Student publishes novel about crisis in Syria

In 2011, 13-year-old Syrian, Hamza Al Khateeb, was tortured and murdered following his arrest after participating in a protest near the southern city of Deraa, Syria. His death resulted in an outrage across the world.

Angry upon hearing the death of the teenager, Eastern Michigan University student, Drew Saunders, decided to write something about it. His response soon sparked the beginning of his first novel, Hasan.

“I have been reading about the Arab Spring since it started and I expected the Assad regime to crack down, and they did, but I didn’t expect them to torture people and especially didn’t expect them to torture children,” said Saunders. “But they did.”

Hasanis a fast-paced, adventurous young adult novel that focuses on a teenager named Hasan and his responsibility to get his younger brother and sister to escape to safety from the bloody civil conflict in Syria after the death of their parents.

The 2015 Readers Favorite Awards named the book a finalist in the Young Adult-Adventure category.

“It’s important to read for empathy,” said Saunders. “The most destructive, costly, tragic war is happening right now in Syria. My book is fiction. But I think I ended up trying to capture the terror of the moment. This is a story about brutality and control but also about freedom and trying to stay alive.”

Over a span of four years, Saunders worked sporadically on his novel. It wasn’t until this year that he was able to complete most of it and have it published. He said he became stuck continuously and that the whole process took a long time to complete.

“It was like journalism in terms of all the research I did,” he said. “I basically read articles and kept up to date to what was happening; watched videos and followed the pre-Syrian Army or what’s left of it and all the factions.”

Saunders has won awards in journalism for writing at The Eastern Echo. He has also contributed his writings to other Michigan newspapers and magazines. He hopes to become an international journalist.

“When you have a story like this that is happening, I think the reason people don’t want to read about it is because it is too hard to get into, it’s too hard to wrap your mind and emotions around,” said Saunders.

You can order a copy of Hasan from or on Amazon. It can also be found in your local independent bookstores.

“I think historical fiction can be used as a stepping stone to ease your way in the whole idea of the story and because my book is fiction I hope it can ease people to get to know about this situation and hopefully get them curious enough to find articles or documentaries and help people,” he said.

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