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Jasmine and Fire

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Jasmine and Fire

A Bittersweet Year in Beirut
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As Beirut exploded with the bombs and violence of a ruthless civil war in the '80s, a nine-year-old Salma Abdelnour and her family fled Lebanon to start a new life in the States. Ever since then-- even...
As Beirut exploded with the bombs and violence of a ruthless civil war in the '80s, a nine-year-old Salma Abdelnour and her family fled Lebanon to start a new life in the States. Ever since then-- even...
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Description-
  • As Beirut exploded with the bombs and violence of a ruthless civil war in the '80s, a nine-year-old Salma Abdelnour and her family fled Lebanon to start a new life in the States. Ever since then-- even as she built a thriving career as a food and travel writer in New York City--Salma has had a hunch that Beirut was still her home. She kept dreaming of moving back--and finally decided to do it.

    But could she resume her life in Beirut, so many years after her family moved away? Could she, or anyone for that matter, ever really go home again?

    Jasmine and Fire is Salma's poignant and humorous journey of try-ing to resettle in Beirut and fumbling through the new realities of life in one of the world's most complex, legendary, ever-vibrant, ever- troubled cities. What's more, in a year of roiling changes around the Middle East and the rise of the Arab Spring, Salma found herself in the midst of the turmoil, experiencing it all up close.

    As she comes to grips with all the changes in her life--a love left behind in New York and new relationships blossoming in Beirut--Salma takes comfort in some of Lebanon's enduring traditions, particularly its extraordinary food culture. Through the sights, sounds, and flavors of a city full of beauty, tragedy, despair, and hope, Salma slowly begins to reconnect with the place she's longed for her entire life.

Excerpts-
  • From the book

    AUGUSTI'm sitting on my suitcase, trying to force it shut so I can zip it; I leave for Beirut later today, and right now I'm grateful for these distracting last-­minute tasks. If I keep dwelling on my decision too much, I'm afraid I'll chicken out and call off the car service to the airport. But as drastic as the big move feels to me right now, in my last hours in New York, I'm reminding myself that it's not such a crazy idea, at least from a logistical standpoint. It shouldn't really affect my work too much: I've been a freelance writer and editor for a couple of years now, having decided to quit corporate magazine life after nearly a decade and a half in the industry, to make time for well-­paying freelance projects I'd been offered, and to be able to travel for long stretches without giving up a paycheck. I could do the vast majority of assignments from Beirut just as easily as from New York. And at least I don't have to worry about finding a place to live, since my parents have held on to our Beirut apartment all these years, although they've continued living most of the year in Houston.

    Though two of the normally pain-­in-­the-­butt logistics of a move--­the job, the house--­are thankfully not an issue, the should-­I-­shouldn't-­I's are still running through my head, even now at the last minute. For weeks I've been rehearsing every scenario that might play out in Beirut, knowing I'm probably leaving out all the actual, unpredictable scenarios that will in fact unfold. I've been lying in bed for hours night after night, rocked by waves of insomnia and sadness and excitement and fear.

    But there's no more time to fret. The subletter for my New York apartment moves in tonight, and I still need to finish packing and speed out the door. It's early morning, and Richard has just woken up; he stayed over last night to say goodbye. But something ominous is already happening on my last day in New York: right now there's no running water in my apartment or, it turns out, in the entire building. Richard and I both need to shower, but all the faucets in my apartment are bone dry.

    Having the water in my modern downtown Manhattan building vanish is just too fitting for a morning when I'm leaving for Beirut, land of constant electrical and water-­pipe breakdowns. This must be a giant cosmic joke, or maybe someone-­up-­there is gently easing me into Beirut life before I even arrive. But humor aside, this sucks. I can't go on two back-­to-­back international flights, a twenty-­hour journey in total, without a shower. I go into the bathroom to try again, and water does start to trickle out this time--­a freezing, arctic drizzle. Still not a drop of hot water.

    No way can I walk into an ice-­cold shower on a morning when I'm already a fragile mess. Last night Richard and I had both cried, held each other tight, fretted, and said I love you for only the second time; the first time was last weekend, when he'd whispered it to me as we lay side by side in the guest room of a friend's beach house, realizing we only had one more week together. Before finally falling asleep last night, we decided to try to make this morning like any other, just so we could get through it. We agreed to stay in close touch when I got to Beirut, and then see what happened as the months went by. We'd try to make the best of the situation and see where life led us as the year unfolded. Not the most comforting thought perhaps, but at least not apocalyptic.

    Of course, pretending this is just a normal morning--­him heading to his teaching job, me to the airport as if I were only off on a short travel-­story...

About the Author-
  • Salma Abdelnour is a writer and editor based in New York City. She has been the travel editor of Food & Wine, the food editor of O, The Oprah Magazine, and the restaurant editor of Time Out New York.

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    Crown Publishing Group
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