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A bracingly immediate memoir by a young man coming of age during the Syrian war, Brothers of the Gun is an intimate lens on the century's bloodiest conflict and a profound meditation on kinship, home, and freedom. "This powerful memoir, illuminated with Molly Crabapple's extraordinary art, provides a rare lens through which we can see a region in deadly conflict."--Bryan St A bracingly immediate memoir by a young man coming of age during the Syrian war, Brothers of the Gun is an intimate lens on the century's bloodiest conflict and a profound meditation on kinship, home, and freedom. "This powerful memoir, illuminated with Molly Crabapple's extraordinary art, provides a rare lens through which we can see a region in deadly conflict."--Bryan Stevenson, author of Just Mercy In 2011, Marwan Hisham and his two friends--fellow working-class college students Nael and Tareq--joined the first protests of the Arab Spring in Syria, in response to a recent massacre. Arm-in-arm they marched, poured Coca-Cola into one another's eyes to blunt the effects of tear gas, ran from the security forces, and cursed the country's president, Bashar al-Assad. It was ecstasy. A long-bottled revolution was finally erupting, and freedom from a brutal dictator seemed, at last, imminent. Five years later, the three young friends were scattered: one now an Islamist revolutionary, another dead at the hands of government soldiers, and the last, Marwan, now a journalist in Turkish exile, trying to find a way back to a homeland reduced to rubble. Marwan was there to witness and document firsthand the Syrian war, from its inception to the present. He watched from the rooftops as regime warplanes bombed soldiers; as revolutionary activist groups, for a few dreamy days, spray-painted hope on Raqqa; as his friends died or threw in their lot with Islamist fighters. He became a journalist by courageously tweeting out news from a city under siege by ISIS, the Russians, and the Americans all at once. He saw the country that ran through his veins--the country that held his hopes, dreams, and fears--be destroyed in front of him, and eventually joined the relentless stream of refugees risking their lives to escape. Illustrated with more than eighty ink drawings by Molly Crabapple that bring to life the beauty and chaos, Brothers of the Gun offers a ground-level reflection on the Syrian revolution--and how it bled into international catastrophe and global war. This is a story of pragmatism and idealism, impossible violence and repression, and, even in the midst of war, profound acts of courage, creativity, and hope. "From the anarchy, torment, and despair of the Syrian war, Marwan Hisham and Molly Crabapple have drawn a book of startling emotional power and intellectual depth."--Pankaj Mishra, author of Age of Anger and From the Ruins of Empire "A revelatory and necessary read on one of the most destructive wars of our time."--Angela Davis


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A bracingly immediate memoir by a young man coming of age during the Syrian war, Brothers of the Gun is an intimate lens on the century's bloodiest conflict and a profound meditation on kinship, home, and freedom. "This powerful memoir, illuminated with Molly Crabapple's extraordinary art, provides a rare lens through which we can see a region in deadly conflict."--Bryan St A bracingly immediate memoir by a young man coming of age during the Syrian war, Brothers of the Gun is an intimate lens on the century's bloodiest conflict and a profound meditation on kinship, home, and freedom. "This powerful memoir, illuminated with Molly Crabapple's extraordinary art, provides a rare lens through which we can see a region in deadly conflict."--Bryan Stevenson, author of Just Mercy In 2011, Marwan Hisham and his two friends--fellow working-class college students Nael and Tareq--joined the first protests of the Arab Spring in Syria, in response to a recent massacre. Arm-in-arm they marched, poured Coca-Cola into one another's eyes to blunt the effects of tear gas, ran from the security forces, and cursed the country's president, Bashar al-Assad. It was ecstasy. A long-bottled revolution was finally erupting, and freedom from a brutal dictator seemed, at last, imminent. Five years later, the three young friends were scattered: one now an Islamist revolutionary, another dead at the hands of government soldiers, and the last, Marwan, now a journalist in Turkish exile, trying to find a way back to a homeland reduced to rubble. Marwan was there to witness and document firsthand the Syrian war, from its inception to the present. He watched from the rooftops as regime warplanes bombed soldiers; as revolutionary activist groups, for a few dreamy days, spray-painted hope on Raqqa; as his friends died or threw in their lot with Islamist fighters. He became a journalist by courageously tweeting out news from a city under siege by ISIS, the Russians, and the Americans all at once. He saw the country that ran through his veins--the country that held his hopes, dreams, and fears--be destroyed in front of him, and eventually joined the relentless stream of refugees risking their lives to escape. Illustrated with more than eighty ink drawings by Molly Crabapple that bring to life the beauty and chaos, Brothers of the Gun offers a ground-level reflection on the Syrian revolution--and how it bled into international catastrophe and global war. This is a story of pragmatism and idealism, impossible violence and repression, and, even in the midst of war, profound acts of courage, creativity, and hope. "From the anarchy, torment, and despair of the Syrian war, Marwan Hisham and Molly Crabapple have drawn a book of startling emotional power and intellectual depth."--Pankaj Mishra, author of Age of Anger and From the Ruins of Empire "A revelatory and necessary read on one of the most destructive wars of our time."--Angela Davis

