Brothers of the Gun by Marwan Hisham is a memoir of life in Syria during the ongoing war, from the start of the revolution in 2011 until now. Marwan Hisham tells us his story, of being a young man in the city of Raqqa, with his two closest friends, brothers Naël and Tareq. All three men come from working class families, and were the first of their families to get university degrees. The book starts off during the first days of the revolution when the three men actively participate in the protests, defying the government they know to be oppressive, sure that their voices will be stronger than the oppression. It continues on to show us what the people of Syria are faced with today. Marwan Hisham takes us through what his home was and has become. Through protests and bombs, street fights where the same checkpoint is won and lost over and over again within a day, to death, and the pain of making choices that you never wanted to make in the first place.
We don’t know enough about Syria in the western world, about the history of the country, the geography, the reason for the revolution in 2011, or the development of the war as it stands now. Reading these types of memoirs is so important, as it provides a proper background to the country and the conflict, showing us how there never is a proper representation by the press. I really appreciated the areas of background information that fit perfectly within the narrative, clear, to the point, and a little tongue in cheek. Marwan Hisham has no issues providing the full picture for us.
In Brothers of the Gun young adults with ideals are faced with a collapse of their country in a way that no one expected. A civil war that started as a revolution and then descended into a hell where a government continues to bomb its people, and foreigners wage a war against each other on Syrian soil. Marwan Hisham eloquently explains a lot of the issues in Syrian society and how so many wars are being fought on their soil. Sadly we, the people on the outside, never really look further than what we see in a hastily scrolled newsfeed moment. Everyone is either an Islamist or a refugee, maybe both, and we don’t really care. Reading these types of stories is SO important because as often as we say “never again” we know we are the biggest hypocrites as soon as the words fall from our mouths. We failed the Syrian people way before there was even a murmur of revolution in the air.
Brothers of the Gun is a story of coming of age in a world where war has become the norm. A story of surviving, of trying to continue life when everything around you is falling apart, and your friends are running off to fight for ideals that you may not believe in. It’s also a story of searching for a meaning and a place for oneself. I think this book is a must read for everyone, for the true narrative on the reality of Syria and the war, and also for Marwan’s important insights.
The book is beautifully illustrated with stunning illustrations. Pictures of people, places, and moments add such an original and special touch to the story. The origins of the partnership between illustrator Molly Crabapple and Marwan Hisham is pretty incredible - and Molly Crabapple’s ability to take Marwan Hisham’s photos (it’s illegal to take photos in ISIS held areas) and recreate the settings and stories into images is amazing. They are extremely poignant and powerful.
Brothers of the Gun will be published by Random House on May 15, 2018. Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the advance copy!