Author of the week
Marwan Hisham learned firsthand that civil war creates impossible choices, said Bryan Schatz in Mother Jones. Seven years ago, the native of Raqqa stood shoulder to shoulder with two longtime friends, brothers Nael and Tareq, as they became swept up in the optimism of the Arab Spring and braved tear gas while demonstrating against the Syrian despot Bashar al-Assad. In his new memoir, Brothers of the Gun, Hisham recounts how quickly the friends’ paths parted once Assad launched a crackdown. Nael joined a local rebel faction and was soon killed, prompting his brother, in search of revenge, to join ISIS-allied militants. “At the time, every one of us was searching for meaning, for a role to play,” says Hisham, who turned to journalism. He sent out photos and reports from the battered city after it fell under ISIS rule in 2014. He admits it was risky. “But then, every day was risky under ISIS,” he says.
Hisham’s memoir is an attempt to salvage some truth from the horrendous conflict, to prevent Assad from whitewashing what happened. “We shouldn’t allow the worst people, the worst dictators in our time, to control the rhetoric,” he says. With an assist from artist Molly Crabapple, who contributed 80 pen-and-ink illustrations, Brothers of the Gun insists on the basic human individuality of Nael, Tareq, and many others. “My main goal is to fight this stereotype that might exist about the people in the Middle East,” he says. “We’re not either heroes or pathetic people that need sympathy. Every single one of us is more than that. This is the major [idea] I wanted to convey, not just to the people of the West, but to history.”