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Fathomaway Compass

Literary Excerpt: "Jasmine and Fire"

by Salma Abdelnour

Along the Corniche. Photograph by Salma Abdelnour.

Salma Abdelnour grew up in Beirut but moved to Houston at age 9 when her family fled the civil war. She later moved to New York City and became a successful food and travel journalist, but always wondered whether she should return to her hometown. Jasmine and Fire: A Bittersweet Year in Beirut is a memoir about Salma's quest to figure out where she is meant to be.

I'm conscious, as I take these long walks now, that my stride is firmer, more confident than it was in those early weeks in August and September. With my feet, I'm already starting to feel like I own the city again, at least in some small way. I'm memorizing it physically, learning the routes. Route/routine. It hits me that this is what a routine is — a kind of route. I need routines to feel at home. More and more they're taking shape, my routines, my routes.

I was thinking as I walked today about what a city can say to you if you listen. New York, to me, has always seemed to say: Here you are. Stay. This is what you've been looking for, isn't it? Beirut, as far as I can tell now, is saying something like You can stay if you want, if you're up to it. But it's not going to be easy. Not in the least.

Obviously what a city "says" to anyone is a projection. The question is, can that message be ignored, overruled? Time can potentially override it, and so can new friends and routines, but might the city still say what it always said, even if it says it in a slightly lower voice as the years go by? Can you fall in love with someone whom you knew early on you weren't in love with? Can you fall back in love with someone or something you once loved, after years of mystery and distance?

Jasmine and Fire

FOR YOUR BEDSIDE TABLE

Don't stop there. Read the whole thing.
Jasmine and Fire, by Salma Abdelnour

BEHIND THE SCENES

- Salma on the gorgeous chaos of Beirut (Fathom) 
- JasmineandFire.com

Reprinted from Jasmine and Fire by Salma Abdelnour. Copyright © 2012. Published by Broadway Books, a division of Random House, Inc.

Salma, is a writer and editor in New York and the author of Jasmine and Fire: A Bittersweet Year in Beirut. You can follow her on Twitter at @Salmaland. She travels for the food, noise, and silence.

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