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Fiction Coming Of Age

The Foghorn Echoes

by (author) Danny Ramadan

Penguin Group Canada
Initial publish date
Aug 2022
Coming of Age, Gay, Political
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Aug 2022
    List Price

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"A sweeping and mesmerizing story that spans time and mortal space so expertly and elegantly." —Alan Cumming
A deeply moving novel about a forbidden love between two boys in war-torn Syria and the fallout that ripples through their adult lives.

Syria, 2003. A blooming romance leads to a tragic accident when Hussam’s father catches him acting on his feelings for his best friend, Wassim. In an instant, the course of their lives is changed forever.

Ten years later, Hussam and Wassim are still struggling to find peace and belonging. Sponsored as a refugee by a controlling older man, Hussam is living an openly gay life in Vancouver, where he attempts to quiet his demons with sex, drugs, and alcohol. Wassim is living on the streets of Damascus, having abandoned a wife and child and a charade he could no longer keep up. Taking shelter in a deserted villa, he unearths the previous owner’s buried secrets while reckoning with his own.

The past continues to reverberate through the present as Hussam and Wassim come face to face with heartache, history, drag queens, border guards, and ghosts both literal and figurative.

Masterfully crafted and richly detailed, The Foghorn Echoes is a gripping novel about how to carve out home in the midst of war, and how to move forward when the war is within yourself.

About the author

DANNY RAMADAN is an award-winning Syrian-Canadian author, activist, and public speaker. His work as an activist has helped provide a safe passage to dozens of Syrian LGBTQ+ refugees to Canada. He is the author of two novels for adults, The Clothesline Swing and The Foghorn Echoes, and a forthcoming memoir, Crooked Teeth. Danny lives in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Danny Ramadan's profile page


  • Short-listed, City of Vancouver Book Award
  • Short-listed, BC Book Prize's Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize
  • Winner, Lambda Literary Award
  • Short-listed, Lambda Literary Award

Excerpt: The Foghorn Echoes (by (author) Danny Ramadan)

Children shouldn’t know the horror of war, but Hussam was old enough by now. At first his parents barred him from the news while all of Damascus buzzed with tales from neighbouring Iraq: stories of mass graves and downed airplanes, of buildings as tall as mountains crumbling to dust, of invading Americans with blond hair and blue eyes. The cafés replaced the music channels on their television sets with an endless stream of news reports. Teachers substituted their physical education classes for military preparations sessions, teaching Hussam and his peers how to load a gun and how to build a functional gas mask. Wealthy neighbours sold their homes in haste and bought airplane tickets across the Mediterranean. Finally, when his mother needed his help setting up an emergency stash of canned fruits and pickled vegetables, she sat Hussam down and told him of the war.

“Every push by the Americans causes an attack by the Iraqis,” she said. “No one will win.”

He repeated what he’d learned in school. “Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.”

Hussam became mesmerized by the war. After school, he ignored the calls of his friends to join them for a street football match and ran home instead. He unbuckled his school uniform belt as he climbed the stairs and kicked off his dusty boots at the gate of their one-bedroom apartment.
“No running in the house,” his mother said. Hussam dodged her and rushed to the living room, turned up the volume on his father’s old TV. He flipped the three Syrian channels for news segments on the American invasion with the same enthusiasm he’d once used to search for cartoons. Fascinated by fighter jets, combat tanks, and speeches from mustachioed military leaders, he mimicked the knee kicks of marching troops and the hand salutes of loyal soldiers to foreign flags of stripes and stars. Resting the wooden end of his mother’s broom on his shoulder, he stomped like a guard, ready to jump into the hallway and snap his prized rifle at an elusive enemy.

In Hussam’s fifteen years, he’d never visited Iraq. He knew of the country through his studies of regional history, aware that it was a capital of a long-lost Islamic empire. His father reminisced about the bygone glory of Islam, which had been shattered by what the old man considered unholy attacks on the one true Allah and His devoted people by the infidel West. At school, a boy from Iraq had recently joined Hussam’s class. A refugee, he was told. A black-haired, short-tempered teenager with sun-kissed skin who spoke Arabic with a strange accent.

“Did you hear of the Iraqi man who shot down an Apache helicopter with his shotgun?” Hussam sat with three friends around a square plastic table; they each held thirteen playing cards tight to their chests and exchanged suspicious glances they’d learned from watching black-and-white westerns on rented VHS tapes. His mother set a tray of black honey-sweetened tea and a generous dish of mamoul on the table and poured the tea into golden-rimmed glass cups. It was a late May afternoon, and the streets of Damascus roared with the shamal winds, whipping dust and sand, tilting the trees into respectful bows.

