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We Crossed a Bridge and It Trembled: Voices from Syria

4.62  ·  Rating details ·  3,408 ratings  ·  600 reviews

Reminiscent of the work of Nobel Prize winner Svetlana Alexievich, an astonishing collection of intimate wartime testimonies and poetic fragments from a cross-section of Syrians whose lives have been transformed by revolution, war, and flight.

Against the backdrop of the wave of demonstrations known as the Arab Spring, in 2011 hundreds of t
ebook, 352 pages
Published June 6th 2017 by Custom House
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William Notte
Apr 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am an elected official in a city that was designated as a resettlement community for Syrian refugees last year. To say this was a contentious issue for some people would be more than an understatement. While many community members got to work preparing to welcome our new neighbors, others reacted with fear and anger. On that side of the spectrum of public opinion there was a great deal of dehumanizing occurring. Syrian refugees were not seen as human beings. They were seen instead as a two-fol ...more
May 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017
This book can be difficult to read, but it's so powerful. Pearlman interviewed over 300 Syrian refugees over four years and compiles their stories in this book. If you want to better understand the conflict in Syria, this book is excellent.

(Note: I interviewed Pearlman about this book and you can check it out here:
Alice Lippart
Educational, heartbreaking and filled to the brink with humanity.
May 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a set of one hundred or so vignettes narrated by Syrians, talking about their own experiences before, during and after the Syrian Revolution. Syria was a country of 22 million people and anyone who lived through these incredible events will have personal stories like these, which are by their nature extraordinary. While it is not anything that will be shocking to people who have followed the uprising over the past few years, these vignettes provide a beautifully humanizing picture of a c ...more
Mar 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: syria
For years the people of Syria had been silent to the atrocities, distrust, terror, corruption, chaos, humiliations, and human rights abuses of both Hafez al-Hassad, who ruled from 1971 to 2000, and then his son, Bashar al-Assad, who became president after his father’s death. “We weren’t allowed to have a political party or a newspaper...” “Don’t talk, the walls have ears.” Fear permeated through the population and the country. In 2011 inspired by the Arab Spring, massive demonstrations and upris ...more
Today, the word "refugee" is used in a horrible way. It's something either to be pitied or blamed for everything. Overpopulation? It's the refugees. Rents going up? It's the refugees. Crime? It's the refugees. If you label people refugees, they remain refugees for the rest of their lives. For that reason, the organization I work with here doesn't use this word. Instead, we say "newcomers." After a while, they are no longer newcomers - just members of society.
Occasionally I read a book that
Ann Mayhew
Jun 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book should be required reading for everyone.
This was both one of the hardest and one of the most important books I read in years, if not in my life.
Rianne Heartfilia
Many times I heard or saw comments on Facebook with Faith in Humanity restored. What does that have to do with a book about Syria? I will tell you what I think it has to do with it. I think it is shallow. There, one word, covering all that I think about. "Busdriver helping mom with pram into the bus." Yes? You could have done that as well? Even I have to admit that l like to read them, that it brings little smiles to my face but then when a read a book like this, my smile disappears again for a ...more
Jan 03, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is not your father’s Syria. It is worse, if that is possible.

I consider myself up-to-date on the middle east and its’ countries.

But I knew so much less of Syria than I previously thought I knew.

This brilliant writer/editor, immersed in many of the Arab countries for decades, offered a compendium of present-day Syria and its’ neighbors and told the story through Syrian eyes.

The writer’s voice is not heard. Only the people she has interviewed.

What we hear are voices from many different lands
Thing Two
Feb 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Wow. If you've been near me the past few days, I've undoubtedly talked to you about this piece.

Wendy Pearlman collected the interviews from hundreds of Syrian refugees. Under eight headings like "Hope Dissappointed" and "Living War", Pearlman extracts pieces -sentences, paragraphs, pages - and groups different interview messages together. What you get is a clear vision of the who/what/why of Syria.

I was struck over and over again by how similar their lives seemed - school, work, shopping, eatin
Dec 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is very good. I've been reading about and watching this slow and then sudden tragedy. This book was a really wonderful inside view of the people affected by the catastrophe in Syria. The portion about the revolution itself was truly awe-inspiring--what people will sacrifice to achieve freedom is astounding.

My one slight criticism is that I wish that Pearlman had not translated every single utterance into English. Like "God is Great." She could have left a few Allah Akbar's in there. We know
Miina Lindberg
Sep 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reading2018
I've been trying to follow the developments in Syria for some time, but have not had a clear understanding of what exactly started the war and how it all evolved to the current state. This book did an outstanding job of explaining the history, the oppression, the revolution, the war, and the refugee crisis. The book consists of interviews with ordinary Syrians and their stories are so powerful, moving, and heartbreaking. Strongly recommend! ...more
Katie Peach
We Crossed A Bridge and It Trembled is one of those books that I will recommend over and over again. Wendy Pearlman did an outstanding job of putting together a collection of stories that represent Syria and give actual Syrians a voice. This is so different from most books I've read on the topic as it is comprised of primary, not secondary sources. We Crossed a Bridge and It Trembled brings reminds us of the human element of the conflict that is so often lost in news reports that contain only st ...more
Raven Andrus
Aug 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book is heartbreaking. I believe this is an important global novel that should be read by all. To hear the voices of Syrians through the translations of Wendy Pearlman brings their tragedy to a place where I can connect. We have so much turmoil and hate in this world that I'm ashamed to say I become numb to a lot of it. But this book has helped me to open my eyes and my heart to Syrians who have been scattered across the globe. We have to stand with them. Read this book if you care about th ...more
Oct 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
"Today, the word 'refugee' is used in a horrible way. It's something either to be pitied or blamed for everything. Overpopulation? It's the refugees. Rents going up? It's the refugees. Crime? It's the refugees. If you label people refugees, they remain refugees for the rest of their lives. For that reason, the organization I work with here doesn't use this word. Instead we say 'newcomers.' After a while they are no longer newcomers--just members of society.
As Middle Easterners, we're trying to s
What can I say about We Crossed a Bridge and It Trembled: Voices from Syria when it has rendered me so speechless?

