Brothers of the Gun: A Memoir of the Syrian War
A bracingly immediate memoir of the Syrian war from its inception to the present by a young man coming of age and finding his voice as a journalist, whose friends traveled divergent paths through the carnage. An intimate lens into the century’s bloodiest conflict, and a profound meditation on kinship, home, and freedom. Illustrated with over 80 ink drawings by Molly Crabapple.
In 2011, Marwan Hisham and his two friends–fellow working-class college students–Nael and Tareq, joined the first protests of the Arab Spring in Syria, in response to a recent massacre. Arm-in-arm they marched, poured Coke into each other’s eyes to blunt the effects of tear gas, ran from the security forces, and cursed the country’s president, Bashar al-Assad. It was ecstasy. A long-bottled revolution was finally erupting, and freedom from a brutal dictator seemed, at last, imminent. Five years later, the three young friends were scattered: one now an Islamist revolutionary; another dead at the hands of government soldiers; and the last, Marwan, now a journalist in Turkish exile, trying to find a way back to a homeland reduced to rubble.
Brothers of the Gun is the story of a young man coming of age during the Syrian war from its inception to the present. Marwan watched from the rooftops as regime warplanes bombed rebels; as revolutionary activist groups, for a few dreamy days, spray-painted hope on Raqqa; as his friends died or threw in their lot with Islamist fighters. He became a journalist by courageously tweeting out news from a city under siege by ISIS, the Russians, and the Americans, all at once. He watched the country that ran through his veins–the country that held his hopes, dreams, and fears–be destroyed in front of him, and eventually joined the relentless stream of refugees risking their lives to escape.
With vivid illustrations that bring to life the beauty and chaos, Brothers of the Gun offers a ground-level reflection on the Syrian revolution–and how it bled into international catastrophe and global war. This is a story of pragmatism and idealism, impossible violence and repression, and, even in the midst of war, profound acts of courage, creativity, and hope.
Brothers of the Gun has been longlisted for the 2018 National Book Award
Available for pre-order from Penguin Random House
“When the world watched me hardest, when my brain burned itself bloody, I could draw. No matter what, I had that. It was all I needed.”
In language that is fresh, bracing, and deeply moving and illustrations that are rich, irreverent, and gorgeous here is a memoir that will change the way you think about art, sex, politics, and survival in our times.
“Molly Crabapple’s pen is a scalpel, and she’s not afraid to turn the blade on herself. Beautifully excruciating.”
“Molly is an old-style bohemian with very contemporary political sensibilities. I’m very attracted by the fluidity and versatility of her line, and by her images’ mixture of sexiness, satire, and real anger about the state of things.”
“In a few short years, Molly Crabapple has proved to be one of the most determined and effective political artists working in these sorry times. I wish there were a hundred or even two or three like her.”
“Molly Crabapple’s extraordinary memoir reads like a great novel, full of exotic locations, fascinating characters, passion, politics, a measured amount of bodice ripping, and above all, art. Crabapple brings a unique perspective to the artist’s journey, for she has been both artist and model, performer and recorder – she has straddled the gaze, Galatea to her own Pygmalion, and her vibrant, voracious trail is one well worth following. Molly writes like she draws: the spare lines have a reporter’s keen accuracy, but can barely contain the boisterous, messy, soulful life splashing about within. Inspiring, intimate and just a bit intimidating, this book is a must.”
“Molly Crabapple could be this generation’s Charles Bukowski. She’s a great artist whose life is also a work of art.”
“The journey in this book, across countries and through cultures, is not the search for meaning or even belonging – as one might expect. The terrain here is an internal one, about understanding and accepting the self, a true coming of age, about being flawed but deeply human. Touching, surprising, gripping and fascinating, the true beauty here is that every discovery, every moment is attended by intimacy and an ethereal quiet that creates more questions than answers, more troubling than consolation. Molly Crabapple is turn by turn irreverent, respectful, enraged and then trembling with awe, and all of this is a tender meditation on the power of art to transform a singular life into one that can be emblematic for us all: powerful and magical.“
“Molly Crabapple writes that her ‘pen is a lockpick,’ and with it she has revealed truths about life, culture, and politics in America that are compelling, artistic, and memorable—as is this revealing new memoir. An engaging read by one of the nation’s most gifted activists.”