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The Other Side of the Mirror: An American Travels Through Syria Paperback – April 5, 2011


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 259 pages
  • Publisher: Paul Dry Books (April 5, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1589880684
  • ISBN-13: 978-1589880689
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.4 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,067,000 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"A well-written, well-researched, and engaging introduction to contemporary Syria."—Library Journal (starred review)

"Engaging.... I can vouch for the accuracy of her descriptions."—Malise Ruthven, New York Review of Books

About the Author

Brooke Allen: Brooke Allen's critical writings appear frequently in the New York Times Book Review, the Atlantic Monthly, The New Criterion, The Hudson Review, and The Nation. Her Twentieth-Century Attitudes was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. Her most recent book is Moral Minority: Our Skeptical Founding Fathers.


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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Alan Venable on June 11, 2011
Format: Paperback
I'm really glad I read this book. I ordered it when I woke up to the fact that I had no knowledge at all about Syria except the current news about its role vis-a-vis Lebanon and Israel, and then the latest about the "Arab Spring." Well, I've seen Lawrence of Arabia numerous times, so I had some (wrong) impression of events in Damascus around the end of World War I.... I felt like U.S. news could tell me anything and I had no way to evaluate it.

The Other Side of the Mirror gives a first hand account by an American visitor who made two trips there in the last 5-6 years and really got into the local vibe as a visitor can see it, and into the huge richness and complexity of the place and of its many ethnic/religious groups and their long histories. It gave me a sense of who the national leaders are right now and what a peculiar position they hold. It also enabled me to get beyond simplistic ideas of what they and Syria have now and what they want.

In some places where the archeology got a bit too detailed for me, I skimmed, but in most chapters I read straight through. The author has a nice, humorous style and seems to have worked hard to find out objectively all she could. Her experiences there were basically very positive and stimulating, and she felt that Syrians generally treat western travelers very respectfully and helpfully.

There are lots of photos.

.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In 1982, I saw beautiful land filled with a generous, industrious people. One could easily trace the history of numerous people of antiquity through its treasure trove of archaeological sites. At the time, I felt many of its treasures had been looted. Seeing the destruction and chaos currently underway, It is comforting to know that many of those splendid artifacts are safely on display in museums and art galleries in other countries.
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Format: Paperback
How ironic that I would run across this book portraying a secular country welcoming American travelers with typical Muslim hospitality when daily TV images are showing a country being torn apart by Civil War. As the title indicates, Allen's goal is to go beyond US media images which fail to provide a window looking out on the world but rather a mirror that reflects our own fears and obsessions. In this, she succeeds. She is bright, well read and well traveled, as well as an observant traveler eager to meet local citizens, enjoy their foods, and explore their history and culture. She first traveled to Syria in the spring of 2009 with her family and was so impressed that she went back with two friends for a much longer visit in the fall. It was a time when US troops were still fighting in neighboring Iraq and the US state department was warning US citizens against Syrian travel. Although Allen is an excellent writer and includes numerous personal photographs, the descriptions of archaeological ruins which abound in Syria become a bit much for the average reader. One of the book's strengths is the selected bibliography which would be a great benefit to US citizens whether they intend to visit Syria or not. The book however lacks any maps which would greatly help to orient readers. Allen seems overly impressed with the secular goals of Syria's government and surprisingly unaware of deep ethnic and religious divisions and resentments that will explode in violence by the time her book is published. Despite this, her book is an excellent guide to understanding Syrian -- and broader Middle Eastern -- history and culture.
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1 of 6 people found the following review helpful By isabelle a on May 8, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Lucky to get in to Syria at a relatively peaceful time. Valid travelogue about ancient sites such as Aleppo. But an arrogant NewYawker about the supposed superiority of multi-culti Damascus. Tsk, tsk, why can't the Western world be as sophisticated as Syrians? Well, we now see how these 3rd world barbarians handle "diversity." Allen is a typical snivelling progressive who wants America to submit to Muslim "dhimmitude."
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