I know I will sound ignorant when I say this, or like I live inside of a nice little bubble that blocks out everything that is ugly in this world, but I had no real idea what all has been going on in Syria for the last several years. Did I know things were bad? Of course I did, but my eyes were closed to the extent and longevity of the suffering occurring within the Syrian border
Marco Morano
Apr 15, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2020
We Crossed a Bridge and It Trembled is a collection of real life stories written by Syrians and their experiences in Syria. There are so many stories of what it's like to be under the regime and the sacrifices made to survive and leave their country.

I'm giving this book four stars at the moment but I might change it to three stars depending on how I fell later.

This book is really important and I think more people should be reading it. Hearing stories from Syrians and what they had to go through
David Agranoff
This will be a short review as this is not my typical book and I am not sure how useful my thoughts on it will be. I choose to read this book as I am working on a novel right now that has a Syrian refugee as a main character. So this was the first of a couple of books and documentaries I read/watched in order to get a feeling for the conflict and the people. It taught first and foremost that even as a person who follows global political issues I didn't know 1% of what I thought I did. The author ...more
Jan 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It feels strange to rate a book like this. Because I don’t want to be rating a person’s struggles, trauma, losses... but the way Wendy Pearlman put these fragments of people’s stories and thoughts, combined with the introduction, really helps for those even not deeply familiar with details of what has happened in Syria to understand what those ‘news events’ mean for very real human beings.

If someone wants to try and understand what’s going on in Syria from the perspective of those who ultimatel
Jun 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you wish to learn more about the Syrian conflict, you should start here. Wendy Pearlman wrote a remarkable book that highlighted and honored the personal stories and experiences of Syrians living in Assad's poisonous regime. Its an incredible assortment of first-hand testimonials from the front lines of the revolution. The storytelling is so powerful and raw that it often left me imagining what it would be like to live and fight through this devastating war. I made a promise to myself that I ...more
Jun 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the most powerful books I've ever read--I immediately ordered my own copy to share and refer back to. The author speaks Arabic and has spent more than twenty years living in the Arab world. Likely, that played a huge part in allowing her to make her contributors feel comfortable enough to share their stories. The introduction, structure, and stories are amazingly put together. Everyone should read this book. ...more
Hayley Roberts
Oct 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
This was an incredible book that I cannot recommend others to read enough. As someone who's not nearly as informed as I should be, I had to do some reading and watching of documentaries for background but I believe that enhanced this book for me honestly.

This book is broken into sections that follow certain periods of time that are outlined at the beginning of the book. This lets you look back and read about it before reading that section which is how I strongly recommend reading this book.

Yonis Gure
Aug 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: middle-east
As someone who considers himself Left-wing and of democratic socialist persuasion, I was more than disappointed to see way too many progressives and prominent Leftists either ignore Syria's tragedy entirely for reasons of political convenience, or - much worse - actively support the party in Syria responsible for the vast majority of the deaths in the conflict, namely the Assad regime. Syria is the greatest human conflict since WWII and it's political reverberations and consequences have been fe ...more
Areeb Ahmad (Bankrupt_Bookworm)
"Many people aren't happy with the refugees coming to their country. Maybe we came illegally, but every other door was shut in our faces. What do they expect us to do? Isn't it enough our government destroyed us and we lost everything? We would prefer to stay in our country. If you don't want refugees, help us make peace."

The Syrian Civil War, which started in 2011, remains an ongoing conflict after nine bloody years. The current documented death count is 384,000 while the estimated count is 586
Melodie Pearse
"And when those words are said, you and two hundred other people are ready to call out, “The people want the downfall of the regime!” Your voice gets louder and you feel intense feelings: You shudder and your body rises and everything you imagined just comes out. Tears come down. Tears of joy, because I broke the barrier . . . I am not afraid, I am a free being. Tears come down and your voice gets hoarse. Sadness and happiness and fear and courage . . . they’re all mixed together in that voice, ...more
Apr 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019-read
Book 3 of Life's Library (John Green's online communal book club). This is subtitled, "Voices from Syria". Pearlman is an Associate Professor of Political Science at Northwestern, and as a part of her study of the Middle East she began interviewing refugees, survivors and participants in the Syrian uprising from 2012 thru 2017. Instead of writing a scholarly treatise or a narritive non-fiction work on the conflict, she put together a very powerful curated collection of the real experiences of t ...more
Kristiine Kukk
Jun 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book is really powerful! The author interviewed 300 Syrian refugees over four years from different backgrounds and beliefs to give a real look into what people in Syria were really going through. It's a heavy reading but a "must read" for everyone to really... understand. ...more
Jun 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction, 2017, notes
Heartbreakingly powerful first-hand accounts of trying to survive the Assad regime, ISIS, the chemical attacks, the war in Aleppo, the Arab Spring, and the refugee plight for aid.
Julie White
Apr 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A must read. Devastating. There is no person who should be able to ignore the atrocities and tragedy in Syria. A beautiful compilation of personal stories by Wendy Pearlman!
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