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Love and Mercy Booksigning

Gaston County Library, Main BranchGastonia, NCDec. 12. 20153:30 - 5:30 pm
14 hours ago
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Spooks Branch, a human history story

Spooks Branch was a singular place in settlers’ loreby Rob NeufeldImportant editorial note:This is a significant historical story that is also, in parts, personal and controversial.  It is about a few families who settled a particular cove and played out their heroic and complex legacies in ways that interacted with place and time.  You don't read this kind of story much because people don't like to expose themselves or stir up trouble, even a little.  This caution makes history classes boring…See More
Nov 25
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Nov 24
City Lights Bookstore posted events
Nov 21
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

The Rise of Asheville by Marilyn Ball

History of the "Asheville 1000" and the 1970s renaissance                       Let’s not miss the history of Asheville’s renaissance, Marilyn Ball’s new book, “The Rise of Asheville,” advocates.            She’d come here in 1977, making her one of the advance guard of “artists, entrepreneurs, and off-the-grid…See More
Nov 20
Rob Neufeld posted a blog post

Century-ago woman's apple cake recipe

Mmm, them apples in Beaverdam coveIn 1972, Helen Nelon wrote about the traditions of old-time Spooks Branch, off Beaverdam Road.  Here's what she said about her use of apples in a cake.(The full story of Spooks Branch will appear soon.)There were apples for delicious cider cooled in the spring "dreem" (drain), apples for frying for cold winter days, and for special days there were dried apple sauce fruit cakes.These cakes were made of very thin, sweet dough with dried apple sauce spread between…See More
Nov 18
Rob Neufeld posted discussions
Nov 16
Rob Neufeld posted a blog post

Dignity is the key to Richard Russo's inspiration

So funny, and yet so exposing--Richard Russo's geniusSnakes on the lane            In Richard Russo's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, Empire Falls, the protagonist, Miles recalls the time his father, driving, had accelerated into a box on a highway.  “What if that box had been full of rocks?” Miles asks.  Unfazed, Max quizzes his son about what he would do about the box.  Max says he'd stop and look in it,  “What if it was full of rattlesnakes? “ his father asks.            The verbal match…See More
Nov 14
Rob Neufeld posted discussions
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Nov 12
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Humanize the history--especially with Civil War--writes acclaimed author

Writer illuminates tangled web of Civil Warby Rob Neufeld             David Madden has written a book, “The Tangled Web of the Civil War and Reconstruction,” that deserves special attention.            First, there’s Madden’s background.  In 1992, he founded the U.S. Civil War Center in New…See More
Nov 12
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City Lights Bookstore posted events
Nov 10
Rob Neufeld posted a blog post

Coming attraction--Singleton at Malaprop's & City Lights for Calloustown

George Singleton's latest collection of stories, Calloustown...features the folk who try to survive in a place that has little to offer besides a Finger Museum and a taxidermy petting zoo,It's funny, but also tragic and angry.  The review, "Love-hate humor cries in Calloustown," appears in the Asheville Citizen-Times, Sunday, 11/15/2015.  Singleton's at Malaprop’s Bookstore, 7 p.m., Wed., Nov. 18; and at City Lights Bookstore in Sylva, 3 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 21.Here's an excerpt from the…See More
Nov 10
Lockie Hunter posted an event

Juniper Bends Quarterly Reading at DownTown Books & News

November 13, 2015 from 7pm to 8pm
Our very special Autumnal edition starts at 7PM and is sure to be a lively and vibrant set, with featured writers Randi Janelle, Tina FireWolf, Logan Parker, and Annabelle Crowe. Two of our readers have new books out, and as always there is wine flowing by donation. Hosts Lockie Hunter and Caroline Wilson look forward to seeing you there----remember, your wellbeing depends upon it.See More
Nov 9
Martha Arrowood Pelc posted a photo

Love and Mercy ~ Up On Roan Mountain

My family lived and loved up on Roan Mountain and in the surrounding mountain areas, and this is their story. It's woven into a tapestry that weaves down through the years, before the days of the Civil War and up to present day. They were…
Nov 9

Jewish-Muslim peace advocates speak through novel

by Rob Neufeld


            Love keeps waging its innocent war against the effects of divide-and-conquer.

            When Bahia Abrams, Asheville author of “The Other Half of My Soul,” met Lina Adas, owner of Pita Express in Hendersonville, they discovered they had a few things in common.

            Both their families are from the Middle East.  Abrams was born to a Syrian Jewish family in Brooklyn; Adas to a Palestinian family that had been relocated from Jerusalem to a refugee camp in Jordan when she’d been four.

            Both women had defied their strict parents to marry the men they loved.  Adas had married a man not rich enough for her father; Abrams had married an Ashkenazi rather than Sephardic Jew.

            Their third bond is their most recent one.  Adas has translated “The Other Half of My Soul,” a novel about a love marriage between a Syrian Jewish-American woman and a Syrian Shi’ite man, into Arabic, with the hope of having its thriller-embedded message disseminated worldwide.

            The English language book, published in 2007 by Asheville publisher Grateful Steps, continues to sell, garnering its latest rave from South Africa; and multiplying its hardcover sales now that it is available as an e-book.

            Currently, the novel is ranked 6,000 among all Kindle books; and is number 6 in its category, Jewish fiction—an ironic classification, for Amazon only assigns one, and the bridge to Muslim fiction gets left out.


First meeting


            A few years ago, Abrams went to the Islamic Center of Asheville to attend a talk Adas gave, titled, “In Search of Peace and Common Ground.”

