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An award-winning Iraqi writer creates a new world for himself in Seattle in search of lost love. As the US occupation of Iraq rages, novelist Mortada Gzar, a student at the University of Baghdad, has a chance encounter with Morise, an African American soldier. It’s love at first sight, a threat to them both, and a moment of self-discovery. Challenged by society’s rejection An award-winning Iraqi writer creates a new world for himself in Seattle in search of lost love. As the US occupation of Iraq rages, novelist Mortada Gzar, a student at the University of Baghdad, has a chance encounter with Morise, an African American soldier. It’s love at first sight, a threat to them both, and a moment of self-discovery. Challenged by society’s rejection and Morise’s return to the US, Mortada takes to the page to understand himself. In his deeply affecting memoir, Mortada interweaves tales of his childhood work as a scrap-metal collector in a war zone and the indignities faced by openly gay artists in Iraq with his impossible love story and journey to the US. Marginalized by his own society, he is surprised to discover the racism he finds in a new one. At its heart, I’m in Seattle, Where Are You? is a moving tale of love and resilience.


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An award-winning Iraqi writer creates a new world for himself in Seattle in search of lost love. As the US occupation of Iraq rages, novelist Mortada Gzar, a student at the University of Baghdad, has a chance encounter with Morise, an African American soldier. It’s love at first sight, a threat to them both, and a moment of self-discovery. Challenged by society’s rejection An award-winning Iraqi writer creates a new world for himself in Seattle in search of lost love. As the US occupation of Iraq rages, novelist Mortada Gzar, a student at the University of Baghdad, has a chance encounter with Morise, an African American soldier. It’s love at first sight, a threat to them both, and a moment of self-discovery. Challenged by society’s rejection and Morise’s return to the US, Mortada takes to the page to understand himself. In his deeply affecting memoir, Mortada interweaves tales of his childhood work as a scrap-metal collector in a war zone and the indignities faced by openly gay artists in Iraq with his impossible love story and journey to the US. Marginalized by his own society, he is surprised to discover the racism he finds in a new one. At its heart, I’m in Seattle, Where Are You? is a moving tale of love and resilience.

30 review for I'm in Seattle, Where Are You?: A Memoir

  1. 4 out of 5

    Erik

    Mortada Gzar's "I'm in Seattle, Where are You?" is a memoir about loss, oppression, finding hope in love, and finding family in loss. Mortada is a gay man in Iraq before, during, and after the U.S. war that led to the toppling of Saddam Hussein's regime. During all three stages of this war, Mortada must conceal his sexuality to avoid the brutalities of the Baath party or the even worse brutalities of the fundamentalists who kill anyone suspected of homosexuality. In all of this, he meets Morise, Mortada Gzar's "I'm in Seattle, Where are You?" is a memoir about loss, oppression, finding hope in love, and finding family in loss. Mortada is a gay man in Iraq before, during, and after the U.S. war that led to the toppling of Saddam Hussein's regime. During all three stages of this war, Mortada must conceal his sexuality to avoid the brutalities of the Baath party or the even worse brutalities of the fundamentalists who kill anyone suspected of homosexuality. In all of this, he meets Morise, a Black, American soldier, and they fall in love. But when Morise returns to the U.S. and Mortada finds himself confronted with the dangers of living alone as a known homosexual in Iraq, Mortada must find a way to flee - to Seattle to reunite with Morise. In Seattle, Mortada meets a cast of characters who change his life and open up a whole new world for him. This memoir which is at times enlightening and moving is dogged by prose that was either lost in translation (this book is translated from Arabic) or confused by the plot that zigs and zags between past and present in a way that is hard to follow. These flaws with the prose make it hard to feel connected to the characters and an otherwise important and interesting story gets lost in narrated conversations with shoes and flashbacks that aren't actually in the past. I am encountering this book as an ARC so things could change, but as it stands now this book is its own worst enemy.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jamie Jack

