Wendy Pearlman

Author of
  • We Crossed a Bridge and It Trembled: Voices From Syria
    Custom House, 2017

Wendy Pearlman is an Associate Professor of Political Science at Northwestern University, where she specializes in Middle East politics, social movements, and conflict processes. She earned a BA from Brown University, an MA from Georgetown, and a Ph.D. from Harvard. She was a Fulbright Scholar in Spain, and has held fellowships sponsored by the Center for Arabic Studies Abroad at the American University in Cairo, the United States Institute of Peace, and Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. She is the author of Occupied Voices: Stories of Everyday Life from the Second Intifada (Nation Books, 2003), a Washington Post and Boston Globe Bestseller, and Violence, Nonviolence, and the Palestinian National Movement (Cambridge University Press, 2011), named Foreign Policy Magazine’s runner-up for best book on the Middle East in 2011, as well as numerous commentaries or narrative essays for general audiences.

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Books by Wendy

We Crossed a Bridge and It Trembled: Voices From Syria

Reminiscent of the work of Nobel Prize winner Svetlana Alexievich, an astonishing collection of intimate wartime testimonies and poetic fragments from a cross-section of Syrians whose lives have been transformed by revolution, war, and flight.

Against the backdrop of the wave of demonstrations known as the Arab Spring, in 2011 hundreds of thousands of Syrians took to the streets demanding freedom, democracy and human rights. The government’s ferocious response, and the refusal of the demonstrators to back down, sparked a brutal civil war that over the past five years has escalated into the worst humanitarian catastrophe of our times.

Yet despite all the reporting, the video, and the wrenching photography, the stories of ordinary Syrians remain unheard, while the stories told about them have been distorted by broad brush dread and political expediency. This fierce and poignant collection changes that. Based on interviews with hundreds of displaced Syrians conducted over four years across the Middle East and Europe, We Crossed a Bridge and It Trembled is a breathtaking mosaic of first-hand testimonials from the frontlines. Some of the testimonies are several pages long, eloquent narratives that could stand alone as short stories; others are only a few sentences, poetic and aphoristic. Together, they cohere into an unforgettable chronicle that is not only a testament to the power of storytelling but to the strength of those who face darkness with hope, courage, and moral conviction.

Praise for We Crossed a Bridge and It Trembled: Voices From Syria

Pearlman spoke with hundreds of displaced Syrians…. Common among the spare and haunting testimonies of these mothers, fathers, brothers, and sisters are the loss and reappearance of hope, humanity, and dreams of new freedom. This powerfully edifying work of witness is essential reading.

Booklist (starred review)

It’s unsurprising to see the anger not just toward Syrian president Bashar al-Assad but also toward the international community...Nonetheless, the book is filled with hope, informed by an understanding of the unity possible in spite of the discord sowed by Assad.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Pearlman’s book is not only important because it puts names to suffering, but also because it reminds readers—especially in the final segment, “Reflections”—that in the Syrian conflict, “there is no right or wrong,” only problematic “shades of gray.” A poignant and humane collection.


A heartbreaking, human, and necessary book. Recommended for anyone who wishes to better understand the Syrian conflict.

Library Journal

Incendiary—this heart-wrenching testament could not be more timely. Beyond headlines or breaking news or political posturing, this work of witness allows real people to expose Syria’s terrifying heart.

Luis Alberto Urrea, author of The Devil’s Highway and Into The Beautiful North

To read these pages, to meet these men and women, is to cross a bridge ourselves, and to tremble: at the fragility of social order…but also at the love, anger, terror, trauma, compassion, endurance, awe, and determination a single human voice can convey.

Larry Siems, author of The Torture Report and editor of Mohamedou Ould Slahi’s Guantanamo Diary

Pearlman masterfully stitches together a collective journey, stories moving seamlessly from one to the next...The disparate voices, ranging from defiant, funny, mournful, wistful, and tragic, form a complex narrative of the Syrian tragedy—my story, my family’s stories, the stories of the people and lives that we lost.

Lina Sergie Attar, cofounder and chief executive of the Karam Foundation
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