A great piece about the late Anthony Shadid and his memoir, House of Stone, by Patricia Storace at The American Prospect. What is Oklahoma-born Shadid's legacy? It is to intertwine American culture with Arab culture. It is explain our intimate connections with that world and to dignify that world, to show us the incredible richness and beauties of Arab culture. Shadid's personal story, of commitment, free speech, bravery, honesty-- it ennobles all of us by breaking down this clash of civilizations. Notice at the end of the Storace excerpt the limitations of journalism per Shadid; and he was right. Journalism gorges on blood; he wanted a broader engagement with society, and got it:
He was born and raised in Oklahoma, a descendant of the Samaras and the Shadids of Marjayoun, a town older than the nation where it is situated. Once a substantial trading crossroads in the days of its Ottoman prosperity, Marjayoun (“a gateway—to Sidon, on the Mediterranean, and Damascus, beyond Mount Hermon; to Jerusalem, in historic Palestine; and to Baalbek, the site of an ancient Roman town … this was a place as cosmopolitan as the countryside offered”) supported four newspapers in its heyday. It was and is known as a Greek Orthodox town, but it is also a mosaic of Sunnis, Shiites, Druze, Maronite Catholics. Shadid’s Greek Orthodox great-uncle Hana sang the call to prayer from the town minaret, while Muslims broadcast Good Friday prayers from their restaurants in the heart of the town....
When the book opens, Shadid, recently arrived from three years in Iraq, is covering the attack on the village of Qana, one of the targets of Israel’s 33-day bombing of Lebanon in 2006. As the villagers comb through the ruins of their houses, uncovering the bodies of their dead families, Shadid is compelled to ask himself their question: How can we restore what has been destroyed? He makes his way to Marjayoun to discover the town square gutted by fires. Following a now-buckling asphalt road past cratered, bullet-riddled houses, he finds his grandparents’ house rent by a half-exploded Israeli rocket. Determined to make this soil yield something other than spent weapons, Shadid goes off in search of a shovel and digs deep to plant a tiny olive tree, “its trunk no thicker than a pen.”
Shadid’s account of restoring the house (“Bayt Sitti,” or the grandmother’s house, as he tenderly comes to call it) becomes the center of the book’s complex kaleidoscope of political and personal history. His quest and undertaking (which a fair number of Marjayounis consider insane, thanks to the complicated inheritance laws that ignite unresolvable family disputes) is to preserve its marble-floored liwan, or reception hall, its century-old iron railings, and its majestic traditional triple arcade of windows, but also to “re-imagine” the house for his family. A friend quotes the proverb “A sliver of land can wipe out its people,” but Shadid persists.
The healing of his house also becomes the discovery of a new way to write. Shadid describes how he had slowly come to feel that the craft of journalism shows us “the drama, not the impact … we never find out, or think to ask, whether the village is rebuilt, or what becomes of the dazed woman who, after one strange, endlessly extended moment, is no longer the mother of children.” As Shadid rebuilds the house, he is restored to his own life, in all the fullness of its relationships to past and present.