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Janine di Giovanni in conversation with Suketu Mehta

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McNally Jackson Books Prince Street

52 Prince Street

New York, NY 10012

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Janine di Giovanni in conversation with Suketu Mehta

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War reporter Janine di Giovanni has spent an award-winning journalistic career in the Middle East. It is second nature for her to find her way out of a minefield, seek shelter during a bombing raid, and perform the means to get through just about any checkpoint: Don’t make eye contact. Have your papers ready. Be polite, but firm. Never get out of your car, especially if child soldiers wielding rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) are aiming them at your heart. It’s a way of living many could not imagine or live through without a constant feeling of fear. But for Di Giovanni, it was her faith that provided her a sense of belonging and a grasp on the spirit of resiliency.

Regardless of being a frequent visitor to war zones, she notes: “I could always find a church somewhere. Inside the church, there would be someone else kneeling in the gloomy light, trying to communicate with something higher. For me (though certainly not for my mother), it did not matter if the church was Catholic or Protestant, if it was a cathedral in Sarajevo or in a field in Rwanda. When I entered the space, I would feel at peace and no longer lonely.” Simply put, faith has held her together.

But as her work took her to and through places of war and conflict, she came to realize a striking reality: the very regions that had first nurtured and characterized her faith of Christianity—along the North African coast, on the Euphrates, and across the Middle East and Arabia—will likely be one of the first places it goes extinct. In her book, The Vanishing: Faith, Loss, and the Twilight of Christianity in the Land of the Prophets, Di Giovanni reveals the plight and possible extinction of Christian communities across Syria, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, and Palestine after 2,000 years in their historical homeland.

Using her astonishing journalistic skill Di Giovanni makes clear that we are past the tipping point. Christians have fled the lands where their prophets wandered, where Jesus Christ preached, where the great Doctors and hierarchs of the early church established the doctrinal norms that would last millennia. From Syria to Egypt, the cities of northern Iraq to the Gaza Strip, ancient communities, the birthplaces of prophets and saints, are losing any living connection to the religion that once was such a characteristic feature of their social and cultural lives. The biggest threat is sectarian persecution, but economic collapse is hardly less a factor—and to the West, this means a new wave of immigrants and a refugee crisis. Still, The Vanishing is far from a dismal swan song—as found in her faith, Di Giovanni makes sure resiliency is evident. Within these pages, Di Giovanni discovers the last traces of small, hardy communities that have become wisely fearful of outsiders and where ancient rituals are quietly preserved amid 360-degree threats. She shares riveting personal stories and her conception of faith and hope that are intertwined with topics of family, career, politics, and a view of a global community. Ultimately, this book is a unique act of pre-archeology: the last chance to visit the living religion before all that will be left are the stones of the past.

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McNally Jackson Books Prince Street

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