    Something, Perhaps, Lost in Translation This memoir is translated from Arabic into English, and I wonder if something was a little lost in the translation of it. This could have been a moving and riveting story of finding love as a homosexual man in a homophobic culture that takes it to an extreme hard for those of us in more open Western societies to understand... physical attacks that even lead to death. Instead, the author’s tale feels disjointed to me, making it so I never felt like I truly c Something, Perhaps, Lost in Translation This memoir is translated from Arabic into English, and I wonder if something was a little lost in the translation of it. This could have been a moving and riveting story of finding love as a homosexual man in a homophobic culture that takes it to an extreme hard for those of us in more open Western societies to understand... physical attacks that even lead to death. Instead, the author’s tale feels disjointed to me, making it so I never felt like I truly connected with the people involved. The story also ping-pongs confusingly between different timelines. Nonlinear writing is hard to do well, and unfortunately, it was not done so here. I received a free copy of this book, but that did not affect my review.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Tricia

    Could have been impactful, but fell short The last two chapters of the book are the only ones that make any sense. This book has a powerful subject, interesting point of view, but the main character seems to not have any emotion about anything. The meandering of timelines, the main character's telling of his story to inanimate objects, leaves me highly disappointed. Could have been impactful, but fell short The last two chapters of the book are the only ones that make any sense. This book has a powerful subject, interesting point of view, but the main character seems to not have any emotion about anything. The meandering of timelines, the main character's telling of his story to inanimate objects, leaves me highly disappointed.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jen

    This took a very long time for me to get through and, in fact, largely happened over the burst of a night that our internet happened to be out and I had my phone in hand so I decided to stay where I was and read in my Kindle app. I think the reason I found it so difficult to come back to and to finish this book was the nonlinear timeline. We'd start somewhere, get a bit further into the story and then come crashing in sometime later. It was very hard to follow. The language is also a bit perplex This took a very long time for me to get through and, in fact, largely happened over the burst of a night that our internet happened to be out and I had my phone in hand so I decided to stay where I was and read in my Kindle app. I think the reason I found it so difficult to come back to and to finish this book was the nonlinear timeline. We'd start somewhere, get a bit further into the story and then come crashing in sometime later. It was very hard to follow. The language is also a bit perplexing at times and takes a long time to adjust to. I believe this is because it was originally written in Arabic, which I think (though I am not well versed in it) to be a very poetic and flowery language. English is...not. So, even though I think that the translator did a good job with intent, it comes off a bit stilted in English. There are some pretty harsh things in the book. Being a homosexual Muslim in Iraq doesn't sound easy and this book does not shy away from the hardships that he experienced. It was interesting but definitely not a book to come back to.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jenna Bachman

    2.5. It breaks my heart to rank this so low when the premise is so interesting and Gzar is writing about some truly painful experiences. However, the way this is written makes it really hard to follow. Gzar "tells" his story to different people at different times and so it often becomes unclear when he's starting to talk to someone about the past and when he's just talking in the present day of the story. This made it super hard to follow. Because he's literally telling his story, the narration 2.5. It breaks my heart to rank this so low when the premise is so interesting and Gzar is writing about some truly painful experiences. However, the way this is written makes it really hard to follow. Gzar "tells" his story to different people at different times and so it often becomes unclear when he's starting to talk to someone about the past and when he's just talking in the present day of the story. This made it super hard to follow. Because he's literally telling his story, the narration is also heavily focused on telling rather than showing, which detracted from the story. There are some lines that show some reflection and could be good, but the structure here just takes away from it.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Cheryl

