When Jean Said Makdisi decided to write this family chronicle, she discovered she knew little about Teta, her grandmother's past, and not enough about her own mother's life. Using unpublished family documents, the memories of friends and acquaintances, and histories of the region and period, Makdisi traces her family's personal story against the backdrop of political events as they take place in Syria, Palestine, Lebanon, Egypt and the United States. The story begins in the 1880's of her grandmother's early childhood in Ottoman Syria; details her mother's experiences of two world wars and their repercussions for the Middle East; and concludes with the author's own experience of raising a family in Beirut, amidst the endless, futile, disillusioning fratricide of the Lebanese civil war (1975-90). This intimate biography reveals the unsung private histories of three extraordinary women - as they work, play and raise families under the most difficult of circumstances - and through them the history of the Arab people.
Jean Said Makdisi was born in Jerusalem in 1940. She studied in Cairo and the United States. She is the author of Beirut Fragments: A War Memoir, selected as one of the Best Books of 1990 by the New York Times Book Review. She lives in Beirut, where she remained with her husband and their three sons throughout the civil war.