A former child refugee from Iraq who lived in five different countries by the age of 14, author CYNTHIA KAPLAN SHAMASH has spoken at the U.N. and many other venues about her family's persecution and painful struggles to resettle in the West, the challenges faced by all refugees, the future of the Iraqi-Jewish archives, and the urgent need for the West to understand the Middle Eastern mindset.  She has published an op-ed in The New York Times, appeared in a PBS special and been interviewed by leading media outlets.

The Book

This riveting and utterly unique memoir chronicles the coming of age of Cynthia Shamash, an Iraqi Jew born in Baghdad in 1963. It appeals to readers intrigued by spirituality, tolerance, the personal ramifications of statelessness and exile, the clashes of cultures, and the future of Iraq and its Jews.


Cynthia speaks frequently about her family’s experiences facing anti-Semitism, persecution and imprisonment in Iraq, painful exile and struggles to adjust to life in the West. She advocates for compassion for the plight of refugees, keeping the Iraqi-Jewish archives in the United States, and the need for the West to understand the values and mindset of the Arab world. Her talks inspire others to find the courage and strength to overcome trying times in their lives.


When Cynthia was nine, her family tried to escape from Iraq over the Iranian border but they were captured and jailed for five weeks. A few months later the family managed to escape to Turkey and from there fled to Israel followed by the Netherlands and the UK. By the age of 14, Cynthia had lived in five different countries — feeling like a stranger in each one. In 2015, Cynthia’s riveting and heartfelt memoir “The Strangers We Became” was released to rave reviews.


"Powerful and moving, Cynthia’s book is a fascinating odyssey, as well as a treasure trove for anthropologists ... Her descriptions of the puzzlement and confusion she felt, but also her defiance, are a masterpiece.”