    “The world still overflows with the goodness of humanity and with souls who open the windows of their spirit to fill their interior peace with distant vistas, because compassionate hearts are a power.” “At times, it’s appropriate for us to protect our innocence and refrain from hearing other people’s memories, since our own memory is quite capable of destroying us.” I loved this book, it was everything I have been wanting, a different voice, non linear, and fantastical, and seemed to tell the stor “The world still overflows with the goodness of humanity and with souls who open the windows of their spirit to fill their interior peace with distant vistas, because compassionate hearts are a power.” “At times, it’s appropriate for us to protect our innocence and refrain from hearing other people’s memories, since our own memory is quite capable of destroying us.” I loved this book, it was everything I have been wanting, a different voice, non linear, and fantastical, and seemed to tell the story of all of us while being specifically about a gay man fleeing a country that torture and kill him for who he loved, a refugee from a country I have gotten to know through two Iraqi friends. There is so much wisdom in non-eurocentric cultures, and I just love the opportunity to read it and listen to the brave, buoyant, terrifying, heart breaking story; how much is true is irrelevant, but it is a story and metaphor and analogy breathe differently once you escape the current accepted, award winning literature. You can’t cross the same river twice,’ the human Heraclitus says,” I muttered to myself. The dog Heraclitus says, “You can’t walk in Seattle twice.” It’s not possible. Seattle runs faster than a river and inevitably changes. Morise’s Seattle might no longer exist; there are millions of Seattles that take turns here. I feel this while I walk the amazing streets in the heart of the city or its outskirts. I sense its skin corroding and another skin growing, only to be shed and replaced again. He kept his head bowed while he said these things, but I felt we were looking each other in the eye, because my head was also bowed. Faces looking in different directions see each other at some point in space, especially when these are harmonious faces or ones linked by a clear tie of sincere affection. I reflected on a non-Euclidean geometry lesson that said two straight, parallel lines meet at a point somewhere—even the rays from my glances and those from his tearful eyes. I would have liked to reach him in a single bound and open all the passages of his memory with my lips, a door at a time. I would take him back to Baghdad, or bring Baghdad to him, displaying it before his eyes. It isn’t right for your moments to collapse beneath the feet of some other person or for you to refuse to see yourself without him. It is a massive error for us to put our lives on hold for one individual and to deny ourselves any worth without him—for us to be unable to imagine ourselves without him. Imagine yourself after him. Re-create your Self beyond that forbidding barrier, and cross over with us to life. Leap on board the ship. If it had been Morise, even if it hadn’t been Morise. I had to work hard to free myself from my feeling that he was the lord of the city and its shaykh, on whose crown falcons dozed, because everything in Seattle pointed to him and led toward him—each detail and sign. He did not merely dwell in this city; he was its creator, who had woven it from warp and woof. He had re-created it and then shaken the dust off it as if it were a carpet from Tabriz. Everything in the city carried his signature and his fingerprint: the joyful queues on weekends at pot stores, the empty seats in outdoor cafés sprinkled by drops of rain, girls’ colorful wool caps, tech workers’ badges dangling to their laps, the panting of elderly Asians climbing its heights, the spoons of busy restaurants clicking against the teeth of children of wealthy Indians, the helmets of cyclists who pause to look at the tranquility of the Japanese Garden, the sigh of buses as they lower a lift for an elderly white woman in a wheelchair, the roars of laughter of Saudi teens in the swimming pools of the University…all these tell his story. Everything glorifies his name. “The world seems to be smaller than the eye of a needle,” my mother used to say. But it returns to its normal, infinite size when we aren’t crazy in love with anyone, because love is a minimizing glass that collects and reduces the size of the whole world until it fits into the palm of one hand. People devote more effort to correcting the errors of the past than they do to improving the future. In Seattle, Basra, Baghdad, and other places, you can see the past’s skiff tugging on the wrist of every pedestrian or passenger. This is the invisible skiff we drag with us over dry land. The fact that no one acknowledges its existence makes it very powerful. The skiff that accompanies me bumps a lot when I drag it through the city’s streets. It delays me at every turn. Memory’s film clips, which encircle this skiff, make it capsize and wobble, capsize and wobble. (Caveat: I am not sure how this lands in the gay and BIPOC community, between translation and culture, so I apologize if there is anything that offends, but hope that it was proofread by someone in the community that he belongs to, for example: he calls his roommates monkeys and one is Black and talks about a transgender friend still in Iraq.)

