Lebanese Armenians march with flags and signs on the …

Snow on the Barbecue And other wonders of Everyday life in Lebanon, a book by Nancy Chedid

Snow on the Barbecue And other wonders of Everyday life in Lebanon  

Nancy Chedid photoby Nancy Chedid
Published by La Revue Phenicienne in Beirut, Snow on the Barbecue and Other Wonders of Everyday Life in Lebanon by Nancy Chedid recounts, in English, a year in the life of an American widow and her children in Lebanon.
An American widow follows her heart to Lebanon, the land of her late husband’s birth. With her three young sons in tow, she navigates a colorful, occasionally maddening, relentlessly breathtaking world.
The past meets the present and the mountains meet the sea, in a mystical landscape that still resonates with the spirit of her lost love. Fervently she connects with her surroundings, drawing solace and joy from the rhythms of nature and the redemptive rituals of everyday life. In Snow on the Barbecue, Nancy Chedid recounts the most memorable adventures of her first year in Lebanon, whether exploring an ancient cedar forest on snowshoes or doing battle with an ancient water tank on the roof. Stirring photographs and an engaging narrative propel the reader along on this surprising journey. Both armchair explorers and those who have experienced the country firsthand will come to view Lebanon with a new sense of wonder. 
Brief Bio: Nancy Chedid, physician, musician, educator, environmentalist, and writer, has contributed to The Boston Globe and to several scientific publications. Her eldest son Georges, who has yet to be sprung from high school, supplied many of the photographs for this book.

  • Publisher: Editions de la Revue Phenicienne
  • Publishing date: December 2014
  • Language: English

Review of the Book:

From the Fascinating to the Everyday

Let me tell you of my adventures, the sublime and the mundane, the maddening and the inspirational, of my first year in Lebanon.  But remember that mine is only one story among millions, in this land of spectacular diversity.”  By these words drawn from its prologue, Nancy Chedid sets the tone of her work recently published by Editions de la Revue Phenicienne, Snow on the Barbecue and Other Wonders of Everyday Life in Lebanon.  Nancy Chedid was born in New York, but her late husband was a native of Lebanon and a naturalized citizen of the United States.  They lived together with their three sons in Boston when illness came to call.  Her husband, she writes, guessed that he would not have long to live.  “Nan,” he told her, “if something happens to me, I want you to take the kids and go live with my family in Lebanon.”  A promise, a “sacred” promise, a promise kept, and it is undoubtedly to her late husband that Nancy Chedid dedicates this book:  “My soul is illuminated by memories of you.”

Life Settles In

Disclosed in twelve chapters accompanied by color photographs, the book opens with a scene that is typically Lebanese, or at least perceived as such in distant memories from school days, emanating from the heartland of the mountains: the production of the traditional dish known as “kishk”.  Right away the reader, particularly the Lebanese reader, feels apprehension at the thought of a progressive narration of cliché-ed stories demonstrating the time-worn fascination which these ancestral customs of the countryside exert on foreigners. Apprehension already sensed with the first lines of the book, in the prologue, which tosses together images of the snow-capped mountains seen from the sun-drenched beach, the counterpoint of church bells and the call to prayer at the mosque, and the glittering nightfall of Beirut!

But, little by little, life settles into the rhythm of everyday rituals and the diversion of the written word. Fascination and the initial strangeness of the place begin to fade, and fortunately so, to be replaced by a daily routine, filled with picturesque scenes, human discovery, humor, and irony, seen always through the lens of a newcomer’s eye, which captures all the details and the peculiarities of local color.  The stories unfold, compiled with meticulous attention, as if from the the intimate pages of a journal, lest they be forgotten with time or lest the impressions felt in the moment should vanish into thin air.

Residing in Jbeil, Nancy Chedid recounts her expedition to Tannourine and her first encounter with snow there; her first experience with local fireworks, and what it means to live in the realm of cacophony and a shimmering sky; becoming acquainted with the concept of a “mahal”, of a corner “subermarket” — as the letter “p” does not exist in Arabic; her son’s guitar lesson, and all the resulting adventures that are imbued with hospitality and warmth.  “Mom,” asks her son, “do you think something like this ever could have happened back in the U.S?”  Before she has time to compose a “sensible” answer, this one comes from the heart:  “Honey, I’m not sure it could have happened anywhere but here.”

With tenderness and wit, she unveils her life in Lebanon, the lives of those around her, what she encounters along the way or what she is content to glimpse in passing. Among the scenes that are both satiric and authentic, is one in which the balcony is transformed into the front row of a theater for viewing the comings-and-goings of passersby or the habits of the neighbors across the way; or another chapter which relates the battle of the average citizen, through days and weeks, over the matter of water – water shortages, water tanks, municipal red tape… a tale of jumping with both feet into daily life, which instantly takes the {Lebanese}reader back to all those hours lost in the pursuit of maintaining a minimum level of subsistence….  Life settles in and continues, always spiced with the discoveries of a novel existence.  But for how long?  Nancy Chedid is aware of the clock ticking, right from the outset:  “And I pray that I will remember well these resplendent days, because with the passage of time the wonders all around me will be hidden from my sight by the cloak of familiarity.  Of this I am certain…. Then again, I could be wrong….”

Original review in French by Nayla Rached appeared in Magazine, February 20, 2015, Les Editions Orientales, Beirut.  www.magazine.com.lb.  English translation of review by Nancy Chedid.

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