By Anthony Shadid
House of Stone: A Memoir of Home, family and a Lost Middle East
Anthony Shadid, Pulitzer Prize-winning Middle East correspondent for the New York Times, died on February 16 while on assignment in Syria. He left behind not only family, friends and many fans of his journalism, but also a memoir, "House of Stone."
Nada Bakri, Shadid’s widow and a New York Times correspondant herself, has been working to promote Shadid's memoir, which was published just after his untimely death.
"I am still in the process of grieving, but I am kind of delaying my grief because there's so much work to be done," said Bakri. "Because I loved Anthony so much and because this book meant so much for him, I found myself doing this, trying to get the book publicized as much as I can, but its very painful and I'm doing it with a lot of sadness and a lot of grief. It just never seems right."
In "House of Stone," Shadid chronicles his return to the small Lebanese town of Marjayoun in 2006 to renovate a house built by his great-grandfather after it was damaged by an Israeli rocket. His grandmother had lived in the house before emigrating to the United States. "I think in the back of his mind he always wanted to go back to Marjayoun," said Bakri. "He immediately felt a connection that he could not understand."
In the course of repairing the house, Shadid deals with crazed construction workers, town gossip and an unstable political situation but he pieces it all together with his own life decisions. During the process of restoring the house, mysteries of his family’s history are uncovered as well as the details about their flight from Lebanon and their resettlement in America.
Bakri explains that Shadid developed a special attachment to the house, which he had repaired piece by piece by hand. "As he was rebuilding it his love for the house grew stronger and stronger every day, and at the end he felt that this is something he had created," said Bakri. "He had created it from memory, from imagination, and he found himself in it."
Shadid had sought refuge in the house with Bakri their family after his kidnapping last year in Libya. Bakri says it was a place where Shadid could find peace and reconnect with himself. For Shadid, who had spent most of his life travelling and reporting, the house symbolized a sense of home and gave him a sense of belonging.
Bakri says losing her husband while he was reporting in Syria has made her re-think her own work as a journalist. "It does make me question my work in the field. Anthony was so committed to journalism," said Bakri. "I feel like, in life, when you're committed to something and when you give so much to it, it should treat you a little bit better. Life was not fair to Anthony or to me or our children."
As for what she has planned for the future, Bakri says she is uncertain and has no plans as of now.
"The thought of the future overwhelms me so much and scares me… I lost my husband… he was everything to me ... I don't know what I'll be doing."
Nada Bakri, widow of Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Anthony Shadid and New York Times correspondent
Rajiv Chandrasekeran, senior correspondent and associate editor of The Washington Post, where he has worked since 1994