30 review for Brothers of the Gun: A Memoir of the Syrian War

  1. 5 out of 5

    Murtaza

    This was an absolutely beautiful book, for the writing, the illustrations as well as the story that it tells. It is, in effect, the story of the revolution in northern Syria told through the life of one ordinary young man swept up by its events. Marwan is a native of Raqqa, a neglected, working-class city that rose up against the Assad regime only to fall victim to Islamist groups in the anarchy that followed. He describes the modern history and culture of Syria through his own life, which is, r This was an absolutely beautiful book, for the writing, the illustrations as well as the story that it tells. It is, in effect, the story of the revolution in northern Syria told through the life of one ordinary young man swept up by its events. Marwan is a native of Raqqa, a neglected, working-class city that rose up against the Assad regime only to fall victim to Islamist groups in the anarchy that followed. He describes the modern history and culture of Syria through his own life, which is, refreshingly, a working-class one rather than the elite stories we typically get translated into English. Marwan continued living in Raqqa after ISIS fighters invaded the city. Much of the book is a recollection of that time, paired with Molly's amazing illustrations of Syria before and during ISIS rule. Although Marwan was a revolutionary, I think that this book is such a moving and universal story that it can be enjoyed by people with any stance on Syria, as well as those with no particular stance at all. It is moving, dark and even manages to be funny at times. The highest praise I could give the book though is that it takes the ugly events of this period and turns them into something meaningful and transcendent. There is a lesson that shines out of all this seeming chaos, which is what the highest goal of history writing should be in my opinion.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Asmaa

    Tear gas burns our eyes. Nael, Tareq, and I are standing with hundreds of other protesters in the street in front of al Mansouri Mosque, gagging on the tear gas lobbed at us by the military. Our faces sting, so we wrap them in our T-shirts. Until five minutes ago, we were chanting, "If you have a conscience, joins us," but now all we can manage is, "Kus ukhtak, ya Bashar"- Hey Bashar, fuck your sister's cunt. It's been 8 years since the last time I visited Raqqa, it was the summer of 2010, tha Tear gas burns our eyes. Nael, Tareq, and I are standing with hundreds of other protesters in the street in front of al Mansouri Mosque, gagging on the tear gas lobbed at us by the military. Our faces sting, so we wrap them in our T-shirts. Until five minutes ago, we were chanting, "If you have a conscience, joins us," but now all we can manage is, "Kus ukhtak, ya Bashar"- Hey Bashar, fuck your sister's cunt. It's been 8 years since the last time I visited Raqqa, it was the summer of 2010, that year was the first Ramadan and Eid we spend with our family in Syria. It was the best, and the last. When the war started, we were certain it will reach Raqqa, but we never dreamed it would end up like this.. when ISIS entered Raqqa, we heard from our relatives of the brutality and the savagery of which they treated civilians. Just like Hisham said in this book. Then years later when the coalition strikes started, internet connections were extremely difficult to find, and that was the only way we communicated with our family. I followed news from Twitter through the account Raqqa_SL - Raqqa is being slaughtered silently. My mothers family, the ones who stayed, were her sister and her family, and my grandfather who refused to leave his house lest someone comes and claims it as their own. He also refused to die in a foreign land, such as the wish of old people. One day Raqqa_SL tweeted that Mansour street is being bombarded by bombs, where both my father's family and my mother's family live. I couldn't do anything. A couple of days after that, my father heard the news that his family's house collapsed. It was hit by 2-3 rockets. No casualties, because all of them were hiding in the basement. Everything Marwan described is something I heard about but not have lived. A part of me feels immensely guilty for knowing they're going through shit, and here I am sitting in the safety of my house, feeling scared for them. The rational part of me knew there's nothing I can do. Raqqa was still the lively city it was the last time I saw it. I can't imagine what it must look like right now, slaughtered silently, along with its people. This memoir is the experience of Marwan Hisham, a young free-lance journalist when he lived in Raqqa. He talks about his childhood and adolescent. He talks about friendship. He talks about the people of Raqqa. Most importantly, he talks about the revolution and the war. The illustrations accompanying Hisham's story are so beautiful, they make you forget you're reading a book of war. Molly Crabapple did a great job transferring the scenes of Raqqa and other pictures Hisham took of ISIS fighters, of his uncles cafe, and many more. I'd suggest you go to Vanity Fair's website to check out the rest of her work. My "review" has been long enough, and does not do justice to this memoir.. I think everyone should read this book. And I hope to go back to Raqqa one day and read this book again, on the banks of Euphrates river.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Malia

    This was, predictably, not an easy read, chronicling the Syrian war. It is not a new story, but an important one, and I am glad I read it, even if it leaves me more frustrated than before, worried the conflict and its fall-out, displacing so many people and causing so much death and devastation, will never truly find resolution. I absolutely recommend this book, but keep something lighter on hand to read afterwards, because the news is filled with so much Trump and Brexit, it's critical to remem This was, predictably, not an easy read, chronicling the Syrian war. It is not a new story, but an important one, and I am glad I read it, even if it leaves me more frustrated than before, worried the conflict and its fall-out, displacing so many people and causing so much death and devastation, will never truly find resolution. I absolutely recommend this book, but keep something lighter on hand to read afterwards, because the news is filled with so much Trump and Brexit, it's critical to remember that these people are still suffering. Find more reviews and bookish fun at http://www.princessandpen.com

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jerrie (redwritinghood)

    From the National Book Award longlist for non-fiction comes this illustrated memoir of the Syrian war. The author is a native of Raqqa, the first city in Syria to be overtaken by religious fundamentalists. He was a college student studying English when the war began. He lost friends and his country. This firsthand account is a valuable look at the impact of the war on the average citizen and helped me to understand the complex forces at work there

