The Edmond Sun

Opinion

September 20, 2012

Book details reporter's efforts to rebuild home, connect with past

OKLAHOMA CITY — At the memorial service that was held at the Oklahoma City Civic Center for the late New York Times reporter Anthony Shadid earlier this year, a video was shown that featured the reporter offering a small tour of the house that he was renovating in Marjayoun, Lebanon, that had been the home of his great-grandfather.

Shadid’s experience in that community as he oversaw that structure’s renovation is the subject of his final book, “House of Stone, A Memoir of Home, Family, and a Lost Middle East.”

The author details how his Arab ancestors were Orthodox Christians who were citizens of the Turkish Empire before the First World War, and how after that conflict ended the Middle East was divided into different nation states by England and France, and Marjayoun became part of the new nation of Lebanon that was under French control.

Under the Turks, we are told, the area was connected through trade routes and the various ethnic and religious groups who lived there were fairly tolerant of one another, and Marjayoun was a thriving community that shipped goods to cities such as Aleppo, Damascus and Beirut. But the economic hardships that resulted from the First World War and the Turkish efforts to draft young men into the army resulted in many people in that community emigrating to the United States.

Shadid’s ancestors were among those who journeyed to America where they became peddlers and small shopkeepers in Oklahoma. One of those who left the house that Shadid later purchased was his grandmother, Raeefa Samarra, who was initially denied entrance to the U.S. at Ellis Island in New York City because of the supposed poor health of the male relative with whom she was traveling.

She managed to make her way to Mexico before they could deport her, where she boarded a train to Ciudad Juarez and then walked to El Paso, Texas. From there she took a train to Ardmore, where she was met by a family member who was operating a store in neighboring Wilson, Oklahoma. Such a tale makes one more sympathetic to those who live among us at this time who also came to the U.S. from Mexico without legal authorization.

Shadid explains how he initially came to Lebanon as a reporter for the Washington Post, at a time when that nation was recovering from a civil war among its various religious and political factions. It had also been occupied by Israel during that nation’s military incursion into Southern Lebanon in the early 1980s.

Hezbullah, a political party and military organization that represents the Shiite Muslims of Lebanon, kidnapped several Israeli soldiers in 2006, and Shadid describes the Israeli military response to that action as well as the differing opinions regarding Hezbullah that he found among the citizenry of Marjayoun. But much of his book deals with his efforts to renovate his home, and the colorful crew of contractors and handymen who assisted him in that endeavor.

The author also gives us insights into his private life, including the loss he felt when his first marriage dissolved, and the love he has for his daughter Laila. Shadid reports that when he would call her from the Middle East he would always tell her that he loved her and that she would always reply that “He was the best daddy in the world.” Laila Shadid, who is 10 years old, spoke at the Oklahoma City memorial service for her father, and used that phrase to describe him.

WILLIAM F. O’BRIEN is an Oklahoma City attorney.

1
Text Only
Opinion
  • Sheltons travel for better life for family

    Some time around 1865 a mixed-race African American couple, William and Mary Shelton, made their way from Mississippi to east Texas. Nothing is known for certain of their origins in he Magnolia state, or the circumstances under which they began their new lives in Texas.

    July 29, 2014

  • Film critic Turan produces book

    Kenneth Turan, who is the film critic for National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition,” has written a book “Not to be Missed, Fifty-Four Favorites from a Life Time of Film.” His list of movies span the gamut from the beginnings of filmmaking through the present day.
    There are some surprising omissions on his list. While he includes two films, “A Touch of Evil” and Chimes at Midnight” made by Orson Welles, and one, “The Third Man,” that Welles starred in but did not direct. He did not however, include “Citizen Kane,” that was the first movie Welles made, that is  often cited by both film critics and historians as a favorite film.

    July 28, 2014

  • Logan County’s disputed zone

    Watchers of “Star Trek” may recall the episode from the original series entitled, “Day of the Dove.” In this episode, Captain Kirk and his crew are forced by a series of circumstances into a confrontation with the Klingons. The conflict eventually resolves after Kirk realizes that the circumstances have been intentionally designed by an alien force which feeds off negative emotions, especially fear and anger. Kirk and his crew communicate this fact to the Klingons and the conflict subsides. No longer feeding upon confrontation, the alien force is weakened and successfully driven away.

    July 28, 2014

  • Russell leads in Sun poll

    Polling results of an unscientific poll at www.edmondsun.com show that Steve Russell, GOP candidate for the 5th District congressional seat, is in the lead with 57 percent of the vote ahead of the Aug. 26 runoff election. Thirty readers participated in the online poll.

    July 28, 2014

  • Healthier and Wealthier? Not in Oklahoma

    Increased copays, decreased coverage, diminished health care access, reduced provider budgets and increased frustration are all the outcomes of the Legislature’s 2014 health care funding decisions. Unlike some years in the past when a languishing state economy forced legislators into making cuts, the undesirable outcomes this year could easily have been avoided.

    July 26, 2014

  • Medicaid reform a necessity

    Historically, education spending by the state of Oklahoma has been the largest budget item. This is no longer the case. In recent years, the state of Oklahoma spends more on Medicaid (operated by the Oklahoma Health Care Authority) than common education and higher education combined, according to the state’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report.

    July 25, 2014

  • Remembering lessons from 1974

    This week marks the 40th anniversary of an important milestone in America’s constitutional history. On July 24, 1974, the Supreme Court voted 8-0 to order the Nixon White House to turn over audiotapes that would prove the president and his close aides were guilty of criminal violations. This ruling established with crystal clarity that the executive branch could not hide behind the shield of executive privilege to protect itself from the consequences of illegal behavior. It was a triumph for the continued vitality of our constitutional form of government.

    July 25, 2014

  • RedBlueAmerica: Is parenting being criminalized in America?

    Debra Harrell was arrested recently after the McDonald’s employee let her daughter spend the day playing in a nearby park while she worked her shift. The South Carolina woman says her daughter had a cell phone in case of danger, and critics say that children once were given the independence to spend a few unsupervised hours in a park.
    Is it a crime to parent “free-range” kids? Does Harrell deserve her problems? Joel Mathis and Ben Boychuk, the RedBlueAmerica columnists, debate the issue.

    July 24, 2014

  • Technology that will stimulate journalism’s future is now here

    To say technology has changed the newspaper media industry is understating the obvious. While much discussion focuses on how we read the news, technology is changing the way we report the news. The image of a reporter showing up to a scene with a pen and a pad is iconic but lost to the vestiges of time.
    I am asked frequently about the future of newspapers and, in particular, what does a successful future look like. For journalists, to be successful is to command multiple technologies and share news with readers in new and exciting ways.

    July 23, 2014

  • New Orleans features its own “Running of the Bulls”

    On July12, the streets of the Warehouse District of New Orleans were filled with thousands of young men who were seeking to avoid being hit with plastic bats wielded by women on roller skates as part of the annual “Running of the Bulls” that takes place in New Orleans.
    The event is based on the “Running of the Bulls” that occurs in Pamplona, Spain, that is  part of an annual occurrence in which a group of bulls rampage through the streets of Pamplona while men run from them to avoid being gored by their sharp horns. That event was introduced to the English-speaking world by Ernest Hemingway, who included scenes from it in his critically acclaimed 1926 novel “The Sun also Rises.”

    July 22, 2014

Poll

The runoff race for the 5th District congressional seat is set for Aug. 26. If the voting were today, which candidate would you support?

Al McAffrey
Tom Guild
Undecided
     View Results