• Katie P.

Book Review: We Crossed A Bridge And It Trembled

Melodie and I absolutely loved We Crossed a Bridge and It Trembled, so we both wanted to review it. While the author is not a refugee or Syrian, she wrote this book as a series of stories told by Syrians affected by the conflict. We will explain more about that in our reviews below. Let us know if you’ve read this book and what your thoughts are!


Melodie’s Review:

"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, and it comes out very strong." -Cherin (mother in Aleppo)

I am at a loss for words after reading the thoughts and experiences of many individuals forced to flee their beloved homeland of Syria. The writer/interviewer, Wendy Pearlman, automatically won me over with her credibility and willingness to get her hands dirty with the work it takes to truly listen and transcribe the voices of a scattered people. Her heart and sacrifice are felt in the depth of this collection of stories, and I'm truly thankful to have such a vulnerable, raw piece of work on the 40-year conflict.

"Mixing pride, guilt, sorrow, courage, and hope, their pained words challenge us to think about who we might be if faced with the same trials of revolution, war, and exile." -Wendy Pearlman

The quote above expresses the intense cycle of emotions that I felt while reading each individual’s story represented in this book. Pearlman has given us access into the hearts of so many people affected by the war in Syria. Because of this, expect your morals to be challenged, your opinions to change, and your heart to be awakened. I cannot praise Pearlman's work enough. It is a heartbreaking picture of our common humanity. I believe reading these narratives open the door to a new perspective that is invaluable for understanding our Syrian neighbors.

Although some of the accounts portray contradicting thoughts and feelings, this is part of the beauty and powerfulness of the narrative. Each individual's words are insight on how he/she processed (continue to process) his/her experience, and how he/she perceived the events that occurred. No two stories are the same and yet they combine to create a unified voice of resilience.


Katie’s Review:

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 statistics and not human stories.

From the first story, I knew this book would have a huge impact on me. "A Syrian citizen is only a number. Dreaming is not allowed." Those two sentences, from Fadi (Hama), are the first of many powerful reflections on life leading up to the war and during the war. While I will never truly be able to comprehend the anger, frustration, and fear that so many Syrians have felt, these stories help me understand those feelings a little bit more.

I am in awe of the work that Wendy Pearlman put into writing this book. She conducted interviews in Arabic, divided the book into eight themes (Authoritarianism, Hope Disappointed, Revolution, Crackdown, Militarization, Living War, Flight, and Reflections) that represent Syria's path towards civil war and the effects of the war. Pearlman talked to people from all over Syria, from all walks of life, and from all viewpoints. Pearlman's effort to give Syrians a voice gave this book so much legitimacy.

We Crossed a Bridge and It Trembled is so important in a time when so many refugees, especially those from the Middle East, are demonized. Pearlman's stories show that Syrians have hopes for their country and are willing to risk so much to give future Syrians a better country.


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