  5. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    Brothers of the Gun is a book about the pull of one’s native land, Mosul and Aleppo, but most importantly, Raqqa, where Marwan studies, works, grows up, and reports to the world. This is the pull that we all feel, irregardless of the forces that conflict with our goals. Many of us want the places we grow up in to be the places our children can grow up in, and we fight for that. Full review can be found here: https://paulspicks.blog/2018/05/31/br... Please check out all my reviews: https://paulspic Brothers of the Gun is a book about the pull of one’s native land, Mosul and Aleppo, but most importantly, Raqqa, where Marwan studies, works, grows up, and reports to the world. This is the pull that we all feel, irregardless of the forces that conflict with our goals. Many of us want the places we grow up in to be the places our children can grow up in, and we fight for that. Full review can be found here: https://paulspicks.blog/2018/05/31/br... Please check out all my reviews: https://paulspicks.blog

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jade

    Brothers of the Gun by Marwan Hisham is a memoir of life in Syria during the ongoing war, from the start of the revolution in 2011 until now. Marwan Hisham tells us his story, of being a young man in the city of Raqqa, with his two closest friends, brothers Naël and Tareq. All three men come from working class families, and were the first of their families to get university degrees. The book starts off during the first days of the revolution when the three men actively participate in the protest Brothers of the Gun by Marwan Hisham is a memoir of life in Syria during the ongoing war, from the start of the revolution in 2011 until now. Marwan Hisham tells us his story, of being a young man in the city of Raqqa, with his two closest friends, brothers Naël and Tareq. All three men come from working class families, and were the first of their families to get university degrees. The book starts off during the first days of the revolution when the three men actively participate in the protests, defying the government they know to be oppressive, sure that their voices will be stronger than the oppression. It continues on to show us what the people of Syria are faced with today. Marwan Hisham takes us through what his home was and has become. Through protests and bombs, street fights where the same checkpoint is won and lost over and over again within a day, to death, and the pain of making choices that you never wanted to make in the first place. We don’t know enough about Syria in the western world, about the history of the country, the geography, the reason for the revolution in 2011, or the development of the war as it stands now. Reading these types of memoirs is so important, as it provides a proper background to the country and the conflict, showing us how there never is a proper representation by the press. I really appreciated the areas of background information that fit perfectly within the narrative, clear, to the point, and a little tongue in cheek. Marwan Hisham has no issues providing the full picture for us. In Brothers of the Gun young adults with ideals are faced with a collapse of their country in a way that no one expected. A civil war that started as a revolution and then descended into a hell where a government continues to bomb its people, and foreigners wage a war against each other on Syrian soil. Marwan Hisham eloquently explains a lot of the issues in Syrian society and how so many wars are being fought on their soil. Sadly we, the people on the outside, never really look further than what we see in a hastily scrolled newsfeed moment. Everyone is either an Islamist or a refugee, maybe both, and we don’t really care. Reading these types of stories is SO important because as often as we say “never again” we know we are the biggest hypocrites as soon as the words fall from our mouths. We failed the Syrian people way before there was even a murmur of revolution in the air. Brothers of the Gun is a story of coming of age in a world where war has become the norm. A story of surviving, of trying to continue life when everything around you is falling apart, and your friends are running off to fight for ideals that you may not believe in. It’s also a story of searching for a meaning and a place for oneself. I think this book is a must read for everyone, for the true narrative on the reality of Syria and the war, and also for Marwan’s important insights. The book is beautifully illustrated with stunning illustrations. Pictures of people, places, and moments add such an original and special touch to the story. The origins of the partnership between illustrator Molly Crabapple and Marwan Hisham is pretty incredible - and Molly Crabapple’s ability to take Marwan Hisham’s photos (it’s illegal to take photos in ISIS held areas) and recreate the settings and stories into images is amazing. They are extremely poignant and powerful. Brothers of the Gun will be published by Random House on May 15, 2018. Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the advance copy!

