In a college dorm, in a prison, in a marriage
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Anwar F. Accawi was raised in Magdaluna, a small village in Lebanon, and came to the U.S. in 1965 on a college scholarship. He is the author of the book The Boy from the Tower of the Moon. He lives in Knoxville, Tennessee, and recently took up the classical guitar. He says his “very kind wife” tells him he’s pretty good.
My family, in particular, was in danger. We were the wrong religion (Presbyterian) for our neighborhood, and my father had a reputation as a Darwinist. To many of our neighbors, Christians and Muslims alike, his belief that humans had evolved from monkeys was blasphemy, and he was careful not to show his face in public.
I grew up in a village in southern Lebanon a few years after World War II, the “Big War,” as we called it. In that place nothing came between us and the world we lived in, and in that world there was always blood, lots of it. We slaughtered the animals we ate.
The Lebanese village of Magdaluna, where I grew up, had none of the modern conveniences. It was stuck somewhere in the eighteenth century until after the Great War, when my father returned from the army with his beat-up radio. When I was a child, we had no running water in our homes, electricity was unheard of, and our toilets were holes in the ground way out in a field.
I’d discovered my hideout a few months before, when I chased a hare behind a mulberry bush at the foot of a large mound, about the size of a wheat pile at threshing time. Following the hare’s trail, I found a small hole in the rock, completely hidden from view by the bush.
When I was growing up in Magdaluna, a small Lebanese village in the terraced, rocky mountains east of Sidon, time didn’t mean much to anybody, except maybe to those who were dying, or those waiting to appear in court because they had tampered with the boundary markers on their land. In those days, there was no real need for a calendar or a watch to keep track of the hours, days, months, and years.