The Weight of Paradise by Iman Humaydan, Translated by Michelle Hartman
While making a documentary film about the reconstruction of downtown Beirut, Maya Amer stumbles upon a battered leather suitcase that will change her life forever. Inside it she finds letters, photographs, a diary, and an envelope labeled: Letters from Istanbul. The Weight of Paradise is both the story of Maya and her discovery, and also the story of the owner of these papers, Noura Abu Sawwan, a journalist who fled Syria just before the Lebanese civil war to find greater freedom of expression. A multi-voiced, multi-genre narration, it interweaves the stories of these two women and the people who surround them within the fabric of Beirut in the civil war and its immediate aftermath. A love story as well as a story of women's liberation and political freedom, the novel is also the tale of a city and country torn apart by repression, occupation, and war.