  7. 5 out of 5

    Vartika

    Should I tell you the story of an improvised street dance? It's set to the noise of the bombs. You go with their rhythm, matching it with as much excellence as you can. You dodge the shrapnel gracefully. You are judged by continuing to breathe, by staying in one piece. It's a dangerous routine, but its finale is sublime: Destiny and the angels bow and applaud. Dirty and washed out, you give the living technicians and designers, theorists and experimentalists, moralists and villains, all alike, Should I tell you the story of an improvised street dance? It's set to the noise of the bombs. You go with their rhythm, matching it with as much excellence as you can. You dodge the shrapnel gracefully. You are judged by continuing to breathe, by staying in one piece. It's a dangerous routine, but its finale is sublime: Destiny and the angels bow and applaud. Dirty and washed out, you give the living technicians and designers, theorists and experimentalists, moralists and villains, all alike, the best middle finger pose of your life. Syrian freelance journalist Marwan Hisham's debut book is a brilliant memoir which recounts chapters in the devastation of war-torn Syria from the eyes of a civilian. With beautifully rendered illustrations by Molly Crabapple bringing the author's spine-chilling narrative into perspective; Brothers of the Gun traces the Syrian conflict from its beginnings in the uprising against the Assad regime during the author's teenage years; through the civil war between rebels, the regime and the ISIS; and to the silencing and ruination of a country lost between the dehumanising lines of violence and repression. Set in Raqqa — a dusty, provincial town that started as a rebel stronghold and later became the Heart of Terror, the de-facto capital of the Islamic State —, as well as in Aleppo and Turkey; the book also traces the author's own coming-of-age and journey to becoming a freelance journalist with bylines — acquired with danger and perseverance — in Vanity Fair and The New York Times. But Brothers of the Gun; does not merely discuss the state of life in such a territory alongside close observation and experience of the rebel and ISIS psyche. The author also highlights the problems afflicting pre-revolution Syrian society as factors that contributed to its ruin: the preference for wealth over hardwork, for convenience over quality — as highlighted in the description of the University of Aleppo's pedagogy — provided the space for religious dogma to prevail, and led to the fragmentation of society (In fact, as is human tendency, I saw a lot of similarities between the early descriptions of Aleppo and my own city of New Delhi, in terms of the culture of convenience, the state of education, the remnants of the old city gates and the selfish attitude of survival — and I hope this doesn't prove to be prophetic, torn as my country is between fascist tendencies right now). As everywhere, the Syria also suffered from a habitual ignorance of the will, condition and mindset of its own people: Most Syrians are not politically well educated. How could they be, with the death grip Baathism had on education and with the margin the party left empty filled with loyalist clerics? People grew up loathing the word "democracy" without knowing its actual meaning (...) In the eyes of many Syrians, these so-called universal values were tools of a foreign agenda, aimed at the destruction of our society. Apart from the gulf between academic enlightenment and public opinion, there also does seem to be some truth in it. The book explores the role of the West in creating and even worsening conflicts in non-Western terrotories with hegemonic action, as well as of the armchair concern and activism of the western people that is disjointed from the actions of their own governments: ...you could tell that no one outside the city gave a damn. The whole world worried about radicalization, of course — the radicalization that had taken over our minds in our terrorist city, or rather the radicalization rampant in the minds of foreign fighters exported here from all over the world. The world never wondered whether the radicalization originated from the bombs that they and the others dropped (...) Ideas associated with the West have carried the air of hypocrisy since the partition of our countries by the civilized imperial powers — not to mention the invasion of Iraq. Always, the west comes here, posturing about the protection of minorities, freedom, democracy, fair play. Always, they carve up our countries, steal our resources, bomb our cities — and then wonder why the sweet words they muttered while doing so doesn't sound the same in our ears. The normalisation and numbing effect of violence we see in the author's memory is a reminder of our need to reconsider common courses of action, and to hold governments accountable everywhere. Apart from the actual content itself, it is clear that a lot of precious effort was out into getting this book together. From the typeset and the minor details like the blood splatters on each page, to the hauntingly beautiful illustrations — right from the cover design — add to the impact of Hisham's account. All in all, Brothers of the Gun is a harrowing, hauntingly resounding and profoundly reflective statement of an impossibly bloody history; with a message that transcends national boundaries and calls for actionable empathy.

  8. 5 out of 5

    John

    I received this book as an advance copy for review purposes. Frankly Amazing, it starts off a seemingly good but routine memoir of catastrophe, but it suddenly changes to something remarkable a little past the halfway point, and does so so strongly that it energizes all he wrote before, and as it progresses to his self discovery of himself as a journalist it achieves more than a little genuine timeless profundity. The author is a native of Raqqa, the capital of Islamic State from 2014 -2017, afte I received this book as an advance copy for review purposes. Frankly Amazing, it starts off a seemingly good but routine memoir of catastrophe, but it suddenly changes to something remarkable a little past the halfway point, and does so so strongly that it energizes all he wrote before, and as it progresses to his self discovery of himself as a journalist it achieves more than a little genuine timeless profundity. The author is a native of Raqqa, the capital of Islamic State from 2014 -2017, after studying English Literature at the University of Aleppo he was in his home city from shortly after the rebellion against Assad began in 2012 through its capture and occupation by ISIS. During the occupation he found his way to describing conditions in the city first in Vanity Fair magazine, in whose pages he collaborated with his illustrator Molly Crabapple. and eventually to the New York Times. The first portion is about the evolution of Syria from sclerotic despotism to revolt and then to the disaster of a singularly awful civil war. It seems the usual situating the memoirist in their setting, the anecdote, the watching Game of Thrones at night while living in a place that is turning worse, etc... but it is far more than repackaged features, the author has done much more in this format. Marwan Hisham is an exceptional and very conscientious stylist, the entire work is constructed with the care of a very good novelist without ever reading as something novelistic. In short is a coming of age story, but most of us will never reach the age the author has. One could joke: come for the Horror, stay for the wisdom. Many will describe this book as unflinching in its self critique but this is a story that is all about flinching, and his attention to this is about this is what they will be referring to. In the second half he takes us to Mosul, Aleppo, both of what was before and what came, Turkey, and then back to Raqqa. But he also takes us to his thoughts on what destroyed his home, what in humanity does this, what makes some fight, some flee, and some hunker down. What is history and what is what we wish history to be. And all of this written with style, wit, and the sort of genuine love of the glories of English only a non native speaker can have. This is a very good book.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Tammam Aloudat

