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.
"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." NOAM CHOMSKY
“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
14 March (Friday); 7 p.m.
The Big Green Bookshop, N22 6BG