2017 National Book Award Finalist, Fiction

Elliot Ackerman

Dark at the Crossing by Elliot Ackerman Elliot Ackerman
Dark at the Crossing
(Knopf / Penguin Random House)

ISBN: 9781101947371

National Book Foundation: Why did you write this book?
Elliot Ackerman: In Dark at the Crossing, I wanted to tell the story of the Syrian civil war, a failed revolution, through the lens of an intimate, universal emotional arc: a failed marriage. A revolution, like a marriage, is a journey of the heart. Marriage is letting go of two separate worlds in order to create a single shared one. When a marriage dissolves, a couple is forced to reimagine that world, to start again.
The novel is an exploration of grief—the death of a child, the destruction of a cause, the individual’s search to assuage loss. Having spent nearly three years covering the Syrian Civil War, I watched that conflict’s spiral into darkness. I witnessed the central choice of any failed revolution, any failed relationship: whether to accept what’s ruined and begin anew, or to keep faith with an increasingly hopeless cause.
Foundation: What’s your favorite bookstore or library?
Ackerman: SALT Galata in Istanbul, which is one part library, art museum, and bookstore, is a pretty special place.


Elliot Ackerman’s Dark at the Crossing begins with a question the Turkish guards at the Syrian border pose to Haris, the young Arab American veteran determined to cross: why, after escaping the war in Iraq for America, would he want to then leave to fight—and probably die—in Syria? The novel answers this question by taking us inside a singular and urgent story that connects the war in Iraq, anti-Muslim hatred in America, and the Syrian Civil War.


Haris Abadi is a man in search of a cause. An Arab American with a conflicted past, he is now in Turkey, attempting to cross into Syria and join the fight against Bashar al-Assad’s regime. But he is robbed before he can make it, and is taken in by Amir, a charismatic Syrian refugee and former revolutionary, and Amir’s wife, Daphne, a sophisticated beauty haunted by grief. As it becomes clear that Daphne is also desperate to return to Syria, Haris’s choices become ever more wrenching: Whose side is he really on? Is he a true radical or simply an idealist? And will he be able to bring meaning to a life of increasing frustration and helplessness? Told with compassion and a deft hand, Dark at the Crossing is an exploration of loss, of second chances, and of why we choose to believe—a trenchantly observed novel of raw urgency and power.

About the Author

Elliot Ackerman, author of the critically acclaimed novel Green on Blue, is based out of Istanbul, where he has covered the Syrian Civil War since 2013. His writings have appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The New Republic and The New York Times Magazine, among other publications, and his stories have been included in The Best American Short Stories. He is both a former White House Fellow and a Marine, and has served five tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, where he received the Silver Star, the Bronze Star for Valor and the Purple Heart.


- WEBSITE: elliotackerman.com

- TWITTER: @elliotackerman

(Photo credit: Muhsin Akgun)


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