The Pianist from Syria
This astonishing true story presents an “affecting viewpoint on life in Syria before and in the midst of extreme violence” (Booklist), offering a deeply personal and unique perspective on one of the most devastating refugee crises of this century.
Aeham Ahmad was born a second-generation refugee—the son of a blind violinist and carpenter who recognized Aeham’s talent and taught him how to play piano and love music from an early age. When his grandparents and father were forced to flee Israel and seek refuge from the conflict ravaging their home, Aeham’s family built a life in Yarmouk, an unofficial camp to more than 160,000 Palestinian refugees in Damascus.
As a devoted family, they waited for the conflict to be resolved so they could return to their homeland. Their only haven was in music and in each other, especially when another deadly fight overtook their asylum. Forced to leave his family behind, Aeham sought out a safe place for them to call home and build a better life, taking solace in his indestructible familial bond to keep moving forward.
Heart-wrenching yet ultimately optimistic and told in a raw and poignant voice, The Pianist from Syria is a “deeply moving account of one man’s struggle to survive while bringing hope to thousands through his music” (Publishers Weekly, starred review).
Pianist Ahmad shares a powerful account of his escape from Syria and the music that ultimately saved him. Ahmad became known worldwide after a photograph of him playing a piano in the rubble of Damascus in 2014 appeared in newspapers around the world. A second-generation Palestinian refugee, he was raised to love music by his blind violinist father. The 30-year-old musician grew up in a suburb of Damascus in the 1990s, and later attended the Damascus Music School. Ahmad describes the difficulty of living as a Palestinian in Syria, writing about how beginning in July 2013 the refugee camp of Yarmouk was without electricity or hot water. ("I suspect that the siege had been carefully planned. And Yarmouk's particular geography made the task even easier.") While delivering food to his neighbors, Ahmad was hit by a grenade, his hand irreparably damaged. Yet Ahmad retained his love for music, wrote songs, and fitted his piano with wheels in order to play on the streets. His performances were uploaded to Facebook and YouTube, which made him a target for radical groups yet also drew the attention of foreign journalists who covered his many performances. With the help of German musicians, Ahmad emigrated to Germany with his wife and children in 2015. This is a deeply moving account of one man's struggle to survive while bringing hope to thousands through his music.