  7. 4 out of 5

    Stephen Clynes

    Mortada Gzar is a novelist born in Basra, Iraq and this is his memoir. Mortada has an unusual writing style for his memoir. He goes back and forward in time and between his life in Iraq and America. He tells his story to the reader as though he is telling his life story to another person or object. His memoir is centred upon his falling in love with an African American soldier he meets in Baghdad and later moves to Seattle to make a life with him. I liked Mortada’s story highlighting the cultures Mortada Gzar is a novelist born in Basra, Iraq and this is his memoir. Mortada has an unusual writing style for his memoir. He goes back and forward in time and between his life in Iraq and America. He tells his story to the reader as though he is telling his life story to another person or object. His memoir is centred upon his falling in love with an African American soldier he meets in Baghdad and later moves to Seattle to make a life with him. I liked Mortada’s story highlighting the cultures within Iraq and Seattle. He makes a big story about his homosexuality and the differences between gay culture in Iraq and America. However his memoir is very easy to relate to regardless of your gender or sexuality. Love of all types happens between people and his book is essentially a love story. The tension slowly but steadily builds as Mortada searches high and low around Seattle to find the love of his life Morise. In the final pages there is a surprise ending that simply tugs at your heart. I liked how Mortada explained his teenage life around Basra collecting scrap metal from battles staged in the desert, observing an abandoned tank shake and meeting a three legged woman. I liked reading about Mortada’s university life in Baghdad, where he met Morise and their relationship flowered. I liked the historical perspective of his memoir when Mortada wrote about the illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003. He explained the cultures and prejudices within Iraq, not just the looking down at the people of Basra by the people of Baghdad but the differences between Shi’i and Sunni Muslims. I liked his observations of the gay scene in Seattle and the colourful and lively people he met. I also liked his use of nicknames and how he shared a house with the Three Monkeys and was befriended by the Three Monks. I am pleased that I read a copy of I’m in Seattle. Where Are You? - I was irritated by the backwards and forwards in time. I think Mortada wrote his memoir in this format to hook the reader in early with the love interest but I feel this was unnecessary as there were so many varied and enlightening things that happened to him before he met Morise. With his rambling story telling writing style it was so easy to forget this was a memoir/true story and think I was reading a regular mystery novel. As memoirs go, I’m in Seattle was not an inspirational read but an interesting and personal insight into another world. I found this to be a NICE read but I found nothing special or outstanding. Looking through the highlights I made on my Kindle, I found there was not a memorable quote I could use in my review. When I finished reading this book I felt as though I had met Mortada and got the measure of the man. It was a case of “nice to have met you” and I think that I’m in Seattle is an OKAY 3 star read.

  8. 5 out of 5

    John Sannito

    A beautiful story I've read few books written in another language and translated to English, and as I was reading I found myself intrigued by the shifting between portions that seemed as though they had been originally composed in English and some that presented thoughts and images in unfamiliar ways. Was this due to the authors native tongue having different rules and patterns than mine, or to his thoughts flowing in a way unique to himself? I enjoyed the unexpected transitions from fairly strai A beautiful story I've read few books written in another language and translated to English, and as I was reading I found myself intrigued by the shifting between portions that seemed as though they had been originally composed in English and some that presented thoughts and images in unfamiliar ways. Was this due to the authors native tongue having different rules and patterns than mine, or to his thoughts flowing in a way unique to himself? I enjoyed the unexpected transitions from fairly straightforward descriptions of events to thoughts, perceptions, or imaginings, and the frequent melding of the them that left me sometimes uncertain if what I was reading was factual, perceptual, or imagined. As a middle aged, white male heterosexual U.S. citizen I cannot truly understand the experiences of violent persecution and cultural rejection for sexual orientation, the experience of living in pre and post Saddam Iraq, of having a foreign army invade and occupy your country, of having to leave it in fear and immigrate to the very country that invaded yours. But I can relate to the love story that connects all these elements, to the deep loss, fear, indignation, hope, anger, joy and acceptance the author describes. Our common humanity makes us not so very different at all.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    As indicated by the 1 star, I did not like this book. Other reviewers have hazarded a guess that something gets missed in translation, and maybe that's the case, but to me it seemed like the author's writing style was just too pretentious for my tastes. It's a memoir, but nothing he describes sounds like anything I've seen or heard in real life - not the way people act, the things they say, etc etc. For instance, no way do I believe that he was not ready to talk to his housemates, so instead spo As indicated by the 1 star, I did not like this book. Other reviewers have hazarded a guess that something gets missed in translation, and maybe that's the case, but to me it seemed like the author's writing style was just too pretentious for my tastes. It's a memoir, but nothing he describes sounds like anything I've seen or heard in real life - not the way people act, the things they say, etc etc. For instance, no way do I believe that he was not ready to talk to his housemates, so instead spoke out loud to relate his history to a dog, a cup, a shoe, or the tip of his nose. Nor do I believe he never noticed a dog in the house where he lived even though he could recall the spot on its face. The translation may have been an issue, too, because there were scenes where I literally just did could not comprehend what was going on (like a bunch of grunting and the sound of sirens from behind a closed door while he is being introduced to a new acquaintance). I gave 2 stars instead of 1 because this book did at least give me a glimpse of what it was like to live in Iraq during the American occupation. (Although, if I was already familiar with life in Iraq during that time period and then read this book, maybe I would be just as confused by it as I was by his writing of life in the U.S.) I applaud the author for putting his story out here like this, but I'm afraid his style of writing was just a major turn off for me personally.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Azizi

