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The Boy from the Tower of the Moon Hardcover – May 1, 1999

4.9 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Amazon.com Review

"I have been building a pyramid since I became aware I was here ... in 1947, when I was five," writes the author of this luminous memoir. Each "stone" in this pyramid represents a key moment in Anwar Accawi's life, recounted in chapters of polished prose that bring vividly to the reader's eye his tiny natal village in southern Lebanon: Magdaluna, "the Tower of the Moon." The death of a beloved baby chick, killed by a snake; the moment when 5-year-old Anwar discovered the written word; the day each fall when the olive-oil press begins operation for the harvest season. From these intimate, palpable episodes the author re-creates a vanished world in which time was measured by the position of the sun and the calendar "was framed by acts of God ... people were born so many years before or after an earthquake or flood." The advent of the telephone and automobile ("magic carpet of the twentieth century") link Magdaluna to the outside world and gradually destroy its centuries-old tradition of self-sufficiency; the Lebanese Civil War (1975-90) completes the village's "slow and agonizing death." Yet Magdaluna remains alive in Accawi's loving portrait, a gentle recollection of childhood that doubles as a poignant reminder of modernity's sometimes devastating impact. --Wendy Smith

From Publishers Weekly

Bustling, "obscenely poor," disease-ridden, Magdaluna ("Tower of the Moon") is a Lebanese village where everybody is related to everybody else by blood or marriage. The town's petty scandals, bitter feuds, oral traditions and colorful characters provide grist for Accawi's bittersweet memoir, a series of essays told with sprightly humor and imbued with the ironic wisdom of a mature man looking back on youthful na?vet?. By age five, the precocious narrator realizes that grownups are fickle, cruel, often amoral. The narrative is loosely structured around "learning moments," or "steps" on the metaphorical "pyramid" of personal identity that Accawi erects skyward: the death of a beloved raccoon, the village's very first radio in 1947, his discovery of the written word and so forth. The strongest piece deals with his deeply religious, Presbyterian, no-nonsense grandmother, whose faith was sorely tested by the cancer that left her paralyzed from the waist down. While Accawi's father is a distant figure, his tough Syrian mother, illiterate but wise, steels him to face life's challenges. The wide-eyed narrator nostalgically evokes visits to the village by itinerant Gypsies, a Turkish bear trainer, a Moroccan medicine man. But emigration and the advent of cars and telephones fueled the village's slow, agonizing death and, after the Lebanese civil war broke out in 1975, Muslim soldiers razed the hamlet. Throughout, Accawi, who now teaches at the English Language Insitute in Knoxville, Tenn., spins lyrical, magical stories, vividly charting a boy's awakening to the mysteries of death, life, grief, sex and God. (May) FYI: A portion of this book appeared in Best American Essays 1998.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Beacon Press; 1st edition (May 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807070084
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807070086
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 6 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,534,171 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I discovered this book by chance, and was so, so happy to have found it while reading it. I am Norwegian, but was born and raised in Lebanon, and recognize so many of the funny, sad, beautiful incidents Anwar Accawi describes. It's a wonderful book! And a loving tribute to Lebanon, the best place in the world - we were so lucky to grow up there in happy times!
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Format: Hardcover
Before World War II, life in the self-sufficient Lebanese farming village, Magdaluna (Tower of the Moon) was simple, shaped by the olive harvest and the summer procession of peddlers and gypsies. Everyone knew everyone, no one went hungry. There was no running water but the village well was pure and cold. People had no need of watches or calendars. After the war, change - Western technology - swept through the village.

When Civil War came in 1975, little remained to be bombed into rubble. Accawi's memoir recalls his childhood in this vanished place with a series of witty and poignant vignettes.

While faithful to the immediacy of a child's view, Accawi's stories are shaped by his adult perspective of humor and regret. Though he mourns the destruction of timeless village rhythms, the idyllic and the cruel frequently coexist in his stories, as if human life necessarily embodies both.

His first story, a joyful overview of childhood summer pleasures, culminates in a terrifying lesson for a boy not yet five. He learns that adults, even beloved family members, are "capable of doing anything - horrible things - and not seeing anything wrong with it. But the scariest thing about it was that they had the power..."

Radio was the first of the marvels to transform Magdaluna. Accawi's father brought it, returning from war. Flocking villagers, forced to be civil to one another under Grandma's roof, settle feuds, discover romance. But, alas, radios proliferate, people stay home, the convivial evenings end, new feuds arise.
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Format: Hardcover
I cannot think of another book I've read with greater passion. Anwar Accawi possesses the ability to draw the reader into the mind of a five year old boy, and into the creative way its thinking process helps him understand the world around him. At the crossroads of change in the 1940s , the Mount Lebanon village of Majdalouna has very colorful and unique characters living at the fringe of what (then) modern life had to offer. The five year old Anwar untethers his mind to describe the village, villagers and their changing way of life.
About Anwar Accawi the author: another Mark Twain in the making? Possibly!
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Format: Hardcover
This book grabs you from the first page and takes you on a journey that sticks with you long after you have reading this incredible book.

Accawi has a masterful touch. He's profound yet clear. His story make you laugh out loud and break your heart all in the same paragrpah.

You can't go wrong with The Boy from the Tower of the Moon.
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