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Stripped to the Bone: Portraits of Syrian…
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Stripped to the Bone: Portraits of Syrian Women

by Ghada Alatrash

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Showing 1-5 of 38 (next | show all)
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
A fascinating read, but it lacks polish. One problem I had with my copy was the manner in which notations were handled - usually in-line notes rather than endnotes or footnotes. Now, e-readers tend to handle footnotes badly, but I would have preferred endnotes to in-line as a solution. It frequently broke up the flow, often with explanations of things I was already familiar with. Weirdly, the one thing I was not familiar with (a traditional love story) was given barely any explanation, while simple translation decisions were repeatedly explained at length.

Overall, the material was both beautiful and difficult, but the author's own editorial voice was more impediment than aid. ( )
  Faranae | May 10, 2018 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Stripped to the Bone opens with the natural yearnings of Zahrah, a single woman ageing and in need of a husband, who fills her heart with Hollywood movies to escape her edge of survival existence in a war zone. Then there’s the story of Reem and Mayyada, two women both unjustly imprisoned and forced to endure torture and rape. Here the abuse of a zealot brother is juxtaposed with the almost faceless and arbitrary violence of the prison officers, Alatrash making observations relevant to all women everywhere.

In Stripped to the Bone ancient traditions are portrayed alongside modern values and lifestyles as Syrian women hold on to what is precious and beautiful while adapting to modern ways. In ‘Hanaan and Salaam’ the author tackles homophobia, in ‘Lama’ multicultural relationships, as those Syrians who have fled their homeland adapt to their new lives.

Written in gentle, ironic and often sensual prose, this collection oozes intimacy. Alatrash infuses her stories with pride and anguish, pride in her culture and anguish over the cruelties meted out in the name of God and country. But above all, Alatrash is concerned with the unjust war Syria endures, a civil war with all too powerful interested parties, a proxy war involving America, Russia and Saudi Arabia and their various allies: a bloodbath. In this collection, the geopolitics of Syria forms a translucent backdrop, Alatrash leaving it to the reader to educate themselves if they wish. Of concern for the author is the impact all of the various injustices have had on women’s lives.

In ‘Um Jaad’, a story of a Syrian woman travelling to visit her sister in Homs who has just lost her little boy, Alatrash writes:

“More deafening than the screams was the silence of the world.” It was her sister “Who lived the pain of the atrocities erasing Syrians off the map.”

Interwoven in stories that invite reflection and at times confront the reader with harsh and horrifying realities, is beautiful verse, verse that depicts the Syrian soul, verse to savour and revisit time and again.

Stripped to the Bone is a questioning and intelligent book, at once romantic, poignant and passionate. A huge sadness pervades the collection, a sense of loss of culture, of heritage and of all that is meaningful and valuable and important in women’s lives. The reader will take away the thought that what continues to happen in Syria should never have begun. Timely and significant, Stripped to the Bone is a must read for anyone wanting to understand Syria from within, from the perspective of the everyday domestic lives of its women. ( )
  IsobelBlackthorn | Jan 19, 2018 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I received this book for free through LibraryThing. I could only get into the second story and had to stop. The first story I loved but it was laborious to even get to it (since I read everything before hand). The second story was also laborious to get to but then also was too much to read. The labor is in all of the explanations and setups. If a story cannot stand alone, it is not written well. And the second story with its multiple lines, bracketed word definitions that did not seem to feed into the story, the story’s flow was too interrupted. That’s why people use italics and a glossary. That is poor editing. If this much poetry to setup a story is common elsewhere, it does not fit my preferred reading style. Even then, I did not see or understand fully the connections between the poetry and the stories. I expected stories not poetry. ( )
  dejunker | Dec 30, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
An interesting insight into the reality of life in Syria. I enjoyed the way the author blended Syrian poetry into the stories, giving a broader sense of the culture.
In her prose, however, there is a tendency to explain too much - I would have liked her to be more creative at incorporating those explanations into the story, if they were really needed.
  liffy | Dec 28, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I received a kindle copy of this book from Library Thing Early Reviewers.

Stripped to the Bone is a collection of 7 short stories written by Gada Alatrash depicting various aspects of life for Syrian women. These are not “happy” stories but they are important and compelling reading for the powerful images they convey. Even a simply drawn map by a woman who lives in exile today, rendered at the beginning of the book, lets the reader feel that this will not be an easy journey. The stories vary in situation and circumstance. Another important aspect is the way the descriptive writing is able to transport the reader.

My heart was gripped from the outset with passages such as :
The sound of the music was now replaced by the bombing and shelling, the songs by news, and young men were no longer young but had aged hundreds of years with their minds occupied, not on girls, but on whether or not their families had enough food to eat and enough money to buy diesel for their heating tanks.

Ghada Alatrash. Stripped to the Bone: Portraits of Syrian Women (Kindle Locations 330-332).

Depth is added by included poetry, prose, and song lyrics of Syrian cultural icons. Story # 2 begins with this poem:
When I am overcome with weakness, I bandage my heart with Syrian women’s patience in adversities. I bandage it with the upright posture of a Syrian woman who is not bent by bereavement, poverty, or displacement as she rises from the banquets of death and carries on shepherding life’s rituals.

Ghada Alatrash. Stripped to the Bone: Portraits of Syrian Women (Kindle Locations 484-487).

Story # 3, set in a jail cell was very emotional to read.
All of the destruction, the spilt blood, their imprisonment, and the utter chaos—all of it sprang from a simple dream for a life of dignity and the most basic of human rights. But the dream was suffocated upon its birth. The Syria whose minarets and church bells echoed one another’s call to prayer is the same Syria being destroyed in the name of a country by some, and in the name of God by others.

Ghada Alatrash. Stripped to the Bone: Portraits of Syrian Women (Kindle Locations 692-695).

The final story about life long Syrian residents leaving to live in Houston, Texas with their married daughter was incredibly poignant and a fitting way to conclude the journey of the collection:
The customs form was short and simple, but answering its questions was painfully complicated, for the answers embodied a great loss, a tragic defeat, and shattered hopes.

Ghada Alatrash. Stripped to the Bone: Portraits of Syrian Women (Kindle Locations 2182-2183).

The author asks the reader to “handle it (stories) with care for what comes from the heart is always raw and stripped to the bone.” Indeed. I highly recommend this book. ( )
  mhb3 | Dec 28, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 38 (next | show all)
Set between war-torn Syria and the West, Stripped to the Bone explores issues of identity, love, strife, courage and resilience in seven fictional portraits of Syrian women / women of Syria.
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