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The Pianist from Syria: A Memoir

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4.28  ·  Rating details ·  996 ratings  ·  162 reviews
Aeham Ahmad was born a second-generation refugee—the son of a blind violinist and carpenter who recognized Aeham's talent and taught him how to play piano and love music from an early age.

When his grandparents and father were forced to flee Israel and seek refuge from the Israeli–Palestinian conflict ravaging their home, Aeham’s family built a life in Yarmouk, an unofficia
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Hardcover, 240 pages
Published February 12th 2019 by Atria Books (first published 2017)
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Average rating 4.28  · 
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Lou
Mar 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If there's ever been a book that illustrates the immense power of music then this is it. What drew me to it, in particular, was the fact that I can personally attest to the strength and courage it can bring to your life, and I feel as though I may not have got this far through the chronic pain conditions I have without this power. One of my favourite writers and philosophers Friedrich Nietzsche once said: "Without music, life would be a mistake", and I believe that to be absolutely true.

Syrian-P
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MaryBeth's Bookshelf
Feb 26, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
"I'm a pianist, not a political activist. My revolution is music. My language is music. Music was going to be my form of protest, even if no one heard me."

What a stunning memoir. Aeham Ahmad, a second generation refugee whose parents fled from the Israeli-Pakistan conflict, finds himself in the Syrian conflict. With only the power of his music as a weapon for peace, he fearlessly takes to the streets to play his piano as his own form of protest. I found this story to be captivating, painful, and
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Kate Baxter
This autobiography of a brave and courageous young man - a striving musician - a man of tremendous compassion and conviction, is food for the soul. For years, our news sources have affronted us with visions of war-torn Syria to which, for the most part, we've become inured. This amazing and heart-wrenching story is a wake-up call to those of us far from the horror and pain of the Syrian conflict. It gives voice to the trials, struggles, sorrow and fear of the refugee people trapped in the war-zo ...more
Inderjit Sanghera
Feb 19, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
‘The Pianist of Yarmouk’ follows the story of Ahmad as he orientates both himself and his family in the world of Syria during the Civil War. The story is told with an air of warmth, humanity and most surprisingly of hope, as Ahmad’s life is torn apart just as he begins it with his wife. For Ahmad, music transcends the sense of hopelessness which descends on his life, both on its ability to tell the stories of this who had been impacted by the revolution and, like all great art, in its ability to ...more
Sharon Barrow Wilfong
Aug 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the most poignant, painful and necessary reads for everyone who lives in the First World.

Aeham Ahmad starts the book describing his life as a Palestinian refugee in Yarmouk, a suburb of Damascas. Life isn't easy with a scary government, and corruption in every facet of life. Even getting a decent schooling is extremely hard to attain. Even if you are rich and can afford the best schools, many of the teachers there got their positions by means other than ability, so good luck with
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Andrew Howdle
Without a doubt, this is a story of immense courage and great humanity. The conflicts within this autobiography, war versus peace, ignorance against wisdom, tolerance rather than bigotry, ought to have made it into a compelling read. Unfortunately, the writing does not match the themes explored. There are moment when telling friendships emerge and stories leap into life-- such as the visit to Mount Qasioun where Assad had one of his villas and piano tuning session turns into absolute terror-- bu ...more
Stephanie Jane
Mar 27, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
See more of my book reviews on my blog, Literary Flits

The Pianist Of Yarmouk is the second memoir I have read in the past year that profoundly illustrates the desperate situation being fled by Syrian refugees and displaced persons. Perhaps this book didn't have quite the emotional impact of the previous memoir, Butterfly by Yusra Mardini, but it is still a powerful and moving account. Ahmad talks of his childhood, growing up primarily under the care of his blind Palestinian refugee father who wa
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Laura
Mar 22, 2019 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Bettie, Wanda
From BBC Radio 4: Book of the week:
Ammar Haj Ahmad reads Aeham Ahmad’s dramatic account of how he risked his life under siege in Damascus by defying the Syrian regime with his music.

Newly married with a young baby, living in a comfortable Damascus suburb and working as a music teacher, Aeham’s life is turned upside down by the outbreak of the Syrian civil war in 2012.

