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As Long as the Lemon Trees Grow by Zoulfa Katouh
Young adult

As Long as the Lemon Trees Grow


We love supporting debut authors. Congrats, Zoulfa Katouh, on your first book!

by Zoulfa Katouh

Quick take

This powerful story tracks the journey to self-discovery and hope of a young Syrian woman whose life is upended by war.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Emotional


  • Illustrated icon, Icon_400

    400+ pages

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_SocialIssues

    Social issues

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_International



Salama Kassab was a pharmacy student when the cries for freedom broke out in Syria. She still had her parents and her big brother; she still had her home. She had a normal teenager’s life.

Now Salama volunteers at a hospital in Homs, helping the wounded who flood through the doors daily. Secretly, though, she is desperate to find a way out of her beloved country before her sister-in-law, Layla, gives birth. So desperate, that she has manifested a physical embodiment of her fear in the form of her imagined companion, Khawf, who haunts her every move in an effort to keep her safe.

But even with Khawf pressing her to leave, Salama is torn between her loyalty to her country and her conviction to survive. Salama must contend with bullets and bombs, military assaults, and her shifting sense of morality before she might finally breathe free. And when she crosses paths with the boy she was supposed to meet one fateful day, she starts to doubt her resolve in leaving home at all.

Soon, Salama must learn to see the events around her for what they truly are—not a war, but a revolution—and decide how she, too, will cry for Syria’s freedom.

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Content warning

This book contains a scene depicting the death of a child.

Free sample

Get an early look from the first pages of As Long as the Lemon Trees Grow.

Why I love it

I remember when As Long as the Lemon Trees Grow was first announced. I read the brief synopsis and gasped. It felt like the book I’d been waiting for—that the world had been waiting for—for years.

With fine storytelling and lyrical prose, Zoulfa Katouh paints a portrait of life in war-torn Syria as seen through the eyes of the resilient, beautiful Salama Kassab, a pharmacy student who finds herself on the front lines as a hospital volunteer while desperately trying to find a way to leave the country she loves so much before her pregnant sister-in-law gives birth. There are no easy answers for Salama and as her PTSD manifests in unexpected ways, she also finds herself, impossibly, improbably, falling in love.

As a Muslim American, I’ve felt the dearth of books that richly and authentically portray conflicts across the Islamic world. Felt a twist in my gut as I saw so much of the world turning away from the suffering of some refugees because they were brown, because they were Muslim. Do you remember the photo of Syrian three-year-old Alan Kurdi’s lifeless body washed up onto a beach after he tried to flee war? That photo was shared millions of times, but how many people stopped to read about his family, some of whom also died in those waves?

Too often, and too easily, we turn away from these stories of suffering. Zoulfa's gorgeous, wrenching debut asks us to not turn away. As Long as the Lemon Trees Grow is a novel about war, about life, about undeniable love, and about the enduring, life-altering power of hope.

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Member ratings (6,116)

  • Amanda G.

    Saint Louis, MO

    This book is so important. Emotional, gut-wrenching, difficult, but also beautiful, hopeful, and full of resilience. Salama’s story demands to be told. I hope to never forget Lemon Trees. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  • Laura P.

    Brooklyn, NY

    Wow. I haven’t felt this moved by a book in a long time! Knowing that it’s Z. Katouh’s debut novel is impressive. Her characters are poignant and raw. It’s a book about hope and a love letter to Syria

  • Christa V.

    Pittsburgh, PA

    Such a heartbreaking story that was written so well. Great storytelling. Even though it was 400 pages, it didn’t feel like a long read. THIS BOOK IS AN EXAMPLE OF HOW IMPORTANT FICTION WRITING CAN BE!

  • Taylor O.

    Cicero, NY

    I avoided this book for some reason and struggled with the first 2 chapters. I just couldn’t get into it.Finished it in under 6 hours straight. Heart-wrenchingly beautiful. it humbled me- great read!!

  • Mickie G.

    Edgewood , MD

    Wow…this was definitely a look into how we, as human beings can adapt and adjust to the worst conditions and experiences, as well as how our minds try to protect us fiercely. I will never forget this.