... powerful ... di Giovanni’s book is also highly personal: raised Catholic, her faith recently restored, she frames her introduction and conclusion with moving details about her religious upbringing and the circumstances of her pandemic lockdown in the French Alps, where ritual and tradition provided solace. This account of her faith contributes to the force of her reporting, but does not cloud it ... The individuals di Giovanni interviews provide a rich portrait of these threatened communities, and of the wider societies they inhabit.
... opens and closes with beautiful evocations of the power of faith in trying times ... In the largely secular world of international journalism, it’s refreshing to hear from a correspondent who participated in, rather than merely observed, one of the most fundamental aspects of life in the Middle East: religious practice ... Ms. di Giovanni does Middle Eastern Christians a service by highlighting their recent struggles. The Vanishing is an easy read, and her story of faith, which she researched while covering the subject during her journalism career, makes for an enjoyable book. For readers unaware that there are native populations of Christians in the Middle East, the book provides a brief introduction. The section on the Christians of Gaza, in particular, is a welcome contribution about a mostly unknown and largely forgotten community ... Beyond that, however, Ms. di Giovanni’s book consists largely of heartfelt but superficial interviews with Christians concerned about their future in the region. The author offers little more than platitudes by way of explanation for the decline of Christianity in the Middle East and fails to properly place the decline in any coherent historical context ... is also riddled with errors or mischaracterizations. Some are minor but nonetheless distracting...The chapter on Syria, in particular, has a number of egregious mistakes, particularly noticeable because, as a work of journalism, the book should at least get the events of the recent past correct ... a well-intentioned effort to bring attention to a people worthy of the world’s help. It falls short of its goal, but not for lack of trying. Ms. di Giovanni certainly gets the crux of the story correct: Christianity is at risk of disappearing from the land of its birth. That she was willing to tell the story is commendable, and it is hoped that her book will prompt the reader to take a closer look at a suffering community. If it does that, its many shortcomings might be overlooked.
With a reporting career spanning three decades throughout the region, she writes with poignant authenticity as she weaves her own deeply personal faith experiences with those of a parade of Middle Eastern citizens who populate the history she recounts of Iraq, Gaza, Syria, and Egypt, places foundational to early Christianity ... Di Giovanni’s many interviews and own observations detail heartrending circumstances that have wreaked irreparable harm to families, towns, and countries ... Maps and an invaluable timeline complement the thoroughly documented text. Challenging but worth the effort, this will resonate with readers interested in gaining understanding of the land’s complex issues while grasping with the author for undiscovered solutions.
... poignant ... Melodramatically bookended by the author’s shelter experience during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, these four lengthy chapters provide relevant historical background, cover recent events, and delve into the personal stories of dozens of individual believers ... Beyond economic fear, di Giovanni uncovers an existential crisis as centuries-old communities, rocked by trauma, sense the coming of extinction. She exposes a tremendous pathos and shared sense of grief across the region. But she is also impressed by the overriding faith of these communities, the members of which are uncertain about their earthly fates but focused on the promises religion has provided. The author presents a distinctly personal and subjective account full of empathy and humanity amid upheaval ... Heart-rending stories of dying communities buoyed by the hope of their faith.
Di Giovanni’s insightful reporting traces the histories of these groups and emphasizes the cultural legacies they represent ... The propulsive account is marked by the author’s keen eye for detail and the stories of the people involved, such as an Egyptian Coptic Christian jeweler who refuses to give up proclaiming his faith despite constant fear and public humiliations. This is perfect for anyone interested in the Middle East, or in how humans live through war.