    I picked this book primarily because I love Seattle and miss living there. Thus I tend to read anything that has this lovely city as its setting. While Seattle definitely was an integral part of the plot, it was a minor character at best. This memoir centers around Mortada, a gay man from Iraq, who faces the violence of war in his country. He focuses specifically on the torture and de-humanization that gay men suffer at the hands of religious extremism and homophobia. Eventually, he makes it to I picked this book primarily because I love Seattle and miss living there. Thus I tend to read anything that has this lovely city as its setting. While Seattle definitely was an integral part of the plot, it was a minor character at best. This memoir centers around Mortada, a gay man from Iraq, who faces the violence of war in his country. He focuses specifically on the torture and de-humanization that gay men suffer at the hands of religious extremism and homophobia. Eventually, he makes it to the US (Seattle specifically) and attempts to reunite with Morise, a US soldier that he had a romantic relationship with in Iraq. This is a well written book that provides tremendous insight into the atrocities visited on Iraqi civilians by the hands of US soldiers, religious extremists, and terrorists. The stories that Gzar shares feel unimaginable and are tough to read; however, they are important. I can't say that this was one of my favorite books, but I do think that it's recommended reading.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    I started off enjoying this author's writing style, the choices he made with words... "These insalubrious matters took place in insalubrious moments and would make my coming days problematic. It was that one moment out of a lifetime when the protective coating is stripped off our spirits, forcing us to spend the rest of our lives in a state of chronic inflammation. Put another way, we become emotionally vulnerable and may fall in love with all of creation." That's a lot to unpack. What an intelli I started off enjoying this author's writing style, the choices he made with words... "These insalubrious matters took place in insalubrious moments and would make my coming days problematic. It was that one moment out of a lifetime when the protective coating is stripped off our spirits, forcing us to spend the rest of our lives in a state of chronic inflammation. Put another way, we become emotionally vulnerable and may fall in love with all of creation." That's a lot to unpack. What an intelligent author. What a story! Mortada Gzar's story about his life in Iran is very hard to hear but we must because there are people suffering and being killed because they are homosexual. A very harsh reality. How does anyone survive that? Mortada tells his story with cleaver phrasing. He used his intellect. He did find love and survive his persecutors. He described the characters whose paths he crossed were very entertaining.

  12. 4 out of 5

    C A Gentle

    I got this book free as part of Amazon's first reads. The story flips from the present to the past a lot and at times it not always immediately obvious whether you are in the past or present. The story is not only interesting but reading of the author's treatment just because he is gay is absolutely shocking, and of course the treatment of others. Like some others I wonder if some elements have been lost in translation as at times I found myself thinking "this is just weird". Though as I progres I got this book free as part of Amazon's first reads. The story flips from the present to the past a lot and at times it not always immediately obvious whether you are in the past or present. The story is not only interesting but reading of the author's treatment just because he is gay is absolutely shocking, and of course the treatment of others. Like some others I wonder if some elements have been lost in translation as at times I found myself thinking "this is just weird". Though as I progressed through the book some of the weird parts started to make sense. Some of it was incredibly wordy and I did wonder at parts what was the point of some bits of the story, but maybe it just went over my head. Some parts of the book really did make me LOL to. I really loved the end of the book - I though that was so well done, was toying between 3 and 4 stars.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Madis Mysteries

