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Reminiscing about her life as a young student of psychology, she starts the book with the brave confession that she, upon discovering from doctors that her father was ill with cancer, kept this knowledge a secret from her father and their family. Knowing that any kind of treatment would be too costly for her family and would only prolong his life by one year, she told the family that her father was suffering from a lung abscess instead. After his death, her life was focused on her education and activism with the Syrian Social Nationalist Party of which she was a member. She regrets the change that has taken over the party today as she explains that the one she had joined was one that cultivated its members and focused mostly on spreading political awareness.

She designates one chapter of her book to speak of her marriage, her two sons, and their life in Beirut. This she corroborates with old family photos and memories of birthday parties, schools, friendships, the likes and dislikes of her sons… Her heartfelt affection for her sons is translated in the pride she takes in their achievements and her close ties with their wives and families.

Talhouk finished a Master’s degree in Guidance and Counseling at the American University of Beirut and continued working for the university until twelve years later she accepted a job at the Lebanese American University. Becoming the head of Health Services, she took a decision to shut down the infirmary as she found it was giving an excuse for students to be lazy, and in order to make room for other more useful things (such as a Red Cross training room). She strived to be more active in spreading health awareness and not only providing health services. In addition, she also initiated two new courses at the university; Basic Health and Community Health.

She recalls very fond memories of her experiences with students, but with the start of the war her job became more complex. At the onset, she was assigned head of student affairs where she found herself having to play the balancing act among different factions of students and prevent the university from tilting into chaos. As she mentions a few incidents where she had to interfere with students either in student protests or brawls, ripping down posters of any party leader, or even confiscating weapons, her emphasis on treating everyone alike is always underlined. Though she refers to several parties that were present on campus, she keeps them all anonymous except Hezbollah, which she explains is because of her admiration of the party’s cause and the maturity of its students when engaging in dialogues. The biggest achievement that could be attributed to Mrs. Talhouk is most likely to be her success in preventing outside intervention in campus life.

In the 7th chapter, Talhouk draws on her experience with Syrian students to refute the common wisdom among the Lebanese concerning the Syrian interventions into matters of the civil war. She finds herself surprised at the Lebanese attitude that was critical of intervention while Lebanon had been a country that was too weak to play any active role, whether internally or regionally. Personally, she thought that the Syrian soldiers who were meant to guard universities and Syrian students were always respectful of the university’s rules and administration. It may seem a little simplistic however to base one’s judgment of such a multifaceted matter on the behavior of a group of young students.

The final chapter, which is perhaps the most structured one in the book, surveys her impressions on the political sphere in the Arab world and reinstates her belief in the ideals of the SSNP though she admits she is no longer a participating member of the party. Secularism, civil marriage, and the plight of women in the Arab world are issues of prime concern for her, as well as the lagging behind of Arab countries within the globalized world we live in.



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