House of Stone: A Memoir of Home, Family, and a Lost Middle East Summary & Study Guide

Anthony Shadid
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This section contains 637 words
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House of Stone: A Memoir of Home, Family, and a Lost Middle East Summary & Study Guide Description

House of Stone: A Memoir of Home, Family, and a Lost Middle East Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

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Anthony Shadid, a reporter for the Washington Post, covers the eighteen-day war in Lebanon in 2006. After covering conflict for fifteen years in places like Baghdad and Beirut, including surviving a shot to the shoulder five years before, he is exhausted by destruction and tension. He leaves Beirut and travels to Marjayoun, the ancestral home his grandparents left in the early twentieth century as the Ottoman Empire was sliced into individual nations. He seeks the house his great-grandfather, Isber Samara. built and finds it damaged by an Israeli rocket. He imagines his grandmother growing up there, picking fruit from the ancient olive trees around the house. He plants a young olive tree himself, a promise to return and reinstate the grandeur and sense of home that house once possessed. He wants to bring his daughter Laila, herself dispossessed by his divorce from her mother, to Marjayoun one day to teach her about her heritage.

Shadid returns in August of 2007, with less than a year's leave of absence from the Washington Post, and a dream to completely resurrect the house. He soon learns that Lebanese time and scheduling is not the same as it is in America. The project, under the guidance of foreman Abu Jean, moves at a snail's pace for months, and nothing Shadid does speeds things up. He must contend with workers who don't show up when they say they will, the shrewd negotiating skills of merchants selling him supplies, and a town that thinks he is either crazy or a spy.

Despite the frustration of the reconstruction, Shadid makes some good friends in Marjayoun: Shibil, a pot-smoking arthritic middle-aged man, who vacillates between love and hate for his hometown; Hikmat, a local councilman, who wants to believe Marjayoun can return to its former glory; and Dr. Khairalla, a man who has long cared for the ills of Marjayoun's residents without receiving payment, who is now dying of cancer but still has the patience to teach Shadid a lesson in appreciating the value of taking one's time and learning a craft well. Shadid is reunited with a cousin, Karim, who gleefully treats Shadid like true family, guilt trips and unsolicited advice included. Marjayoun, a town that was once the crossroad of several cultures, is now dying a slow death, as more and more people leave empty houses for better opportunities in countries not plagued by violence. Shadid wonders if it can be revived.

Throughout his own story, Shadid intermingles the narrative of his great-grandfather Isber and how the house came to be built: Isber worked hard as a merchant and landlord on the ancestral plains of the Houran in a time before the Middle East had borders. The Ottoman Empire joined cultures, ethnicities, and religions under a common banner in a time of tolerance. But just as Isber had enough money to build a house that will raise his family's social status in Marjayoun, the end of World War I collapsed the Ottoman Empire. As Europeans carved the Middle East into arbitrary nations, creating boundaries and conflict where none before existed, Isber recognized the best opportunities for his children laid elsewhere, and he sent three of them to America. Shadid traces the history of his grandparents' journey toward each other in Oklahoma, and their struggles in their new land, while also relating the history of war in Lebanon that has kept the nation from every truly prospering.

Against all the odds, Shadid's house is essentially complete by the time he must return to Washington, DC. Despite the setbacks and culture shock, as Shadid moves through the house now restored to his great-grandfather's specifications, he feels a sense of belonging he never thought he would find. He is finally bayt, a word that means house in Arabic, but has deeper resonances of home.

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This section contains 637 words
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