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A DISAPPEARANCE IN DAMASCUS  –  Knopf Canada (2016), Picador US (2017)




Did I find her or did she find me? I wrote that question in my reporter’s notebook soon after I met Ahlam, the Iraqi woman who was to change my life. It was 2007 and we had only recently begun working together in Damascus. I was the journalist; she was my interpreter and guide—my “fixer”—connecting me to refugees from Iraq… As she led me ever deeper inside the hidden world of the war she had fled, and into the increasingly unstable country of Syria where she had sought refuge from Iraq, she showed me what survival looks like with all the scaffolding of normal life ripped away. When I wrote that question, I had no idea what it would come to mean nearly a year later, when she was taken from me by agents of the secret police.”

“I imagine that most everyone who reads A Disappearance in Damascus will come to a moment when an image suddenly clutches at his or her heart…. Deborah Campbell has written a searing and extraordinarily affecting account of her experiences in Syria in the mid-2000s, one that reads in equal parts as memoir, history and mystery story…. Riveting and devastating…. [Campbell] has produced one of the more harrowing accounts of life inside a police state in recent memory.”―Scott Anderson, The New York Times Book Review

A Disappearance relates an unsettling true story with journalistic adroitness and novelistic flair.”
Rayyan Al-Shawaf, Washington Post

“[A Disappearance in Damascus] is a compelling story, a page-turner, and one that sheds light on the fraught political situation in the Mideast, the lives of ordinary citizens and the West’s culpability in the giant mess… One of Campbell’s great skills as a writer — besides her formidable reporting chops — is her ability to clearly explain complicated politics without oversimplifying… Campbell gives us a remarkably intimate look at the everyday life of people whose lives have been upended.”―Laurie Hertzel, Minneapolis StarTribune

A seamless blend of storytelling and reportage. . . . A riveting tale of courage, loss, love and friendship.” —Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Non-Fiction Prize citation

“A powerful book….the effect on readers will be transformative.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Captivating.”—Booklist (starred review)

“Gripping, inspiring, and at times intensely sorrowful, A Disappearance in Damascus provides a portrait of tremendous courage…[and] the devastation war wreaks upon civilians, and a remarkable friendship between two women.” —Phil Klay, winner of the 2014 National Book Award for Redeployment

“In this compelling, moving book, Deborah Campbell unearths so much of what could have disappeared in Damascus―the outcome of the misguided and illegal war on Iraq, a fractured refugee community, reporters risking their lives to get the news out―but mainly the story of Ahlam: a brave, ironic, brilliant Iraqi fixer who bridges worlds and is mother to a community. This is a book about the power of friendship between women, about raw courage, and the political and deeply personal devastations of war.”―Eve Ensler, author of In the Body of the World and The Vagina Monologues

“An extraordinary story of a journalist and her translator as they report on the exodus of Iraqis into Syria following the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. They both unwillingly become part of the drama which exposes the legacy of the US invasion of Iraq, the perils of reporting, the bonds of friendship and the undoing of Syria. I could not put this book down.”―Anne Garrels, author of Putin Country: A Journey into the Real Russia and Naked in Baghdad

A Disappearance in Damascus is not just a thriller looking for a missing person but an urgent moral tale about a journalist’s responsibility to their sources and fixers. To her credit, Campbell goes back and does not let go.”―Ben Rawlence, author of City of Thorns: Nine Lives in the World’s Largest Refugee Camp