When they are bombed out of their apartment, Aeham and his family take refuge in their music shop in the ramshackle district of Ya
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Karyl
We keep hearing about Syria on the news. Yet another bombing, yet more destruction, yet more refugees. I fear that Americans have become a bit too inured to the devastation of this once-vibrant country. The Pianist from Syria brings to vivid life the terror and hardship of living in a war zone, and it’s even more devastating when you realize that Ahmad’s parents fled Palestine as refugees and settled in Syria to give their sons a better life.

This is truly a book of music triumphing over all. It
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Nora W
Apr 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Upon finishing this book, I burst into tears. Aeham's autobiographical story is a story loaded with loss: from friends and family to the encapsulating loss of one's country as a Palestinian/Syrian refugee. His anecdotes throughout strike a chord and release emotional turbulence.
I think that it is impossible to genuinely understand the totality of someone's mental state, especially from a "Western privileged " point of view on the horrific situation that so many refugees confront. However, Aeham
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Katie Peach
Mar 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley, syria
“We began by pushing the piano out into a world of ruins, into the rubble of Yarmouk...Music was going to be my form of protest, even if no one heard me.”

Aeham Ahmad grew up around music in Syria. His blind father pushed him to become a great piano player and they eventually opened a music store together in Yarmouk and also taught music lessons. Aeham and his family lived a fairly happy life and Aeham was clearly going to have a great career in music.

Then the Syrian conflict broke out. Aeham, hi
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Jo
Aug 24, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
The Pianist of Yarmouk
by Aeham Ahmad

A man, a piano, a Syrian city under siege . . .

For four years, Aeham Ahmad played his music while around him, there was gunfire and famine. In the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk, on the outskirts of the Syrian capital Damascus, he wheeled out his piano to perform in the streets, often surrounded by children or neighbours looking for an escape from the constant barrage that they lived through daily.

Videos of Ahmad were broadcast on Utube, which gained worl
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May
Jan 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I give The Pianist From Syria by Aeham Ahmad 5 stars. This book really challenged me and rocked me to my core. I’ve been mostly ignorant of things going on in Syria, and this really opened my eyes. This story of his childhood and family and war is really important and relevant to gain more understanding of what people go through. This was a hard story to read, but it will be sticking with me for a long time.
Faidz Zainal Abidin
Jun 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The Pianist from Syria is a true account of pianist Aeham Ahmad, a second generation refugee. His grandparents and father fled their homeland Palestine and settled in Yarmouk, a temporary settlement to more than 160,000 refugees in Damascus, Syria. Aeham became famous after a photo of him in green T-shirt, playing his piano in the middle of the street surrounded by bombed buildings went viral. His friend who shot this photo was later killed and tortured by the Assad regime. Do you remember the s ...more
Wanda
Mar 22, 2019 marked it as to-read
Recommended to Wanda by: Laura
Shelves: 2019, audiobooks, bbc
22 MAR 2019 - a recommendation through Dear Laura. Many Thanks!

