What: Pierre Jarawan discusses “The Storyteller”

When: 5 to 6:30 p.m. April 6

Where: Sunriver Books & Music, 57100 Beaver Drive, Building 25-C

Cost: free, registration requested

Contact: sunriverbooks.com or 541-593-2525

When German poet and author Pierre Jarawan envisioned the plot of his debut novel, “The Storyteller,” he thought he knew the book’s Lebanese setting well.

Lebanon was his father’s birthplace, and Jarawan had visited the country many times for family vacations as a child and young adult. However, he quickly realized that the somewhat his idealized image of Lebanon and its capital city, Beirut, was an incomplete picture that didn’t capture the full complexity of the situation there.

“That’s normal for the second generation of immigrants to romanticize their parents’ country,” Jarawan said. “You think you know the country from your holidays or the stories they told you. Everything is nice: the ocean, your relatives who are so welcoming and happy to see you. I don’t remember bullet holes in the buildings in Beirut, but they must have been there. I needed to grow up and recognize them for what they were and ask myself what happened and what it means.”

Jarawan spent around two years researching the recent history of Lebanon and its volatile political and religious situation before he felt he could really tackle his manuscript.

“After writing a few pages, I recognized it’s impossible to write about Lebanon without writing about politics because everything is politics there,” Jarawan said. “Even religion is political there, and I tried to understand the process of the civil war.”

As a result, “The Storyteller” is a moving and nuanced account of a young man’s search for identity. It is also a love story, a mystery and a riveting account of the impact of the conflicts in the Middle East on families caught up in the violence and the aftermath. Samir, a young man raised in Germany by his Lebanese parents, travels to Lebanon when his father goes missing. He must reconcile the sentimental portraits his father had painted of his homeland in his stories, with the reality of a country riven by religious and political conflict and still attempting to recover from a 15-year civil war that ended in 1990. Samir’s tumultuous search exposes long-buried family secrets along with love and friendship.

“The Storyteller” was released in Germany in 2016 where it became a best-seller, and the English translation will be released in the U.S. on April 2.

Jarawan will discuss the book and share pictures from his travels and research about Lebanon during an event at Sunriver Books & Music on April 6.

Despite some of the parallels with Jarawan’s own background, he says the story is not autobiographical.

“It calls on the world that is known to me: the feelings, smells and images,” Jarawan explained. “The book is full of senses and these I know. But everything that happens to the characters is fictional.”

Jarawan, 34, does not have any formal training as a writer, but has been writing poetry since the age of 13 and has won international prizes as a slam poet. He always wanted to write a novel but waited until the recent refugee crisis in Europe inspired a story he felt was worthy of a full-length manuscript.

“That was the first time I recognized that my parents were refugees,” Jarawan said. “It was kind of strange to me because we never talked about that and didn’t recognize ourselves as refugees — we were just a German-Lebanese family. But in 2014 when the tone of the conversation about immigrants changed, it made me look at myself in a different way. I wanted to write a story about a family that is torn apart by different countries.”

Jarawan believes he got the best of both worlds being raised in Germany from the age of 3 by his German mother and Lebanese father after they fled the Lebanese civil war in the mid 1980s. He feels at home in both places, but acknowledges that many immigrants and refugees are not so lucky.

A key aspect of Samir’s journey in “The Storyteller” is the difficulty of creating an identity when he doesn’t feel fully at home in either Germany or Lebanon.

“Typically, the children of immigrants, the second generation, didn’t make the choice to move to another country,” Jarawan said. “They grow up divided between two countries, and it is not always clear what is home. Their parents often don’t speak the local language well, but the kids are born there, go to school there and speak the local language fluently. Then they come home and speak their parents’ language and are immersed in the customs and culture of their parents’ country. They ask themselves, ‘What is home to me?’ and it’s confusing.”

Jarawan wants to entertain his readers first, but also educate them in an enjoyable and absorbing way with “The Storyteller.” American readers will likely gain new insights into the country of Lebanon where there are 18 official religions — 12 of them Christian. It’s a small country on the Mediterranean Sea with only around 4 million citizens. However, due to its land borders with Syria and Israel, Lebanon is central to much of the conflict in the Middle East.

“If people just read it and like the suspense and the mystery, that’s fine,” Jarawan said. “If they also feel they learn from it and can understand better what’s happening in the Middle East or the inner perspective of refugees, this is what I would like to happen. But it’s up to the reader.”

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