Winner of the George Ryga Prize 2008; published in Canada, Australia, Italy, France and Turkey
“This is a powerful and important book.” — Vancouver Sun
“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…. 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
Born to an Iraqi-Christian father and a British mother, and raised in Britain and Canada, Leilah Nadir has never set foot on Iraqi soil. Distanced from her Iraqi roots through immigration and now cut off by war, the closest link she has to the nation is through her father, who left Baghdad when he was sixteen to pursue his studies in England. He never looked back, until now, through his daughter's journey to uncover her lost family roots.
Her father’s most vivid memory is of the garden at the family house: the rosebushes that lined the walls, the date palm that intermingled with the palm fronds, and the orange tree that hung over the roses. His Iraq is of mythical origins; his beginnings are in a garden. But through her cousins still living in Baghdad she experiences the thunderous explosions that continuously rain down upon the country today, and describes losing their great-aunt in the terrifying aftermath of the invasion. Leilah’s friend, photographer Farah Nosh, brings home news of Leilah’s family after her visits to Iraq, as well as stunning photos of civilians and their often tragic stories. And just as Leilah gives up hope of ever meeting her family, a surprise reunion takes place.
In The Orange Trees of Baghdad, Leilah Nadir writes about a place she has never been to … giving voice to so many émigrés who have been cut off from their past by war and insurrection.” — Elle Canada
“Skillfully told with extraordinary warmth, her story gives us an incredible and often surprising insight into a Middle-Eastern culture that is simultaneously exotic and familiar, comforting and terrifying ... This is a compelling, touching and beautifully written book that thoughtfully challenges assumptions about a place and a people lost in the miasma of war.” — Brisbane Courier Mail
“A compelling first book from a thoughtful writer.” — Quill and Quire
“Nadir’s work is stunning in its brilliance and poignant in its elegance…. The Orange Trees of Baghdad is a compelling memoir, worthy of every reader’s time, precisely because it eschews a simplistic understanding of all the issues it discusses.”
— Canadian Literature
“The Orange Trees of Baghdad is unique in that it is not firsthand reportage…. But this remove is what gives Nadir’s book its terrible poignancy.” — Georgia Straight
“… at once moving, disturbing, confusing, and wonderfully hopeful.... Nadir succeeds in defining a face of contemporary war that is rarely discussed, though it is the matter of a wealth of historical literature. With incredible intricacy and remarkable sensitivity she presents a portrait of the human struggles of war…. These are lasting images that … underscore the resilience of the human spirit.” — Dr. Ivan Townshend, head judge of George Ryga Award 2008
“In a book that somehow manages to be both journalistic and intimate, the author eloquently reminds us that Iraq’s heart is a country, not a war. Her quest for her roots shows us the tragedy of this people whose land and history has been stolen from beneath them.” — France Culture