Hala Alyan illuminates the recent history of Lebanon and Syria through the personal tragedies and betrayals befalling one Arab American family in Arsonists’ City. The Nasr family is spread across the globe— from Beirut to Brooklyn to the West Coast. A decision to sell their ancestral home brings the family to Beirut, where family members unite in a fight to save the house. They all have secrets that distance has helped smother, but in a city smoldering with the legacy of war, an ongoing flow of refugees, religious tension, and political protest, those secrets ignite, imperiling the fragile ties that hold this family together. Using her insights as a psychologist, Alyan points to patterns of secrecy and shame and the power of buried trauma to leap beyond displacement and time.
Alyan is the author of Salt Houses which won the Dayton Literary Peace Prize and the Arab American Book Award. She has also published four award-winning collections of poetry, including The Twenty-Ninth Year. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times Book Review, LitHub and Guernica. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and works as a clinical psychologist.
“Plumbing the intricacies of race and womanhood, Alyan turns paragraphs into poetry.” –New York Times Book Review. “Feels revolutionary in its freshness.”- Entertainment Weekly. “A novel that at once breaks the heart and fills it with joy.”—Los Angeles Review of Books