…with Writer-In-Residence Jordan Salama
Tuesday, September 26, 2023
5:30pm – 6:30pm
John A. and Carole O. Moran Lecture Hall
Writer-In-Residence at the Hemingway House, Jordan Salama, will discuss his forthcoming book: Stranger in the Desert: A Family Story, which will be released in February 2024.
Inspired by family lore, a young writer embarks on an epic quest through the Argentine Andes in search of a heritage spanning hemispheres and centuries, from the Jewish Levant to turn-of-the-century trade routes in South America
One Thanksgiving afternoon at his grandparents’ house, Jordan Salama discovers a large binder stuffed with yellowing papers and old photographs—a five-hundred-year wandering history of his Arab-Jewish family, from Moorish Spain to Ottoman Syria to Argentina and beyond.
One story in particular captures his attention: that of his great-grandfather, a Syrian-born, Arabic-speaking Jewish immigrant to Argentina who in the 1920s worked as a traveling salesman in the Andes—and may have left behind forgotten descendants along the way. Encouraged by his grandfather, Jordan goes in search of these “Lost Salamas,” traveling more than a thousand miles up the spine of South America’s greatest mountain range.
Combining travelog, history, memoir, and reportage, Stranger in the Desert transports readers from the lonely plains of Patagonia to the breathtaking altiplano of the high Andes; from the old Jewish quarter of Damascus to today’s vibrant neighborhoods of Buenos Aires. It is also a fervent journey of self-discovery as Salama grapples with his own Jewish, Arab, and Latin American identities, interrogating the stories families tell themselves, and to what end.
This program will be livestreamed and available to view later.
Jordan Salama is a writer, reporter, and producer. His first book, Every Day the River Changes, chronicling his journey down Colombia’s Río Magdalena and the lives of the people living along its banks, was named a Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2021 and a top new travel book by the New York Times, as well as the “Princeton Pre-Read.” Focusing largely on culture and the environment in the Americas, his essays and stories appear regularly in National Geographic, the New York Times, Smithsonian Magazine and other publications. He has written about climate change, letter-writing, and American Jewish life; tracked down Syrian traveling salesmen in the Andes; covered Lionel Messi and the Argentina national soccer team during the 2016 Copa América, and traveled across the U.S. and Patagonia by train, among many other adventures. He is also the co-creator of The Lulus TV, a bilingual children’s media company with more than 1 million YouTube followers across English and Spanish-language channels. He graduated from Princeton University in 2019 and has been based, in recent years, between New York and Buenos Aires.