    After kicking this year off strong by reading From The Ashes & Real I had to get more into memoirs. My favourite thing about memoirs are reading ones written from different diverse perspectives. This book readily fit into that category. This book is a powerful depiction of love and self worth in an incredibly difficult time. It showed how difficult the immigration process is and in particular the necessity of immigrating to a country that pushed you out of your home in the first place. This book After kicking this year off strong by reading From The Ashes & Real I had to get more into memoirs. My favourite thing about memoirs are reading ones written from different diverse perspectives. This book readily fit into that category. This book is a powerful depiction of love and self worth in an incredibly difficult time. It showed how difficult the immigration process is and in particular the necessity of immigrating to a country that pushed you out of your home in the first place. This book had very similar *feels* as untamed which even though it was not my favourite I know many of you loved! This book was translated from Arabic to English and I think some of the beauty in the storyline got lost in translation. At times it felt a little choppy but overall it didn’t detract too much from the story!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Aubrey

    I don’t know how to rate this book. It was an interesting story, enlightening as it showed the brutality of treatment for homosexuals in Iraq, and the success of the author as he escaped the country. But as other readers have said, it seems like a lot of the storytelling is lost in translation. The author tells parts of his story to dead dogs or discarded shoes or the end of his nose? Is that a cultural thing or is it weird in any culture? I didn’t understand a lot. And as usual the time flip fl I don’t know how to rate this book. It was an interesting story, enlightening as it showed the brutality of treatment for homosexuals in Iraq, and the success of the author as he escaped the country. But as other readers have said, it seems like a lot of the storytelling is lost in translation. The author tells parts of his story to dead dogs or discarded shoes or the end of his nose? Is that a cultural thing or is it weird in any culture? I didn’t understand a lot. And as usual the time flip flopping makes an already disjointed feeling story even harder to follow. It took me a long time to get through this one; I did chores instead of picking up this book because I had such a hard time getting into it. Torture is always difficult to read about on its own, but the surrounding rhythmless story made it even harder.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jim KABLE

    From the fog of war and its aftermath Surely one of the great anti-war visions of the 21st century. While in 2003 I taught my senior high university entrance class in western Japan the Ian Serraillier 1956 published novel The Silver Sword - and remembered a sweet and innocent girlfriend from my teen years 17 to 19 - in Australia - who was born in Baghdad - Mortada Gzar was living through George W Bush’s war unleashed on Iraq and US cousins and British kinfolk too were involved in that conflict. I From the fog of war and its aftermath Surely one of the great anti-war visions of the 21st century. While in 2003 I taught my senior high university entrance class in western Japan the Ian Serraillier 1956 published novel The Silver Sword - and remembered a sweet and innocent girlfriend from my teen years 17 to 19 - in Australia - who was born in Baghdad - Mortada Gzar was living through George W Bush’s war unleashed on Iraq and US cousins and British kinfolk too were involved in that conflict. I’m in Seattle, Where are You? Another favourite city - but the truths about so many things in this work of genius translated so beautifully, too - are what gives it the power of being called a classic.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Blts

    This was a beautifully written book. I've read reviews that complained about jumping back and forth in time. I don't think the story could have been told any other way. The discombobulation of going back and forth seemed the same as the always uncertain events that took place. In spite of being fairly well read, I had to look up definitions for more than 20 words. I wonder if the translator used such words so the reader would get the feeling of what it's like trying to communicate when you have This was a beautifully written book. I've read reviews that complained about jumping back and forth in time. I don't think the story could have been told any other way. The discombobulation of going back and forth seemed the same as the always uncertain events that took place. In spite of being fairly well read, I had to look up definitions for more than 20 words. I wonder if the translator used such words so the reader would get the feeling of what it's like trying to communicate when you have limited knowledge of the language. The story is poignant. The horrid moments are described with stark reality. The beautiful moments are poetic and express timeless sentiments. There is so much there.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Brian Judd

