommend enough, as it offers insight into worlds often overlooked, ignored, and wrongly stereotyped. I'm honestly surprised I only cried at the end, and in part it was because I didn't want it to be over (although there were multiple ...more
Jun 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
Danny Ramadans lyric tales affected me like few books ever have. His stories are poignant, anguished, nostalgic, and resilient. Death is always in the room, but seems to have met his match in a storyteller who faces the ravages of war in Syria, exile, homophobia and aging. The Clothesline Swing is beautifully told by a young author who is writing in his second language (I love that Danny puts a new and amusing twist on certain familiar phrases). As an older gay man who has experienced ostracism ...more
Jan 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018
Why I read it:
Our local library does a great job of pulling visitors into books with intriguing displays. I hadn't heard of this book, but saw it standing separately from the rest of the collection. I think it was the author bio on the back page that made me sign it out: "Ahmad Danny Ramadan's personal experience as a Syrian refugee and advocate has made him passionate about volunteerism, democracy, social justice and LGBTQ refugees' rights. He has previously authored two collections of short
Ansam Zedan
Jan 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A heartbreaking trip into reality, this book simply took me to a journey of childhood, war and love.
Every stage of my life feels like the story of a different man, each one a man I don't know well...anymore. p27 Our world is in a constant state of ending. p259

Exquisitely written, there is a gentleness in ADR that leavens the grief that nostalgia can summon, whether for the interrupted past or the future that was diverted from its path. From the old city in Damascus to the sea wall on the west Coast of Canada, he retains his integrity and curiosity in this semi-fictitious odyssey of love.

May 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
The plight of refugees fleeing conflicts in one Mid-East country, then another, then another til they find safety in a new home could be depressing but this story is never that. The stories Hakawati tell his lover to comfort him and keep the character Death at bay are incredibly moving; made even more so by his own doubts about what he feels for his dying partner. I couldn't help but be moved by the fact that the narrator lived his life most and to the fullest in what was a dying country; and as ...more
When a book can cause you to recognize parts of yourself and have you reflect on your own life in a unique way, that to me is the mark of a beautiful book with a talented writer behind it.

You're a great story teller Mr. Ramadan. I do so enjoy story tellers. There's an amazing 'balance' of heartache and LOVE in your stories. Very well done indeed!!

You know that satisfied feeling you get after a delicious meal of your favorite foods ... how it makes you want to curl up all comfy and cozy on the
Jun 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
4 1/2 ⭐ This story, made of many stories, was beautiful, inspiring & heartbreaking. ...more
May 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019
An elderly man who came to Vancouver with his partner as refugees from Syria many years ago in 2012 tells his partner stories from their pasts to keep Death from taking him. Like Scherezade. Beautiful. Often quite poetic. Very moving. The stories ring very true, though Im sure this isnt autobiography - more of a composite perhaps of different peoples experiences with relationships, sexual identity, and asylum seeking. A great novel with characters who feel knowable and relatable. ...more
Abbie Sage
Jul 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
this is a perfect novel
Sophie Tanny
Mar 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
The Clothesline Swing is a long beautiful poem, that looks like a novel. In it, there is a storyteller who tells his dying lover stories of love and war and childhood in modern day Syria. Through his eyes one can imagine what it's like to be a child in today's Syria, what it's like to be a gay man there.
But mostly it's a story about love and death. I read it slowly, like a poem. I did not want it to end, but unfortunately it did.

Another note: I read the Hebrew translation of the book, expertly
Dinosaur Sky
Oct 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: lgbtq, poc, fiction
We might have mice in the cupboards or spiders in the closet or even gremlins in the laundry basket but rarely do we have Death at our dinner table. Hakawati does.

Through Hakawati, the Syrian-born narrator, we learn stories never stand alone. Through memories and experiences, they are born. "The Clothesline Swing" is a layering of story upon story upon story, all mingled with memories good and bad. It is a multitudinous story of immigration, human rights, war, mental illness, memories,
Dec 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Joyfully Jay
Nov 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: camille
A Joyfully Jay review.

4.5 stars

Hakawati and his lover are like the prefix and suffix and infix of every chapter, yet I think we only hear the lovers name once. And Hakawati always appears in italicswhich indicates to my inner linguist that its not necessarily a proper name, but maybe an epithet?

For all that it is a mishmash of events retold by Hakawati, The Clothesline Swing does not feel erratic, but more like a slow journey of discovery. And for me, this was an incredibly slow read. The plot
May 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
The Hakawati serves a vital purpose for humanity. S/he brings forth light through story to birth new awareness.

As reader, it is a mistake to use a story to psycho-analyze its author. If you do this, youve missed the point entirely. Yet, I see it time and time again the response of readers trying to understand the writer or feel for the writer as if to say: Thank God Im not you! Because they cannot imagine where this story comes from. (Thus the old adage that truth is stranger than fiction.) But
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GOOD REVIEWS: Kindly Review this gay Syrian Refugee debut novel 1 10 Aug 24, 2017 09:02AM  

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Danny Ramadan (also known as Ahmad Danny Ramadan) is a Syrian-Canadian author, public speaker, storyteller and an LGBTQ-refugee activist. His English debut novel, The Clothesline Swing, continues to receive raving reviews.

The book is positively reviewed by Quill and Quire, Vancouver Sun, Georgia Straight, Globe and Mail among other publications. Released in May 2017, The Clothesline Swing was

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