    There have been many books about the Syrian revolution and the aftermath, the war and destruction, living through the hell of the regime and of ISIS, and much analysis of why it all happened and where it is going. This however is a deeply personal memoire of the before and after from Marwan Hisham who comes from Raqqa, the city in the Syrian desert that has suffered much under the regime before the revolution and then under ISIS that occupied it and made it its "capital". Is brutally honest abou There have been many books about the Syrian revolution and the aftermath, the war and destruction, living through the hell of the regime and of ISIS, and much analysis of why it all happened and where it is going. This however is a deeply personal memoire of the before and after from Marwan Hisham who comes from Raqqa, the city in the Syrian desert that has suffered much under the regime before the revolution and then under ISIS that occupied it and made it its "capital". Is brutally honest about what it takes to survive under ISIS and how life was in Raqqa, a sense you wouldn't get from the "analysts" and "experts". Hisham is a great writer and storyteller. I enjoyed the book thoroughly and learned a lot even being Syrian and having read much about the country and the revolution. I would really recommend this reading for people who care to understand Syrians more than what the West perceives of them and the victims and survivors' lives more than the perpetrators, both from ISIS and the Regime.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Leo Walsh

    A very good, insightful memoir by Marwan Hisham, a Syrian journalist. It chronicles life in the country before and after ISIS. And makes it clear that even conservative Syrians, like Hisham's traditional parents, despised the ISIS fighters as much as they despised the despotic tyrant (and Putin ally) Asad. What's more, the war refugees trickling into the West were and are innocent, depite the hard-right rhetoric. Instead, the ISIS fighters that nearly everyone — Syrians, Americans, Europeans, et A very good, insightful memoir by Marwan Hisham, a Syrian journalist. It chronicles life in the country before and after ISIS. And makes it clear that even conservative Syrians, like Hisham's traditional parents, despised the ISIS fighters as much as they despised the despotic tyrant (and Putin ally) Asad. What's more, the war refugees trickling into the West were and are innocent, depite the hard-right rhetoric. Instead, the ISIS fighters that nearly everyone — Syrians, Americans, Europeans, etc — seems to despise are NOT syrian. Instead, the vast majority of ISIS "fighters" are foreign-born Islamisicstradicals with zero connection to the faith of most Muslims in the world. Sort of how the crazies in Westboro Baptist Church, who picket gay marriage at military funerals, have zero connection to mainstream Christians like myself. In addition to some gripping text, the book includes a series of stunning illustrations by artist Molly Crabapple. Four-stars. A revealing look into a world that seems at once a million miles away from middle America, but the characters Hisham paints (almost all male, BTW) possess a humanity that seems as common as that of your next door neighbor. Albeit a neighbor living in harrowing times, but it's a reminder that humans are humans.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Booxoul

    Review of Brothers of the Gun: A Memoir of the Syrian War by Marwan Hisham and Molly Crabapple One of the best things I did was to read Brothers of the Gun. I loved every minute of it. It had all the elements that seduce me into reading – History, War, Politics and a Memoir, and to top it with chocolate cream it had stunning Illustrations by Molly Crabapple; yet I was apprehensive to read it… Perhaps the size of the book or the ever-increasing To-be-read pile of books had more to do with my decis Review of Brothers of the Gun: A Memoir of the Syrian War by Marwan Hisham and Molly Crabapple One of the best things I did was to read Brothers of the Gun. I loved every minute of it. It had all the elements that seduce me into reading – History, War, Politics and a Memoir, and to top it with chocolate cream it had stunning Illustrations by Molly Crabapple; yet I was apprehensive to read it… Perhaps the size of the book or the ever-increasing To-be-read pile of books had more to do with my decision, but then my curiosity overrode my apprehensions. Brothers of the Gun by Marwan Hisham and Molly Crabapple is a remarkably self-aware Memoir documenting Author Marwan Hisham’s life in War-torn Syria from its inception to present. Review: This is the story of youth ripped in pieces, of fading dreams, torn families and people living in perpetual terror of death. Born in the poor neighborhood of Raqqa, Marwan and his two best friends Nael and his brother Tareq are like any other normal youth with dreams for themselves, their parents and their country, but lurking in the background is a war for freedom from country’s President, Bashar al-Assad, which shreds every hope of accomplishing their dreams of stable future. The three friends get scattered; one Martyr another an Islamist revolutionary and Hisham a freelance journalist; A war spectator who saw bombings from his house, crumpled neighborhood houses, dead relatives, and friends. “We shout in their collective face. We stare death in its eyes, and our minds are opened. They have guns. We have nothing. In nothing there is power.” “The word event was enough. Events that eat up humans, that drawn memories, that we never speak of again” War-torn Reality: We don’t know much about Syria or its History and what we know comes from News or Newspapers. In the Brothers of the Gun, we get to see an unadulterated version of War-torn Syria from Hisham’s eyes, and Molly Crabapple’s illustrations provide powerful context to the memoir. From running an Internet café frequented by ISIS Soldiers to taking photographs of war-torn places of Syria to give the blow by blow news of current situation of war-torn Raqqa to the world through Twitter. Moving Account: The book makes for a brutally honest and authentic account of the Syrian war. The anger towards western countries like America, France, and Russia is scattered throughout the pages of the book. A civil war that started as a revolution and turned into a hell where a government continues to bomb its people and foreigners wage war against each other on Syrian soil. Narration & Language: The narration is very engaging, takes you to a rollercoaster ride of past and present in a very fluid manner. Language is very smooth flowing and easy to understand. Book keeps you glued to the very end. Should you read the book? I loved the book. Molly Crabapple’s Illustrations gave depth and meaning to the book. Those who are interested in Syria or are a lover of Autobiographies and Memoirs this is the book. So, I recommend it to all.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Javier