    I was deeply touched by the themes in this book even though the author and I have different lived experiences. Being queer, one can often feel like a stranger wherever they go, whether at home or in another country. As a gay man, I relate to this theme. I also loved how he wrote about Seattle (my hometown) with a mix of love, affection, and wonder. Seattle is a lovely place that can also foster its unique sense of loneliness and isolation. I was honored that the author shared such intimate, diffi I was deeply touched by the themes in this book even though the author and I have different lived experiences. Being queer, one can often feel like a stranger wherever they go, whether at home or in another country. As a gay man, I relate to this theme. I also loved how he wrote about Seattle (my hometown) with a mix of love, affection, and wonder. Seattle is a lovely place that can also foster its unique sense of loneliness and isolation. I was honored that the author shared such intimate, difficult details of growing up in Iraq as a queer artist. I also liked how he never let the reader pity him and allowed the people in his life to be often three dimensional. Skilled writing, poetic imagery, and lovely drawings make this a must read.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Kevin Sutherland

    I have to agree with many of the reviews: There is something lost in translation. It's mainly in the conversations between characters, which are stilted and in which the conversant Mortada feels like a completely different person that the one who narrates the story. However, the conversations are short and basically serve only as bridges between the narrative sections, which are very much compelling. I'm not one to finish books that don't draw me in and for that reason I almost put this one down. I have to agree with many of the reviews: There is something lost in translation. It's mainly in the conversations between characters, which are stilted and in which the conversant Mortada feels like a completely different person that the one who narrates the story. However, the conversations are short and basically serve only as bridges between the narrative sections, which are very much compelling. I'm not one to finish books that don't draw me in and for that reason I almost put this one down. But once I hit chapter 4 or 5 and realized that the majority of the narrative was well written (and translated), it was hooked.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca Puderbaugh

    I chose this book for my March Amazon Prime Book of the Month free book. This is a moving memoir. The reason I give it only four stars is because at times jumping back and forth in history made it difficult to understand the circumstances and I found myself rereading paragraphs at times. The plot, and storyline is unique. A very educational and emotional read for me. I highly recommend reading this if you are interested in any stories of life before immigration to the USA in the war zones of the I chose this book for my March Amazon Prime Book of the Month free book. This is a moving memoir. The reason I give it only four stars is because at times jumping back and forth in history made it difficult to understand the circumstances and I found myself rereading paragraphs at times. The plot, and storyline is unique. A very educational and emotional read for me. I highly recommend reading this if you are interested in any stories of life before immigration to the USA in the war zones of the Middle East.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Carla (literary.infatuation)

    Don’t be fooled by the discouraging reviews on Goodreads, this memoir is BEAUTIFUL. A lyrical memoir on scavenging for casings and bullets in land-mined Iraq’s desert as a punishment for being gay; growing up under Saddam Hussein and inter-racial love. A memoir about uprooting yourself for love, longing for your lover and friendship within the LGTBQIA community. It is written like a novel and Gzar’s incredibly painful life will rival any author’s creative fiction. This is my favorite book of the Don’t be fooled by the discouraging reviews on Goodreads, this memoir is BEAUTIFUL. A lyrical memoir on scavenging for casings and bullets in land-mined Iraq’s desert as a punishment for being gay; growing up under Saddam Hussein and inter-racial love. A memoir about uprooting yourself for love, longing for your lover and friendship within the LGTBQIA community. It is written like a novel and Gzar’s incredibly painful life will rival any author’s creative fiction. This is my favorite book of the year.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Charlene

    I waded in and was refreshed Perhaps you want to know about immigration or homosexuality or Arabic life or read intriguing literature. Read "I'm in Seattle, Where are you?" This story is about love, friendship and war as mixed and frightening as it is poignant and pure. I intend to read othe authors who have bee translated by William Maynard Hutchins to discover how the poetic prose appears in English. I gave four stars more for my own lack than any issue with content or execution. I waded in and was refreshed Perhaps you want to know about immigration or homosexuality or Arabic life or read intriguing literature. Read "I'm in Seattle, Where are you?" This story is about love, friendship and war as mixed and frightening as it is poignant and pure. I intend to read othe authors who have bee translated by William Maynard Hutchins to discover how the poetic prose appears in English. I gave four stars more for my own lack than any issue with content or execution.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Carla Bentley

