cover image I Just Wanted to Save My Family: A Memoir

I Just Wanted to Save My Family: A Memoir

Stéphan Pélissier, with Cécile-Agnès Champart, trans. from the French by Adriana Hunter. Other Press, $16.99 trade paper (256p) ISBN 978-1-63542-018-0

Pélissier delivers a riveting meditation on love, family, and the perilous lives of asylum seekers. He opens with the story of his charmed romance with a beautiful Syrian woman named Zena who was working on her PhD in Lorraine, France. They fell in love and married, but things took a dark turn after Zena’s family became endangered in war-torn Syria. Hoping to help his in-laws, Pélissier drove to Greece, where Zena’s family had been detained on their way to France from Syria, but instead of facilitating their escape, he is accused of trafficking them by Greek officials. Released after appearing in court, he returned to his wife without her parents and siblings. After Zena’s family’s separation from Pélissier, the memoir switches to their point of view, following them to Hungary, where they are apprehended and taken to a migrant camp, and finally to France, where they receive asylum. The memoir is striking in its ability to remain harrowing and suspenseful while also digging deeply into the emotional dynamics of an extended family that’s been pushed to the brink. Pélissier’s stirring account exposes the inhumanity of asylum seekers’ plight and illuminates how precious and precarious the right to freedom can be. (Jan.)