    I recommend this new book extremely highly! It's a moving story with gripping narration accompanied by numerous striking illustrations representing both the beauty and tragedy of Syria and Iraq in recent years. Hisham is opposed to the Assad Regime as well as Da'esh (ISIS). He has friends who fight with Ahrar al-Sham, which, though having Islamist influences, is opposed to Da'esh, but the author doesn't ever join them or another armed group (such as the Free Syria Army, FSA). Instead, after stud I recommend this new book extremely highly! It's a moving story with gripping narration accompanied by numerous striking illustrations representing both the beauty and tragedy of Syria and Iraq in recent years. Hisham is opposed to the Assad Regime as well as Da'esh (ISIS). He has friends who fight with Ahrar al-Sham, which, though having Islamist influences, is opposed to Da'esh, but the author doesn't ever join them or another armed group (such as the Free Syria Army, FSA). Instead, after studying English at Aleppo University, he becomes a journalist reporting from inside Da'esh-occupied Raqqa. He describes his struggles as he travels from Raqqa to Aleppo and ultimately Afrin, toward the end of crossing into Turkey as a refugee and leaving Syria behind. This is an incredibly important volume that will hopefully help to humanize the millions of Syrians who have suffered so greatly since launching their Revolution against Assad over 7 years ago. Their dehumanization is so evident, in light especially of the ongoing World Cup, which is hosted in Russia, a country led by a fascist government that is responsible for vast war crimes in Syria, including ones that are ongoing even as the games go on.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Siobhan

    I bought this out of love for Molly Crabapple's work, and ongoing interest in the Syrian conflict, and wound up blown away by the writing. He gives such a layered, nuanced and HUMAN account of varied Syrian responses to the war. This is a fascinating and chilling look at how dictatorships and terrorism can take hold in a society wracked by economic and social inequality, and deprived of political and even aesthetic education. It is a powerful, absorbing account of how this revolution was co-opte I bought this out of love for Molly Crabapple's work, and ongoing interest in the Syrian conflict, and wound up blown away by the writing. He gives such a layered, nuanced and HUMAN account of varied Syrian responses to the war. This is a fascinating and chilling look at how dictatorships and terrorism can take hold in a society wracked by economic and social inequality, and deprived of political and even aesthetic education. It is a powerful, absorbing account of how this revolution was co-opted and betrayed. It's history and memoir, but it reads like a novel--poetic, plot- and character-driven. The stories here are just stunning. Hisham ran an Internet cafe on the banks of the Euphrates where he had to serve a host of international ISIS fighters. These were some of my favorite chapters, simultaneously terrifying, tender and hilarious. He and his friend sneak cigarettes and video games, overcharge the jihadists, and mourn the loss of adolescence in the young men they meet. These are stories of survival and small-scale resistance amid zealotry and horror.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Karin

    This book is intense. A memoir of a young man living in Syria in the early- mid 2010s and the unrest that's occurred in that time. I hope Americans read this and see how many parallels we have with the crisis there. The illustrations were really well done and blended in with the story well. I really want to reread this someday. It's a lot to take in. This book is intense. A memoir of a young man living in Syria in the early- mid 2010s and the unrest that's occurred in that time. I hope Americans read this and see how many parallels we have with the crisis there. The illustrations were really well done and blended in with the story well. I really want to reread this someday. It's a lot to take in.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Renée

    Marwan Hishaml's "Brothers of the Gun: A Memoir of the Syrian War" feels shockingly immediate. Molly Crabapple's art is deeply moving and adds layers of meaning/context. A fascinating, timely read. Marwan Hishaml's "Brothers of the Gun: A Memoir of the Syrian War" feels shockingly immediate. Molly Crabapple's art is deeply moving and adds layers of meaning/context. A fascinating, timely read.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Samantha Harrington

    Pick up this book immediately. The writing is glorious. The art is powerful. It makes the world small in the most heartbreaking and essential way.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Yuko Shimizu

    Everything I thought I knew about ISIS was wrong. What it was really like to live and survive, and make the best of it when ISIS comes to your city. It's not as clear cut as us vs them, black and white. It's more about weird co-existing, lots of grey zone. A college student of English Major to running an 'internet cafe' to secure his own online access as well as those of ISIS fighters, to becoming a journalist reporting real story of people under ISIS occupied city of Raqqa. Very very interestin Everything I thought I knew about ISIS was wrong. What it was really like to live and survive, and make the best of it when ISIS comes to your city. It's not as clear cut as us vs them, black and white. It's more about weird co-existing, lots of grey zone. A college student of English Major to running an 'internet cafe' to secure his own online access as well as those of ISIS fighters, to becoming a journalist reporting real story of people under ISIS occupied city of Raqqa. Very very interesting. PS: well deserved National Book Award long list that just got announced.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jill

