Below the Rubble: A voice speaks out for Syrian refugees

While perusing my alma mater's University of Connecticut alumni magazine, I was not prepared for the enormous impact of an article written by a Syrian American author. A passionate, smart and gifted writer, Zeyn Joukhadar finds purpose by listening to the voices of Syrian refugees.

Moved by this noble cause, I decided to reach out to Zeyn to explore if he could make time in his busy schedule to visit Cleveland and talk about his debut novel, "The Map of Salt and Stars." To my great surprise, Zeyn enthusiastically accepted the invitation.

According to the United Nations Refugee Agency, over 5.6 million people have fled Syria since 2011. They seek safety in Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan and beyond. Millions more remain displaced within Syria. Although billions of dollars have been sent by countries around the world to aid the refugees, many refugees continue to live below the poverty line under deplorable conditions. The basics – food, water, shelter, safety, medicine – are a constant struggle. As the war in Syria continues, the number of displaced families continues to grow, as do their stories of trauma, torture and suffering.

Zeyn’s book takes the reader into the ruins and rubble of the Syrian diaspora through the eyes of a young girl named Nour. It begins in the summer of 2011, just after Nour's father dies of cancer. Her mother takes Nour and her sisters from New York City back to Syria. When their home is destroyed by a stray shell, the family embark on a dangerous journey in search of safety. Nour’s story is mirrored in a tale her father used to tell her as a child about Rawiya, a twelfth-century girl who disguised herself as a boy in order to apprentice herself to a famous mapmaker.

All are invited to join Zeyn Joukhadar in a discussion on his book and travels to hear the refugees' voices. Joukhadar will be at Westlake Porter Public Library on Friday, March 22, 1:00 p.m. Books will be available for purchase and personal signing.

Please register online at, call 440-250-5462 or stop by the library's service desk to sign up.

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Volume 11, Issue 6, Posted 10:12 AM, 03.19.2019