The Orange Trees of Baghdad:
in search of my lost family
a memoir by Leilah Nadir
with photos by Farah Nosh
Publisher: Read Leaf
Printed in the USA
When the West invaded Iraq in 2003, Leilah Nadir was torn in two; both the occupier and the occupied flowed through her veins.
Born to an Iraqi father and an English mother, raised in Britain and Canada, she has never set foot on Iraqi soil. But she longs to visit the family home in central Baghdad, full of furniture, photographs and clothes, all guarded by her great-aunt, who waits for someone to return and reclaim it. While American helicopters fly low overhead and explosions shatter the calm, the date palms still sway in the heat of the day and jasmine scents Baghdad nights.
As invasion becomes occupation and lawlessness takes hold, Leilah's relatives tell harrowing tales of car bombs and kidnappings. Her friend, award-winning photojournalist Farah Nosh, sends photos of Leilah's family—along with stunning portraits of wounded Iraqis. After decades of averting his eyes from Iraq's pain, Leilah's father is forced to look back as well. Through his memories Leilah uncovers her family's lost story, from the British mandate to the Gulf War to the American occupation.
And just as she gives up hope of ever meeting her family, a surprise reunion takes place.
Praise For The Orange Trees of Baghdad
"Far more even than the terrifying bare facts and statistics, this moving memoir, vividly evoking real people and their lives and homes, lets us understand why Iraqis feel that Americans destroyed their country."
“Leilah Nadir’s The Orange Trees of Baghdad reminds us that Iraq is not just a war; it is a country. Lovingly woven together from inherited memory and family lore, her Iraq is infinitely more vivid, more textured, and more heartbreaking than what we see nightly on the news. In the debates about winning and losing the war, this is a book about what loss really means—the theft of history and of homeland.”
NAOMI KLEIN, author of No Logo and The Shock Doctrine
"A love song to Nadir's Iraqi relatives… Nadir's strength as a writer lies in her passionate descriptions of the smallest detail. There's a real immediacy, even an urgency, about The Orange Trees of Baghdad…. This is a powerful and important book." — Vancouver Sun
In The Orange Trees of Baghdad, Leilah Nadir writes about a place she has never been to … giving voice to so many émigrés who have been cut off from their past by war and insurrection." — Elle Canada
"Skillfully told with extraordinary warmth, her story gives us an incredible and often surprising insight into a Middle-Eastern culture that is simultaneously exotic and familiar, comforting and terrifying ... This is a compelling, touching and beautifully written book that thoughtfully challenges assumptions about a place and a people lost in the miasma of war." — Brisbane Courier Mail
"Nadir's work is stunning in its brilliance and poignant in its elegance…. The Orange Trees of Baghdad is a compelling memoir, worthy of every reader's time, precisely because it eschews a simplistic understanding of all the issues it discusses." — Canadian Literature
"The Orange Trees of Baghdad is unique in that it is not firsthand reportage…. But this remove is what gives Nadir's book its terrible poignancy." — Georgia Straight
“A very finely written, deftly crafted work about Iraq that translates this epic disaster into human terms and makes us understand the endless suffering of its people. Touching, insightful and poignant.”
ERIC MARGOLIS, author of War at the Top of the World: The Struggle for Afghanistan, Kashmir and Tibet
“A detailed exploration of life in Baghdad filtered through the voices and memories of the Iraqi diaspora.”
DEVYANI SALTZMAN, author of Shooting Water
“Leilah Nadir’s insightful, searching story about her Iraqi roots, family, exile, and survival, told in absorbing and moving language, reveals the great civilization now under assault and the human beings under perpetual blast, condemnation, and bombardment.”
GEORGE ELLIOTT CLARKE
“The Orange Trees of Baghdad is a stunning book, the best I’ve read in the past year. Leilah Nadir takes us on her quest to meet the members of her family whose lives have been uprooted by war. In the process, we are drawn into the heart of the world’s most ancient civilization. In the haunting, dreamlike pages of this book, we discover that as Baghdad is destroyed, the roots of our own deepest part are being torn asunder. Hypnotically readable.”
JAMES LAXER, author of The Border and The Acadians