Every Day the River Changes: Four Weeks Down the Magdalena (Hardcover)
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An exhilarating travelogue for a new generation about a journey along Colombia’s Magdalena River, exploring life by the banks of a majestic river now at risk, and how a country recovers from conflict.
An American writer of Argentine, Syrian, and Iraqi Jewish descent, Jordan Salama tells the story of the Río Magdalena, nearly one thousand miles long, the heart of Colombia. This is Gabriel García Márquez’s territory—rumor has it Macondo was partly inspired by the port town of Mompox—as much as that of the Middle Eastern immigrants who run fabric stores by its banks.
Following the river from its source high in the Andes to its mouth on the Caribbean coast, journeying by boat, bus, and improvised motobalinera, Salama writes against stereotype and toward the rich lives of those he meets. Among them are a canoe builder, biologists who study invasive hippopotamuses, a Queens transplant managing a failing hotel, a jeweler practicing the art of silver filigree, and a traveling librarian whose donkeys, Alfa and Beto, haul books to rural children. Joy, mourning, and humor come together in this astonishing debut, about a country too often seen as only a site of war, and a tale of lively adventure following a legendary river.
About the Author
Jordan Salama’s work has appeared in outlets including The New York Times, National Geographic, and Scientific American. A 2019 graduate of Princeton University, he lives in New York.
“This is a born journalist."—John McPhee, Princeton University News
"Jordan Salama writes with an attentiveness, and a sense of adventure, that many of us might envy; this engaging, intrepid debut promises many more wonders to come. Already he’s shown himself to be a writer with a rare (and inspiring) commitment to giving us the world.” —Pico Iyer, author of Autumn Light
"An unusually graceful and mature writer for one so young, Salama’s chronicle reflects excellent reportage, unfolding not unlike the film 'The Motorcycle Diaries' . . . Superb in its evocation of place and time, Every Day the River Changes deserves the widest possible audience. Salama’s is a triumph of travel literature . . . Clear-eyed yet open-hearted, journalistic but deeply humane, it is a clarifying window into a misunderstood culture . . . A privilege to read." —Bill Thompson, The Post and Courier
"An impressive debut." —Emily Burack, Alma
"A moving book about social and cultural survival in the shadow of environmental and political chaos but also a deeply lyrical and astonishingly mature piece of writing . . . This stunning volume heralds an exciting new voice in narrative nonfiction." —Hannah Joyner, On The Seawall
"Rollicking . . . Salama’s account is at times mournful, inspirational, joyous, and somber. He offers a sprawling and gripping account of the people, a river, and a nation." —Jack Hartman, Princeton Alumni Weekly
"The book is more than a notable achievement in travel literature and more than a clarifying window into a misunderstood culture; it is a book of conscience and open-heartedness . . . It is a privilege to savor, if vicariously, this harvest of a promising writer’s vivid journeys." —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"A mesmerizing travelogue . . . Both complex and achingly beautiful, this outstanding account brims with humanity." —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"Salama’s insightful observations leave readers with a deep and nuanced look at Colombia." —Booklist
"Tagging along with Jordan Salama as he makes his way along Colombia’s storied Magdalena River is a reminder that the best travel writing not only makes you want to visit a place, but feel as if you’ve been there already. Salama is a vivid writer and an intrepid explorer. Guided by the keepers of the Magdalena's history and lore, the Colombia he reveals is an epiphany." —Sue Halpern, author of Summer Hours at the Robbers Library
"If you're into armchair travel, Every Day the River Changes will have you gripping your chair arms with excitement and suspense. In his brave journeys through central Colombia, following the fabled Magdalena River from its source to its mouth, Jordan Salama discovered Marquezian wonders, and scary but awesome portents of the planet's future.” —Ian Frazier, author of Cranial Fracking
“I read this brisk and beautifully wrought travelogue, a deeply personal meditation on the Magdalena River and its cultural, political, and geographical sphere, with a tingle of excitement, a sense of waking to a new world. Jordan Salama is a profoundly gifted writer, and this book is a real achievement. I will read everything of his in the coming years.” —Jay Parini, author of Borges and Me