Book Reading/Signing: JASMINE AND FIRE: A Bittersweet Year in Beirut, a memoir by Salma Abdelnour

Tue, June 12, 2012 7:00 pm at Alwan for the Arts

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Doors open at 6:30

Suggested Donation: $5

Salma Abdelnour was just nine years old when, in July of 1981, with the echo of rocket blasts in their ears, her parents grabbed her and her brother, flew them out of a bloody, civil-war-ripped Lebanon, and planted them in a quiet, safe place between the endless green lawns of suburban Houston. Now, nearly thirty years later, testing a lifelong hunch that Lebanon was still her real and true home—the place where, as an Arab, a Beiruti, she'd never feel like a stranger the way she sometimes still did in America—Salma returned.

JASMINE AND FIRE: A Bittersweet Year in Beirut (Broadway Paperback Original, On Sale: June 5, 2012), is the captivating story of Salma’s present-day adventures in Beirut as she attempts to make her way again in Lebanon—a place of beauty and tragedy, of despair and hope. It is the story of how her life as a food writer and her lingering obsession with Lebanese cuisine helped her reconnect with the city of her dreams, as she set about grappling with the timeless question: Can you ever go home again?

The narrative follows Salma as she tries to figure out the maddening, perplexing realities of life in one of the world’s most legendary, ever-vibrant, ever-troubled cities. As she resettles in her family’s old Beirut apartment, she attempts to fend off angst-ridden relatives, make new friends, reconnect with old ones, continue her work as a freelance writer, and navigate a challenging romantic relationship—one that raises difficult questions about the meaning of home.

The concept of home for many is both deep seated and fleeting, not least for people Middle Eastern heritage who have been affected by the trauma of dispossession or displacement, forced or voluntary. There are countless stories of tragedy and loss. Far too many lost loved ones to violence while others were not lost per se, but removed from quotidian family life by transfer to far away places, including the United States.

First-generation Americans, even those who might be described as fully-assimilated, know instinctively the meaning of the words “Back Home.” For some it’s a place of nostalgia, for others, culture and history, for others, it’s a place they would be if all was right in the world. Second-generation Americans have a somewhat different take on those same words. Born and raised in the US, the concept of home is allusive, confusing, and certainly not as their parents, who, ironically, have created a family home in the United States, understand it.

Then, there are others, born in the US, raised and nurtured during the formative years “Back Home,” then, brought back to the U.S., educated, successful, and, yet, are not entirely sure of which country or society they really belong to.

A moving and unforgettable memoir, JASMINE AND FIRE will appeal to anyone who has ever thought about what home really means. It will resonate with anyone who has been displaced from a home (a city or a country or a beloved house), or has lived as an expat somewhere, or has been forced to move for work or family.

SALMA ABDELNOUR is a New York City-based writer specializing in food and travel. She spent four years as the restaurant editor and writer at Time Out New York, then six years as the travel and restaurant editor at Food & Wine. She most recently served as the food editor at O, The Oprah Magazine, before deciding to pursue a long-planned freelance career. She has written for Food & Wine, Travel + Leisure, and the New York Times, among other publications, and she publishes her own food blog,

Salma has also created and taught the class “Becoming a Food Critic” for New York University’s continuing education program, and she has made numerous TV and radio appearances—on CNN, CNBC, WNBC, the Style Network, and the Fine Living Network, among others—to discuss her epicurean and travel adventures. Her Food & Wine article “The Insidious Rise of Cosmo-Cuisine” was included in The Best Food Writing 2007. Salma graduated from the University of California at Berkeley with a major in philosophy and a minor in English literature.


Alwan's literary programming is made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

Last updated: 2012-05-18 08:38:45

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