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"A physician’s captivating remembrance, eventful and astutely introspective."

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An oncologist reflects on her medical career, upbringing in Syria, and encounters with death in this memoir. Bitar grew up in Damascus, one of four children in a household that was both bookish and progressive by the standards of the time. Always an overachieving student, she knew early on that she “wanted to be a doctor with every inch of my being.” She attended medical school in Aleppo, where she met her future husband, Joseph, and moved to New York City in 1990 to continue her studies. She would eventually become an oncologist and relocate to the United States permanently. The author relates, with great emotional sensitivity, the beauty and despair involved in a profession that stands in such close proximity to death, a constant shadow: “Solid medical training is the beginning of any oncologist’s career.

But there is that space where the oncologist’s medical knowledge converges with their philosophy on the meaning of life and existence. In that space, that so-called ‘art of medicine,’ my profession thrives.” In addition, she writes movingly of her personal encounters with mortality, including the traumatic death of her little brother, Ammar. Bitar’s parents eventually fled Damascus when war erupted, and her childhood home was bombed in 2013. She delicately depicts life before the war in Syria, a place where “nothing was private, but all things were done in secret.” The author jumps back and forth between accounts of her most memorable patients—affecting tales of travails and triumphs—and her own personal life, including becoming the mother of two children. Her prose is always lucid and sometimes reaches poetical heights. She is also admirably candid, discussing in open-handed detail her own fears and emotional struggles. This is a profoundly thoughtful memoir, philosophically searching but also touchingly intimate. A physician’s captivating remembrance, eventful and astutely introspective

The Long Tale of Tears and Smiles
Book Launch at Caffe Lena

The Long Tale of Tears and Smiles Book Trailer



The Long Tale of Tears and Smiles


The Long Tale of Tears and Smiles explores an immigrant oncologist’s journey of triumphs and struggles, from growing up in Syria, to the tragic death of her brother, to her experiences as a young immigrant medical student and trainee in the USA.


A Loaf of Bread

A Loaf of Bread is a requiem for the loss of the author’s homeland. During the years of the civil war in Syria, the author lost her father-in-law; he was buried in a hurry in some unrecognizable ground in Aleppo.

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Hold Your Breath 

Publication by Uncolisted Press

Poetry collection. Selected by The National Women's History Museum for their Coronavirus Journaling Project Exhibition.

Rana Bitar, MD, MFA


Rana Bitar is a Syrian-American physician, poet, and writer. She earned her Master’s in English and Creative Writing from Southern New Hampshire University.

Her memoir, The Long Tale of Tears and Smiles, was published by Global Collective Publishers in August 2021.

She is the author of two poetry chapbooks, A Loaf of Bread (Unsolicited Press, 2019) and the forthcoming Hold Your Breath (Unsolicited Press, 2023).

A Loaf of Bread was a finalist in the “Concrete Wolf Chapbook Competition” in 2017 and won an honorable mention in “The 2017 Louis Award” for poetry.

Hold Your Breath is selected by The National Women’s History Museum to be on Exhibit for their Coronavirus Journaling Project.

Her poetry has appeared in many journals including, The Deadly Writers Patrol, DoveTales, Pittsburgh Poetry Review, Magnolia Review, El Portal, Pacific REVIEW, Black Coffee Review, The Phoenix, The Dewdrop, The International Human Rights Art Festival, The Charleston Anvil, Beltway Poetry Quarterly, The Sextant Review, The Nonconformist Magazine, and Seeing Things: Anthology of Poetry.

Her translation of Arabic poetry appeared in The American Journal of Poetry, The Nonconformist, Illuminations, and forthcoming in AGNI

Her essays have been published in The Pharos Journal and Pink Panther Magazine.


She lives in upstate NY, where she practices hematology and oncology.

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