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Stranger in the Desert: A Family Story, with Jordan Salama

Click here to register for this free virtual event, co-presented by the San Francisco Bay Area Jewish Genealogical Society.

One Thanksgiving afternoon at his grandparents’ house, Jordan Salama discovered a large binder stuffed with yellowing papers and old photographsa five-hundred-year wandering history of his Arab-Jewish family, from Moorish Spain to Ottoman Syria to Argentina and beyond. One story in particular captured his attention: that of his great-grandfather, a Syrian-born, Arabic-speaking Jewish immigrant to Argentina who worked as a traveling salesman in the Andes in the 1920s—and may have left behind forgotten descendants along the way. 

Encouraged by his grandfather, Jordan goes in search of these “Lost Salamas,” traveling more than a thousand miles up the spine of South America’s greatest mountain range. Combining travelog, history, memoir, and reportage, Stranger in the Desert transports readers from the lonely plains of Patagonia to the breathtaking altiplano of the high Andes, and from the old Jewish quarter of Damascus to today’s vibrant neighborhoods of Buenos Aires. It is also a fervent journey of self-discovery as Salama grapples with his own Jewish, Arab, and Latin American identities, interrogating the stories families tell themselves, and to what end.

Jordan Salama is a writer focusing on culture and the environment in the Americas. His work has appeared in National Geographic, The New York Times, and other publications. In 2022, while he was on the staff of National Geographic, he wrote digital and print stories and served as a guest host for the flagship podcast Overheard at Nat Geo. He is the author of Every Day the River Changes: Four Weeks Down the Magdalena, which was named a Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2021 and a top new travel book by The New York Times. Every Day the River Changes was also selected as the “Pre-Read” for all incoming freshmen at Princeton University, where Salama was an author-in-residence in the fall of 2022.

Program made possible, in part, by Larry Burgheimer.



Wednesday, March 20, 2024


Pacific Time
7:00 pm - 8:00 pm

More Info

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Virtual via Zoom