Brooklyn journalist to publish ‘The Hostage’s Daughter: A Memoir of Family, Madness, and the Middle East’
Brooklyn BookBeat: Launch Event Slated for Oct. 4 at Brooklyn Brewery
The world has grown accustomed to the kidnapping of western journalists by militant groups, but when Associated Press reporter Terry Anderson was abducted by Shiite Muslims in Beirut in 1985 and held captive for 6 1/2 years, Americans were riveted by the story. Terry’s daughter, Sulome, born after he was taken hostage, did not meet her father until his 1991 release. The press painted a rosy picture of the homecoming — the image of the just-released hostage with his arm around a little girl in a red coat is one of the indelible news photos of the era.
Then the journalists and the cameras went away, and Sulome’s family tried to begin a normal life, but it was no fairytale ending. Terry’s PTSD plagued the household, destroying her parents’ marriage and leaving her with intractable psychological scars that would lead to long struggles with drug addiction and mental illness.
In “The Hostage’s Daughter: A Memoir of Family, Madness, and the Middle East” (Dey Street Books; on sale Oct. 4), Brooklynite Sulome Anderson blends her own story with reportage and analysis to explore the aftereffects of terrorism and the ongoing conflict in the Middle East. (An excerpt from the book can be read at Vice.com.)
Now a journalist who splits her time between Brooklyn and Lebanon, Sulome reconstructs the events surrounding the Lebanese Hostage Crisis and sets out to uncover the details of an historic incident that not only irreparably damaged her family but had ripple effects that are still playing out in the Middle East today. She will have a Brooklyn launch event at the Brooklyn Brewery (79 North 11th St.) on Oct. 4 at 7:30 p.m.
Digging into the past, Sulome recounts how she long held her father’s place in history at arm’s length. Despite her intelligence and talent, Sulome acted out her psychological pain throughout her adolescence, getting expelled from boarding school and embarking on a painful road of drug abuse and crippling self-hatred. Only when she was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, a serious mental illness, did the missing pieces of the puzzle fall into place. As she began to recover from her condition, she chose to pursue the same career as her father, in the country where almost seven years of his life were stolen, precipitating a dramatic return to the past.
In her quest, Sulome interviews many of the key figures tied to the events, including her father’s colleagues at the AP as well as former U.S. government officials and intelligence agents. She interviews such figures as Oliver North and the shady Lebanese editor who broke the story about the Iran-Contra scandal tied to the hostage crisis. At the end of this intricate journey, Sulome’s reporting culminates in extended interviews with one of the men who played a role in her father’s kidnapping. She conducts meetings with shadowy figures in the back alleys of Beirut and a dangerous Lebanese prison, taking her digital recorder places that could get her killed.
In the process, she grows to love Lebanon in all its damaged beauty and cultural complexity, and “The Hostage’s Daughter” becomes an urgent call for an understanding of Lebanon, its tenuous peace and the key role it plays in the region. However, it is also meant as a reminder to politicians and political actors that their choices are not without consequences. The people caught in the crossfire of war are not chess pieces, and political decisions have long-term effects on individual lives. By sharing her personal tale of grief and horror, Sulome hopes to forestall for others “the insanity that possesses people when their world suddenly turns hell-like and human life loses its value.”
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