Miami Book Fair

Terry Anderson’s daughter tells of her father’s nearly 7-year captivity

Sulome Anderson stands in front of wall filled with Arab graffiti in Lebanon in August 2015, during the You Stink protests.
Sulome Anderson stands in front of wall filled with Arab graffiti in Lebanon in August 2015, during the You Stink protests. Josh Wood

Sulome Anderson is no stranger to terrorism. In fact, she was born into it.

Sulome’s mother, Madeleine Bassil, was six months pregnant with her when Sulome’s dad, Terry Anderson, was taken hostage by Hezbollah militants in Lebanon after a tennis game. It was 1985 and he was working as the Associated Press chief Middle Eastern correspondent in Beirut.

It wasn’t until former Deputy U.N. Secretary General Giandomenico Picco negotiated with his captors that Anderson was finally released in 1991. Sulome was 6 when she first met her dad.

Now 31, Sulome has written a memoir, “The Hostage’s Daughter,” which she will read an excerpt from Sunday at the Miami Book Fair.

“This is what happened when the cameras went away and we were left unobserved, blinking in the dark,” she wrote in the first chapter. “It’s the legacy of trauma I was born with and how it led me to ask questions about the event that shaped my life.”

She says the book is meant to educate people about the Lebanese hostage crisis and how the issues are still playing out today in the Middle East — 30 years later.

“I wrote it for people who wouldn’t normally read a book like this,” said Sulome, a freelance journalist who divides her time between New York and Lebanon, often covering stories in Beirut. “People have more of a connection when you put your story in there.”

Sulome spent three years interviewing 60 figures involved with her father’s kidnapping. They include Picco, Terry Waite, the British envoy for the Church of England who tried to secure the hostages’ release only to be taken hostage himself, and former U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Col. Oliver North of Iran-contra fame.

She also interviewed one of her dad’s captors, whom she calls “the Masuul.” Sulome said it took multiple attempts to convince the Hezbollah militant she wasn’t a spy and she wouldn’t turn him in.

Initially, she focused on understanding how someone could kidnap and torture another person.

“My goal wasn’t to humanize them, because they weren’t human to me, you know?” she said.

But as Sulome talked to “the Masuul” further, she said she found a forgiveness and peace.

“I didn’t know I wanted to forgive him,” she said. “But as I got to know him, I realized that was what I needed to do. To find peace, and as cliche as it sounds, to move on.”

Anderson’s return to the States wasn’t easy. He and Sulome’s mother began fighting and Sulome didn’t recognize him as the father she believed he would be. Subsequent events also marred his transition: a lawsuit against the Iranian government, a divorce. For Sulome, there were also the psychological effects of having a dad who had been in captivity for nearly seven years.

The challenges led Sulome into drugs and binge-drinking, starting in the eighth grade. She was then expelled from boarding school. She was then arrested and charged with resisting arrest and assaulting a police officer. The charges were reduced to drunk and disorderly conduct; she says she served three days of community service.

The book, she said, has helped her and her father heal.

“I think by seeing what his experience did to me, it kind of woke him up to what it did to himself,” she said. “He is now accessing a whole range of emotions I’ve never seen him access, and it’s been really sweet.”

Today, Anderson is a retired journalist and journalism professor — he had taught at the University of Florida. Sulome says her mental illness is in check, and she has made a life for herself in Brooklyn with her new husband. (They married in September.)

“I still sometimes have struggles, but overall, yeah, I’m definitely at a high point in my life,” she said.

Her mother and father still worry about her being a foreign correspondent in Lebanon, although her father said he understands it.

“Scares the s--- out of me,” he said. “It’s a dangerous profession. I know that personally, but I’m not going to tell her not to do it. Because, A, that would be stupid as she’s seen me do it, and, B, because she’s good at it.”

He said he read a draft of the book in two hours and cried.

“I’m proud of her as a journalist,” he said. “I’ve always known she’s a wonderful writer, but I’m also proud of where this journey has taken her.”

Cresonia Hsieh: @CresoniaHsieh

If you go

What: “Family Ties: Readings from Three Memoirs” at the Miami Book Fair

When: Sulome Anderson will read from “The Hostage’s Daughter” at 12:30 p.m., Nov. 20, in Room 8202, Building 8, second floor, Miami Dade College, 300 NE Second Ave. She will be joined by Nadja Spiegelman (“I’m Supposed to Protect You from All This’’) and Tracy Tynan. (“Wear and Tear: The Threads of My Life.’’)

  Comments