    3.5 Or maybe 4? Not as informative about the background & context of the Syrian conflict, as The Home That Was My Country. But the writing is more personal and passionate. It’s a memoir. It’s a young dude’s take. It’s progressive and critical, but also a little self-involved, which is totally fair. It manages to take on ISIS taking over your hometown while being boldly forward and not curling into itself which is pretty impressive. It’s weird to me how little he talks about his family, but it’s S 3.5 Or maybe 4? Not as informative about the background & context of the Syrian conflict, as The Home That Was My Country. But the writing is more personal and passionate. It’s a memoir. It’s a young dude’s take. It’s progressive and critical, but also a little self-involved, which is totally fair. It manages to take on ISIS taking over your hometown while being boldly forward and not curling into itself which is pretty impressive. It’s weird to me how little he talks about his family, but it’s SO interesting the context of warring rebel factions and the nature of the ISIS occupation of Raqqa that I can overlook it. Ultimately: one more tile in a huge and complex puzzle. Worth reading. 4 after all.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    An amazing look inside Raqqa before and during the occupation by ISIS. It is an important addition to our knowledge about the Syrian Civil War, especially because mainstream Western media has trouble covering it. Hisham lets his personal feelings into his narrative, but it's a memoir, it is expected. Even with a focus on his experiences and feelings, it gives a lot of insight into the minds of Syrians before and during the war. The book doesn't "need" Crabapple's very good illustrations, but it' An amazing look inside Raqqa before and during the occupation by ISIS. It is an important addition to our knowledge about the Syrian Civil War, especially because mainstream Western media has trouble covering it. Hisham lets his personal feelings into his narrative, but it's a memoir, it is expected. Even with a focus on his experiences and feelings, it gives a lot of insight into the minds of Syrians before and during the war. The book doesn't "need" Crabapple's very good illustrations, but it's a good addition. I highly recommend this book.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Edward

    Loved it from start to finish, provided a look into a conflict I’ve never been up to date with. Hishams writing really transports you into a war torn country.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Gregory Paige

    "The leaders of Russia, Turkey, France and Germany met [in Istanbul] Saturday to seek an end to Syria’s long war..." What struck me about this lede from an October 2018 article on the Syrian civil war was the absence of any representative of Syria itself. An absence emblematic of author Marwam Hisham's sense of helplessness and hopelessness during the war, which he describes brilliantly in this coming-of-age memoir. Hisham shows us a devastatingly sad yet compelling glimpse into civilian life in "The leaders of Russia, Turkey, France and Germany met [in Istanbul] Saturday to seek an end to Syria’s long war..." What struck me about this lede from an October 2018 article on the Syrian civil war was the absence of any representative of Syria itself. An absence emblematic of author Marwam Hisham's sense of helplessness and hopelessness during the war, which he describes brilliantly in this coming-of-age memoir. Hisham shows us a devastatingly sad yet compelling glimpse into civilian life in war-torn Syria. He provides ground-level narration on key developments and turning points in the war, from the Arab Spring-inspired demonstrations against the Assad regime to the resulting rise of armed rebels and subsequent arrival of the ruthless ISIS. Add the lingering threat of global powers raining fire from the skies, and you begin to understand the unabating dread of people in towns like Raqqa and Aleppo: "We get our first ideas about aerial bombardment from TV. We imagine that fighter jets raze buildings, even neighborhoods. What we don’t see is how they raze hope as well." Yet, Hisham somehow maintains a sort of vibrance as he perseveres through his wartime experiences. It's far from easy, and his description of "Raqqa Setting" reminded me of "Newark-proofing" in The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace... adjusting your persona to optimize for survival in a dangerous, volatile environment. But in his writing there's excitement amid destruction, love despite loss, and a deep, complex attachment to Syria. Another interesting aspect of the story is the role technology plays in the consumption and communication of information within a modern-day war zone. Megabytes are a resource, and bandwidth is coveted, controlled and cut off like money or electricity. Hisham himself used a mix of YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp to stay informed, keep in touch and ultimately build the relationship with writer and artist Molly Crabapple that resulted in this book. I chose Brothers of the Gun as one of my final few Year of Books selections largely because I was embarrassed about how little I knew about the Syrian civil war, which continues to this day. It's now very real to me, and I'll be following the headlines, hoping for imminent peace in Syria.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Rachel Berka

    A powerful memoir; a firsthand account of the Syrian War. Before reading this book, I basically had no knowledge of the Syrian War. I found reading an insider’s perspective to be extremely valuable in gaining knowledge of the conflict and crisis.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Christian Schwalbach

    I have found in many cases that foreign memoirs can have an aspect of clunkiness to them when translated or written into English, but this excellent and harrowing read defies that standard. I found myself quite engrossed in the author's narrative for most all of the book, which is honestly rare for me as a reader. Of course, this book has the emotional pull of being a memoir, a personal account, which bridges certain gaps of emotional disconnect, but on its own merit, the author manages to use l I have found in many cases that foreign memoirs can have an aspect of clunkiness to them when translated or written into English, but this excellent and harrowing read defies that standard. I found myself quite engrossed in the author's narrative for most all of the book, which is honestly rare for me as a reader. Of course, this book has the emotional pull of being a memoir, a personal account, which bridges certain gaps of emotional disconnect, but on its own merit, the author manages to use language in a way that is emotive, but also quite open and honest about the thoughts and motivations driving people in scenarios of war and chaos. I quite enjoyed learning about the Syrian conflict from an insider, non-idealogue perspective, as the chaos of that particular civil war made for a difficult form of outside analysis, very little of which was able to dig deeper into the civilian motivations for supporting or opposing the myriad of groups that arose and/or dissipated during the war. Perhaps the light cynicism of the main character struck a nerve with me, but the bullheaded resolve he demonstrates in both avoiding taking up arms, and returning repeatedly to his more and more threatening home-city had me very much admiring, if not shaking my head, at his story. Ultimately a very human and personal memoir, while being surprisingly informative and somewhat geo-politically aware, this book should be read with haste, lest the events of this destructive conflict slip too far into obscure memory. 4/5 stars, recommend for: Human interest, Syrian war scholars, Wartime Psychology, Survival

