My Father's Rifle: A Childhood in Kurdistan

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9780374216931: My Father's Rifle: A Childhood in Kurdistan

A young Kurd comes of age in a war-torn land.

This beautiful, spare narrative tells of the life of a boy named Azad--in fact the author, a Kurdish filmmaker--as he grows to manhood in Iraq during the 1960s and 1970s. Azad is born into a vibrant village culture, to a family that is proud of its Kurdish past and hopes for a free Kurdish future. He loves his mother's orchard, his cousin's stunt pigeons, his father's old Czech rifle, his brother who is fighting in the mountains. But before he is even of school age, Azad has experienced strafing and bombing; he watches as friends and neighbors are assassinated; and he sees his father humiliated when he tries to get food for his starving family. Forced into a refugee camp in Iran for years, his family realizes, on their return, that Saddam Hussein and his regime are destroying the autonomy he had promised their people. In a burst of adolescent impatience, Azad briefly runs off to the mountains to fight for Kurdish liberty, like his brother.

But Azad has also discovered art--drawings, poetry, film--and he senses that he must find his own way to advance the Kurdish cause. My Father's Rifle ends with his heartbreaking departure from his parents and flight across the Syrian border to freedom. Stunning in its unadorned intensity, My Father's Rifle is a moving portrait of a boy who embraces the land and culture he loves, even as he leaves them.

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About the Author:

Hiner Saleem, an internationally acclaimed filmmaker, was born in 1964 in Iraqi Kurdistan. After fleeing Iraq in the late 1970s, he lived in Syria, Florence, and then Paris, where he began making movies. His feature films include Vodka Lemon

From Publishers Weekly:

Using a child's unsparing, detailed eye, this boyhood chronicle of life in embattled 1960s and '70s Kurdistan portrays a time of soaring nationalist pride, family tragedy and government betrayal. With stirring lyricism, Saleem writes of his oppressed Iraqi homeland, his mother's fruit-laden orchard, his cousin's stunt pigeons, his father's ancient Czech rifle and his own place in a unified village community where every man would fight for the Kurdish way of life. Saleem and his family join those Kurds who, leery of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party's promises of peace, flee to the mountains, where they put up fierce resistance and are finally forced across the Iranian border into refugee camps. After the Iraqi government eventually prompts the Kurds to return to their villages, Hussein then moves hundreds of Arabs to their territories to establish homes and businesses, transforming much of Kurdistan into a haven for true believers in the Baath Party, although the Kurdish peshmerga (volunteer fighters) continue to battle for their homeland. Saleem's family goes home, but the Baath pressure forces the author and his brothers to settle in Europe; his sister remains in a concentration camp (and thus is not able to attend their father's funeral). Saleem, who's now a filmmaker in Paris, offers a haunting, sympathetic account of a young life amid the horrors of a war zone.
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