    A memorable memoir This is a wordsmiths story of a life that is rich in experience: family, identity, love, terror, unspeakable losses. The author’s spirit is resilient, bright when hope is possible. His community of supporters is acknowledged throughout his story and reveals the vulnerability we all share. I imagine the translation is close to the arabic words, a somewhat piercing and poetic style. I recommend this book.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Troy

    This is one of those books that at times you love and at times you hate. Gzar writes gloriously at times but at times it becomes too much as well. I learned a lot about Iraqi Homosexuals that I previously did not know. I enjoyed the story but the non linear storytelling can frustrate a reader as well. Be ready to jp around a lot and to feel slightly confused if you read quickly and tend to skim.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    This was a book I chose to read thinking it would broaden by knowledge of a land I know nothing about but is always shrouded in negativity. Unfortunately, I just couldn’t get along with the writing style and found the story confusing as to what was happening when, during the author’s life, what was fact and what was “fantasy”. I ended up skim reading to the end as I wanted to do the author justice by finding out what happened.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Sandy Bradbrook

    Profound description of life as a homosexual in Iraq , and elsewhere? This is at the same time an illuminating story with lots of disturbing facts about mistreatment. There lots of very profound statements that make one stop and think. I am so glad I read it but also I am very sad about the attitudes that must exist in religiously controlled societies towards various minorities. An education.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jak Luke

    Did not finish. I got the book for free as part of my Amazon prime. I only made it to the end of the first chapter. The passages were jumpy and some of the sentences seemed out of place or as if they had come from no where. The first couple of paragraphs Ahmad the word ‘pollution’ in 4 times, but that may be down to the translation. I was really hoping for a real life, gay romance, but it was just an odd experience for me personally.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Kristi Duarte

    This is one of the most boring books I've ever read. While parts of the story are interesting, it's written in a way that puts you to sleep, literally. This is the second book in a row I've read about Iraq, and I much prefer the other one, "Take What You Can Carry." I feel for the author, and what he had to go through because of his homosexuality, but oh my god, this novel is just terribly boring. This is one of the most boring books I've ever read. While parts of the story are interesting, it's written in a way that puts you to sleep, literally. This is the second book in a row I've read about Iraq, and I much prefer the other one, "Take What You Can Carry." I feel for the author, and what he had to go through because of his homosexuality, but oh my god, this novel is just terribly boring.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Du

    There were aspects of this book that I liked a lot. It felt fresh and it felt unique (maybe not original, but certainly unique). I liked the nonlinear story and the fish out of water backdrop. Unfortunately, the nonlinear story leads to inconsistent prose and a feeling that something was missing. There are awkward transitions, which jar the reader. That said, the cast of characters and the development of the author really support the book.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Anne C.

    This was a difficult book for me. This is the brutal telling of bigotry, intolerance, unimaginable violence toward homosexuals perpetuating in an authoritarian country by fundamentalists. First, the writing is culturally alien to me. It probably is what I think Arabic writing is which is so different from the rational writing-and thinking-I am most familiar with. Second, the subject matter is not one that I am naturally drawn to, but the last third of the book makes it worth reading.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    I wanted to like this memoir more than I did. It's a really powerful narrative and it has some incredibly stunning moments. But for the first 2/3 of the book I felt myself slogging through; I couldn't connect through the haze of the language and the distance the Gzar manifested between himself in the book and the other characters. This a fine read but ultimately I don't think I get this one. Others may find it easier to connect just on person preferences in writing style. I wanted to like this memoir more than I did. It's a really powerful narrative and it has some incredibly stunning moments. But for the first 2/3 of the book I felt myself slogging through; I couldn't connect through the haze of the language and the distance the Gzar manifested between himself in the book and the other characters. This a fine read but ultimately I don't think I get this one. Others may find it easier to connect just on person preferences in writing style.

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