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jason Mays

    This is a truly great book and probably the best about Syria that I've read. It's mind blowing that English is not the author's first language. It's not a book about war, it's a book about life during war. I can't recommend this book enough. This is a truly great book and probably the best about Syria that I've read. It's mind blowing that English is not the author's first language. It's not a book about war, it's a book about life during war. I can't recommend this book enough.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Mark Snyder

    Fascinating memoir that teaches just how complex the Syrian conflict is and shows just how difficult the decision to flee or to stay that average Syrian people had to make was. How difficult it must be to leave your homeland, never knowing if they will be able to return, and at the same time, how dangerous to stay.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Blaine Morrow

    Hisham provides a first-person account of the Syrian conflict, beginning in 2012 with hopeful protests and developing into disillusionment and tragedy. This is not a literary masterpiece, but it is moving, vivid, and eye-opening,

  27. 4 out of 5

    Carolyn

    Definitely a memoir and not a primer of you are trying to learn about the Syrian war.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Nazrul Buang

    I was intrigued to know more about the Syrian war, especially from someone who witnessed it with his own eyes. Plus, Reza Aslan's praise for the book practically cemented my resolve prioritize read this book as soon as I could. Author Marwan Hisham tells the story of his home country Syria - religious, traditional, and in his eyes unfortunately backwater - plunging into turmoil as the Arab Spring revolution made its way through the Middle East, causing an uprising against a ruthless incumbent reg I was intrigued to know more about the Syrian war, especially from someone who witnessed it with his own eyes. Plus, Reza Aslan's praise for the book practically cemented my resolve prioritize read this book as soon as I could. Author Marwan Hisham tells the story of his home country Syria - religious, traditional, and in his eyes unfortunately backwater - plunging into turmoil as the Arab Spring revolution made its way through the Middle East, causing an uprising against a ruthless incumbent regime and replacing it with even more ruthless rebel groups, and worst, opening the gates for the arrival of ISIS. On top of this, he describes his strict childhood and rebellious streak, and the fate that brought him, Nael and Tareq together. He writes how their aspirations were being thwarted by an oppressive regime led by a ruthless leader, and how a single event changed the course of their lives forever. Written in the style of a poetic, emotion-laced diary, Marwan's tale is an incredible war drama with themes on freedom, aspirations and brotherhood. As the war unfolded right before his eyes, he witnessed a history in the making, and subsequently recorded them into this book that tells how Syria descended into chaos as society began revolting against Bashar al-Assad, with help of the proliferation of social media throughout the region. The book exposes in vivid detail the complex intertwining of religion and politics that defines the country, and the whole senselessness of the violence that enveloped it especially after the takeover by ISIS and their iron-fisted doctrines that govern livelihood. Additionally, he offers his firsthand accounts of ISIS through personal experience, invaluable insights that many authors would never have the chance to see. Coupling Marwan's story is Molly Crabapple's stylish sumi-e sketches that bring visual life to most pivotal moments in Marwan's life. 'Brothers of the Gun' is a beautifully tragic tale of an ongoing struggle that has ravaged Syria for years. Marwan has escaped death several times for gathering information for this book - his first and perhaps many more to come from him - and it proves to be an astounding achievement. The book makes readers question the meaning of identity and sense of belonging, and illustrates the unsolvable predicaments that Syrians have to face day by day in a country that has been war-torn and overtaken by an extremist power. This is a must-read for anyone who wants to know more about the Syrian war and ISIS, and most importantly, the horrors of war. Bravo to Marwan and Molly; I hope the war ends soon and that he can return to his homeland in peace someday.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Bethany

    A memoir of a man in the midst of the Syrian Civil War. There are many black and white sketches interspersed with the text. I wanted to like this book. I gave up on page 100 - it was too hard to follow the many competing groups, Islamic and secular, rural and urban, loyalists or rebels. The one take away I took from the book is how utterly complicated any conflict is to an outside person. There are no winners, good guys, or right decisions in war - just devastation.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Derek

    Brother of the Gun is an account of Syrian life under the rule of ISIS in their stronghold of Raqqa. In Western media, muslims are often grouped together as incompatible and unreasonable religious extremists who are the precursor to terrorists. The individual stories of those that Marwan encountered throughout his time in Raqqa helped humanized and highlight who are the true victims of Islamic extremism; their fellow muslims. Various illustrations by Molly Crabapple do a fantastic job of setting Brother of the Gun is an account of Syrian life under the rule of ISIS in their stronghold of Raqqa. In Western media, muslims are often grouped together as incompatible and unreasonable religious extremists who are the precursor to terrorists. The individual stories of those that Marwan encountered throughout his time in Raqqa helped humanized and highlight who are the true victims of Islamic extremism; their fellow muslims. Various illustrations by Molly Crabapple do a fantastic job of setting the gritty atmosphere of the various scenes that take place. I was able to confirm various events that occurred in the stories to what has been reported in documentaries and other first-hand accounts. The causes of unrest in the Middle East are inexplicably complicated and deeply rooted in events that occurred over a hundred years ago. Most Westerners do not understand or care to understand why things are the way they are, and many of us taking the selfish and self-serving stance of alienating the muslim community. Stories like these play a powerful role in raising awareness of the plight of the ordinary moderate muslim. Even turning one away from the next alt-right rally condemning muslims is a step forward towards a more inclusive global community.

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