In the fall of 2003, Annia Ciezadlo spent her honeymoon in Baghdad. Over the next six years, while living in Baghdad and Beirut, she broke bread with Shiites and Sunnis, warlords and refugees, matriarchs and mullahs. Day of Honey is her memoir of the hunger for food and friendship—a communion that feeds the soul as much as the body in times of war.
Reporting from occupied Baghdad, Ciezadlo longs for normal married life. She finds it in Beirut, her husband’s hometown, a city slowly recovering from years of civil war. But just as the young couple settles into a new home, the bloodshed they escaped in Iraq spreads to Lebanon and reawakens the terrible specter of sectarian violence. In lucid, fiercely intelligent prose, Ciezadlo uses food and the rituals of eating to illuminate a vibrant Middle East that most Americans never see. We get to know people like Roaa, a determined young Kurdish woman who dreams of exploring the world, only to see her life under occupation become confined to the kitchen; Abu Rifaat, a Baghdad book lover who spends his days eavesdropping in the ancient city’s legendary cafés; Salama al-Khafaji, a soft-spoken dentist who eludes assassins to become Iraq’s most popular female politician; and Umm Hassane, Ciezadlo’s sardonic Lebanese mother-in-law, who teaches her to cook rare family recipes—which are included in a mouthwatering appendix of Middle Eastern comfort food. As bombs destroy her new family’s ancestral home and militias invade her Beirut neighborhood, Ciezadlo illuminates the human cost of war with an extraordinary ability to anchor the rhythms of daily life in a larger political and historical context. From forbidden Baghdad book clubs to the oldest recipes in the world, Ciezadlo takes us inside the Middle East at a historic moment when hope and fear collide. Day of Honey is a brave and compassionate portrait of civilian life during wartime—a moving testament to the power of love and generosity to transcend the misery of war.
Annia took us to places that most people fear to go. And that is into the war zones. However, instead of focusing on the fighting and the soldiers as most “war” stories do, she focuses on the everyday person and how they live their daily lives in spite of bombs going off around them.
She does discuss some of the politics that are taking place at the time of her life in Baghdad. However, this is not at the forefront of her book. This is more like a side note in order for the reader to understand the conditions that these people endured. And also to give a frame of reference to everyone else.
This story unfolds one dish at a time. Annia talks about the fact that human civilization revolves around meal times. It is common for people to set aside their differences over a simple meal. How many times have you suffered through Aunt Sally, Uncle Joe, or those annoying cousins because you had to act civil over dinner? Think of those holiday dinners and then enhance it to a global scale.
Annia has a wonderful way of words that you can almost smell the herbs, spices, and meats as they cook.
About the Author
Born in Chicago, Annia Ciezadlo grew up in Bloomington, Indiana. She received her Master’s in journalism from New York University in 2000. In late 2003, she left New York for Baghdad, where she worked as a stringer for The Christian Science Monitor and other publications for the next year. During this time, she wrote groundbreaking stories, about parliamentary quotas for women, Baghdad’s graffiti wars, militant Islamist poetry slams, the flight of the country’s Christian minority, and Iraq’s first reality TV show. Her first-person piece on what it’s like to go through checkpoints in Baghdad earned a flood of responses, and is now used by the US military to help prevent civilian casualties. Since then, she has reported on revolutions in Lebanon, crackdowns in Syria, repression in Iraqi Kurdistan, and the 2006 "summer war" between Israel and Hezbollah. Although she has covered several wars, Annia does not describe herself as a war correspondent. She specializes in articles about Arab culture and civil society, stories that explore the intersections between larger political realities and everyday activities like driving, cooking, and going to school.
She has written about culture, politics, and the Middle East for The New Republic, The Nation, The Washington Post, the National Journal, The Christian Science Monitor, The New York Observer, and Lebanon’s Daily Star newspaper. Annia lives somewhere between New York and Beirut, with her husband, the journalist Mohamad Bazzi.