I’m offered so many wonderful sounding books and it’s a great sadness that I simply can’t read them all. Today I welcome Rana Bitar to Linda’s Book Bag to tell me about a book I really wish I had time to add to my TBR.
Staying in with Rana Bitar
Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag Rana and thank you for agreeing to stay in with me.
Tell me, which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it?
I brought with me The Long Tale Of Tears And Smiles.
The Long Tale Of Tears And Smiles explores my journey as an oncologist, from growing up in Damascus, Syria, to going to med school, to immigrating to the US and starting my medical training, to becoming an oncologist caring for cancer patients and watching the field of oncology evolves throughout the years.
That sounds fascinating. It’s quite a journey you’ve been on. Tell me more.
The narrative interweaves my life’s stories with the stories of the patients I cared for. It reflects on how bearing witness to their survival or death inspired my life and changed it and how the lessons I learned from my patients enriched my life and influenced the way I raised my children.
That must feel very special.
I brought this book with me today to celebrate cancer patients’ difficult journey and to provide them with a refuge from the feeling of isolation and confusion at the time of crisis. I also brought it for caregivers and health care professionals to help shed some light on both the physical and emotional process of cancer diagnosis and treatment.
I brought this book today to share with foreign graduate students, so they could relate to the complexities, the obstacles, the triumphs, and the setbacks and encourage them to never give up. I also brought it for women who may stop and question if they should pursue their professional aspirations. I want to say it can be done: You can balance your family and professional life. I also brought it for people who want to learn about what it is like to be well-acquainted with death and what it is like to understand it and be so close to it.
I think that’s a really important message Rana. With one in two suffering cancer in their lives we need to speak more about it and demystify both life and death and the challenges facing those trying to start their lives afresh in so many ways.
What can we expect from an evening in with The Long Tale Of Tears And Smiles?
The book was inspired by my patients’ strength and perseverance. The stories show how their courage changed my life. Therefore, the book will highlight the premise that we can prompt togetherness, defy finality, and defeat loneliness with empathy and tolerance.
What a wonderful message.
I also think that in immersing in the stories of cancer patients’ struggles and triumphs, the reader will gain new insight into the relative gravity of their own challenges and will acquire a fresh perspective on their health and lives.
You may well be right. When my own husband was diagnosed with cancer it certainly altered our perspectives.
What else have you brought along and why have you brought it?
Photograph: Khaled Al-Hariri/Reuters
I brought with me a photo of my home: Damscus Syria: the world’s oldest inhabited city and where my story began.
It seems to me that your journey has been a very important one Rana. Thank you so much for staying in with me to tell me about The Long Tale Of Tears And Smiles?
The Long Tale of Tears and Smiles
The Long Tale Of Tears And Smiles explores an immigrant oncologist’s journey of triumphs and struggles, from growing up in Syria, to the tragic death of her brother, to her experiences as a young immigrant medical student and trainee in the USA. Walk through her anguish witnessing the civil war in Syria and its devastation; see her become a practitioner, watching the field of oncology evolves throughout the years.
This narrative-driven case study interweaves the stories of the patients Bitar has cared for with her own life stories; it reflects on how her patients’ lives and the stories of their survival or death inspired and changed her life starting and raising a family. Each patient’s approach to illness and end-of-life is as unique as they are, and each person’s journey contains unexpected lessons.
In the space between life and death, Bitar’s profession thrives; and in that space, she can search for the meaning of her existence.
About Rana Bitar
Rana Bitar is a Syrian-American physician, poet, and writer. She earned her Master’s in English and Creative Writing from Southern New Hampshire University.
Her memoir, The Long Tale of Tears and Smiles, was published by Global Collective Publishers in August 2021.
She is the author of two poetry chapbooks, A Loaf of Bread (Unsolicited Press, 2019) and the forthcoming Hold Your Breath (Unsolicited Press, 2023).
A Loaf of Bread was a finalist in the “Concrete Wolf Chapbook Competition” in 2017 and won an honorable mention in “The 2017 Louis Award” for poetry.
Hold Your Breath is selected by The National Women’s History Museum to be on Exhibit for their Coronavirus Journaling Project.
Her poetry has appeared in many journals including, The Deadly Writers Patrol, DoveTales, Pittsburgh Poetry Review, Magnolia Review, El Portal, Pacific REVIEW, Black Coffee Review, The Phoenix, The Dewdrop, The International Human Rights Art Festival, The Charleston Anvil, Beltway Poetry Quarterly, The Sextant Review, The Nonconformist Magazine, and Seeing Things: Anthology of Poetry.
Her translation of Arabic poetry appeared in The American Journal of Poetry, The Nonconformist, Illuminations, and forthcoming in AGNI.
Her essays have been published in The Pharos Journal and Pink Panther Magazine.
She lives in upstate NY, where she practices hematology and oncology.