Listen here - https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000...
...more
Deb
Mar 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a story about the author from his refugee childhood in Syria, marriage, children and escape to Germany. Ahmad becomes an accomplished pianist through relentless encouragement of his blind father. Music and instruments are core to his family and livelihood. The primary setting is in Yarmouk, one of the most vibrant and crowded neighborhoods of Damascus. A history of the political uprising in Syria and insight into life in Yarmouk “being sealed off”, as the uprising progressed: starvation, ...more
Deb
Mar 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a story about the author from his refugee childhood in Syria, marriage, children and escape to Germany. Ahmad becomes an accomplished pianist through relentless encouragement of his blind father. Music and instruments are core to his family and livelihood. The primary setting is in Yarmouk, one of the most vibrant and crowded neighborhoods of Damascus. A history of the political uprising in Syria and insight into life in Yarmouk “being sealed off”, as the uprising progressed: starvation, ...more
Deb M.
May 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is another book I wish more Americans would read to give an understanding of what people endure in other parts of the world. When Aeham begins the book Syria is still at peace but the area Aeham lives in began as a Palestinian refugee camp. He describes the life of his family and the bottom line is that life is not as terrible as it will become. As the rebellion begins in Syria those areas that are not populated by Syrians are targeted by Assad. One by one the areas are blockaded and the pe ...more
Susan Lindemulder
Jun 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
"...a gripping portrait of one man's search for a peaceful life and of a country being torn apart as the world watches in horror." Aeham Ahmad, a second generation refugee, details the horrors of living in a country being torn apart by war and terrorism. You read things such as this about WWII and think it can't happen again, but it is happening. This was a very moving story since it was told by someone who lived in the "thick of things", yet was determined to provide hope for those around him. ...more
Jim
Nov 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I won an advanced copy of this book on Goodreads. A gripping read, full of heart and emotion. Usually I find memoirs of one's childhood a bit tedious to read and can't wait until I get to the author's adulthood but not this time. I kept wanting more. A sad yet hopeful memoir about war torn Syria from a Palestinian man who ultimately becomes a refugee in Germany. The book is filled with the struggles of a musician and his family, describing his hardship with starvation and protecting one's family ...more
Sheridan
I had not heard of Aeham Ahmad before this book was recommended to me. It's the amazing and sometimes heartbreaking true story of his experiences in a Palestinian refugee camp, before and during the war in Syria, and his escape to Germany. Aeham is a talented, classically trained pianist who used his talents to buoy his community, bring recognition to their plight (go to YouTube and search for his videos - incredible!), and help himself and his family endure the war. I highly recommend this book ...more
Nancy
Mar 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
While reading this book, you will learn two things. You will gain an understanding of the terrible civil war that has plagued Syria for 8 years. It is the backdrop of an amazing life story of this musician and his family. You will read of struggles and an amazing drive to live and keep a family together. It is a story of how music keeps people alive. It is an amazing book.
Christopher
Apr 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This stirring memoir recounts the story of Aeham Ahmad's life in and escape from Syria. Known for his YouTube videos of him
playing a piano in the bombed-out streets of Syria, his message and plea for the people of Syria is powerful and touching. So glad I read this wonderful book. Highly recommend.
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Suad D
Apr 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jacques Du Bruyn
Apr 28, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book started a bit slow. I understand there are those readers who want to know the full story, and frolic amongst pages of drawn out memories about the subject’s grand parents and parents. But I want to get to the point. Which eventually the book did by about 30% in.

From there it was a pleasure; a story of survival, love, war and at the end thrilling escape.

It’s definitely a story worth reading, and eye opening in every way about the lives of refugees and what they go through to get to freed
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Diana Suddreth
Feb 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I found Aeham Ahmad's story gripping and inspiring. I'm ashamed to say that I've never really understood what happened in Syria, despite seeing a few documentaries and films about Aleppo. Aeham's bravery, his commitment to his family, and his inspiring use of music all worked together to make his story something special. In addition to the story of Yarmouk, I also found the tale painted a beautiful portrait of a man and his father. Aeham has written an ode of love and appreciation to his father, ...more
Cindy H.
Jan 14, 2021 rated it really liked it
This.Book. 💔
I don’t have enough adequate words. Simply inspiring. Audio was emotionally compelling. Highly recommend. If you were moved by the Cellist of Sarajevo, Aehad’s story will leave you heartbroken.
Jade
I can’t stop thinking about this book, about Aeham, his family, and Syria in general. I have made it my goal to read as many personal narratives from different voices in Syria, so when I read about Aeham Ahmad’s upcoming memoir The Pianist From Syria, I jumped on it. It’s beautifully written, so vivid and clear, and you fall in love with Aeham and his family, and also in love with Yarmouk, their home.

The first half of the book describes Aeham’s youth, growing up in the area of Yarmouk in Damasc
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Lorri
Mar 06, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Pianist from Syria: A Memoir is filled with happiness, sadness, insightfulness, and is inspiring, on many levels.
Tonya
Feb 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
Very good book. I learned quite a bit about living in war-torn Syria.
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Aeham Ahmad – born in Damascus in the year 1988 – belongs to the Palestinian minority in Syria and lived with his family until 2015 in the refugee camp Yarmouk, to where in 1948 his grandfather fled from Palestine. His musical talent was supported from early years, at the age of five his father taught him to play the piano. At the age of 23 he graduated from the conservatorium in Damascus and Homs ...more

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