If Hussam’s father knew they were playing cards, he’d be raging mad. The exam season was only a month away, and they needed to focus on their studies. “Especially the son of Omar and his first wife,” his father said, referring to Wassim, for he rarely could recall the names of Hussam’s friends. Hussam’s mother was more forgiving of his hobbies and allowed him to play the occasional card game, warning him in time of his father’s return.

“I heard he shot it down with a single bullet,” Wassim said, drawing a card. Wassim had never seen a military helicopter, only the ones that dropped colourful papers on the rooftops across his neighbourhood on national holidays, reminding people that the newly elected Syrian president was a progressive leader who supported the Iraqi brothers in their righteous war against the imperialist Americans. Whenever this happened, Wassim would hurry to the roof to sweep his pigeon cages so that none of the birds would peck at the sharp papers. He’d inherited thirty-three birds from his uncle, who’d died young of an unknown illness eighteen months earlier. Last summer, Wassim had built small birdcages on his family’s rooftop using old wires and cheap wood. He printed his name in black marker on the feathers of the birds’ inner wings and tied a ribbon to their feet before releasing them to the open skies. After a couple of hours of fluttering between clouds and darting through the maze of the old neighbourhood, the birds would return when Wassim whistled sharply and waved a flag made from an old T-shirt. He would count and examine the birds as he ushered them into the cages, surprised each time that all of them returned. He locked the deadbolts and hung the keys around his neck.

Wassim slammed a card on the table, initiating a new round. He parroted what he’d heard on his father’s TV. “The Iraqi used his old shotgun to bring down the flying monster. He inherited the gun from his grandfather who used it to kill British invaders back in the 1920s.” Wassim’s voice was changing, becoming crisper and deeper than the piercing screams he and Hussam used to exchange while playing soldiers and thieves in their neighbourhood of Mazzeh.

Wassim raised his cards to his face, but Hussam could see his eyes, which were blue, unlike any he’d seen before. They contrasted his tanned face and crowned his high nose. Downy hair that hadn’t blackened quite yet gathered on his upper lip, its colour similar to the soft fur Hussam noticed on Wassim’s body last time they went to a swimming pool. It covered his forearms, rounded his chest muscles, and led to his belly button like an arrow pointing down. His clear skin looked hot to the touch.

Editorial Reviews

The Foghorn Echoes is a deeply moving book about conflict both internal and external, the ways in which cold accidents—of birth, of place, of time—can leave a human being at war with their own desires, their own sense of self. Danny Ramadan is a gifted, sensitive excavator of the things that break people and put them back together, the past as weight and lightness. In this novel he has created a world of immense sensory and emotional precision, at once true in its living details and yet electric with the presence of ghosts.”
—Omar El Akkad, author of What Strange Paradise

“‘Treat your thoughts like hurt children. They haven’t learned yet how to handle pain.’ So says a wise ghost in Danny Ramadan’s sweeping and mesmerising story that spans time and mortal space so expertly and elegantly. This is a beautiful novel, written by a once hurt child and loved and deeply admired by another—me.”
—Alan Cumming, author of Baggage

“A heart-wrenching and gorgeous tale that spans across borders and time. Danny Ramadan introduces us to Hussam and Wassim, granting us intimate access to their desires, flaws, secrets, failures, and triumphs. They grapple with the consequences of their identities, attempt to quench their longings and loneliness, and find and make peace within themselves against the backdrop of war, migration, queerness, and the echoes of their particular histories. The Foghorn Echoes is a probing and triumphant story, deftly rendered with depth, compassion, lightness, and joy.”
—Francesca Ekwuyasi, author of Butter Honey Pig Bread

The Foghorn Echoes reminded me of The Kite Runner, with its characters haunted by love and hunted by loss—across oceans, timelines, and warzones. This is a contemporary, mystical, and timeless novel about friendship, loss, acceptance, hope, but most of all love. I didn’t want it to end.”
—Lemn Sissay, author of My Name Is Why

“I’ve read many stories about love and war. Few have moved me this much. The Foghorn Echoes is marvellous: subtle but dramatic, tender but urgent, and beautifully written. I’ll be thinking about it for a very long time.”
—Dina Nayeri, author of The Ungrateful Refugee
The Foghorn Echoes bristles. It burns bright. It shouts into the dark with a voice that hovers between a melody and a lamentation. Danny Ramadan writes in these pages with a spellbinding urgency, stripping bare some of the most painful and fundamental truths about displacement and grief, about rage and betrayal. In the process, he reminds us again and again that even the worst of memories contain redemptive powers. This novel is a tender and impassioned love story for a country, for a people, and for all those who refuse to disappear quietly into the land of the forgotten.”
Maaza Mengiste, author of The Shadow King
“Gives a vivid sense of Syria under the Assad regime . . . powerful and compassionate.”
The Guardian

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