            Adas read from her family heirloom, a 3,000-page edition of the Koran that includes Arabic, Urdu, and English texts.  The Urdu is a survival of the Muslim population forced out of India during the Great Partition in 1947—when the Hindi document was transliterated into the Arabic alphabet.

            “How do you reconcile that the Koran has hatred of Jews in it?” Abrams asked at the talk.  The Prophet Muhammad had put wrath into his message of love after Jewish leaders in Medina had rejected him as an Arabian prophet.

            “I don’t interpret the Koran that way,” Adas responded.  “I see the beauty.”

            She represents a large number of Muslims who attend to the enlightened heart of their Holy Book; view the anger in their gospel as Christians view God’s anger in the Bible—that is, as incident-specific judgments; and oppose the use of hatred among radical jihadists.

            “Ask any woman in any village in Palestine what she wants,” Adas said in an interview with the Citizen-Times, “and she would say ‘ana badi salam’—‘I want peace.  I want to be able to raise my children and not worry about a bomb coming into my home; or, when my kids are older, I don’t want them to be tempted by someone who might lure them to be a suicide bomber to go to heaven.’”

            At the end of Adas’ talk at the Asheville mosque, Abrams passed her novel to her.  A few months later, Adas called offering to translate it so that it could get into the hands of Muslim women from Indiana to Indonesia.


The novel


            When Rami, the Ba’ath regime-funded Syrian, meets Rayna, the Brooklyn Jew, in the registration hall at the University of Maryland in “The Other Half of My Soul,” it is love at first sight for the two freshmen.

            “A flame ignited and a glorious stream of energy rushed through his blood,” Abrams writes.  “A wordless communication surged between them when she met his gaze.”

            “American audiences love sex and violence,” Abrams says about her at-times sexy book.  Certain parts had to be toned down and rewritten for the Arabic edition.

            The couple’s sexual attraction is related to fate in the novel.  Rami feels that he and Rayna had known each other in a previous life.  Mating—and the completion of souls—acts as a major subversive force in the undoing of hate-mongering clannishness.

            Rami’s U.S, opportunity has come about because of a leading terrorist’s ulterior motives—to develop alliances in South America’s Triple Frontier; and to monopolize a chemist’s oil-eating bacteria.

            Thus, the novel uses a mixture of a high octane suspense plot and a high testosterone romance as a syrup to present the realities of interfaith marriage and persecution-hardened traditions.


Tradition and love


            Adas and her husband, Mohamid, had been childhood friends in Husn, a refugee camp in which people had to walk three miles to get water.  When Adas turned 18, Mohamid approached her father asking to marry his eldest daughter of seven girls.

            Lina’s father said no and would not give a reason.  “But she loves me and I love her,” Mohamid said, and was kicked out of the house.

            Finally, common sense and fatherly concern won out, but not until after Lina had been beaten by an older brother and imprisoned in the house for a year.  Mohamid had sent her letters during this time via Lina’s female fellow students at the university they all attended.  The letters said: “I still want you.  It doesn’t matter, we’ll fight this.  We’ll get together.”

            “Maybe this is a movie!” Adas exclaimed in the interview.

            She related how she’d told her father, “If I don’t get married, then your other six daughters will stay here.”  Tradition dictated that daughters must get married in age order; and that unmarried girls stay at home.

            A former employer of Lina had appealed to her father about the girl’s intelligence and the shame of wasting it.

            “As soon as we got married,” Adas stated, “we said, we’re not staying in this country. 

            The couple’s son, Ahamad, was born in 1988, after they both had gotten jobs and a house outside of the camp.  Forty days later, the family was in the U.S.

            “I’m not going to repeat history with my son,” Lina had vowed.  Now, though her and Mohamid’s families do not communicate, Ahamad and his sister, Dalia, both practicing Muslims, are steeped in tolerance.

            At the Hendersonville Elementary School, a dozen years ago, Dalia and a Jewish girl had been at each other’s throats constantly until their mothers brought them together in a play date at Adas’ house.  It was Ramadan, and the girlfriend fasted until sunset with the Adases.  Lina also had the girls hold hands all day, and since then, she says, “they have been best friends.”




            Both Abrams and Adas are on peaceful missions, and give talks in various venues.

            They are looking for a publisher for their Arabic edition who can reach international audiences.  If the book causes a stir, all the better, Abrams says.

            She herself had been disturbingly stirred; and had bestirred herself.  Her son had been working on the 60th floor of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, when he’d felt the first tremor.  He got out four minutes before the North Tower collapsed.  Abrams’ subsequent hatred of the Islamic terrorists—and all Muslims—led her, she says, to write “The Other Half of My Soul,” and imagine a coming together of historical antagonists.

            Subsequently, she has made herself a student of the Koran and Middle East history.  In 2011, she published “Alien at Home: Divine Intervention” a chronicle of the exodus of Elie Sutton, whose Syrian Jewish father had to export each of his seven sons out of the region to avoid ant-Semitic violence.

            Adas has put aside her journalism career to put her cooking skills to good use.  Her restaurant, Pita Express in Hendersonville, offers genuine, home-made Syrian foods, and is a gathering place.  In that space, she teaches classes in belly-dancing and in the Arabic language.  She goes out into the community to talk about diversity.


The Other Half of My Soul by Bahia Abrams (Grateful Steps hardcover, 2007, 371 pages, $24).



Bahia Abrams (l) and Lina Adas (r) at Pita Express (photo by Rob Neufeld)




Bahia Abrams talks about her book and inaugurates the Interfaith Discussion Series at Grateful Steps Bookshop, 159 South Lexington Ave., Asheville, 5:30 p.m., Jan. 17.  Call 277-0998’ or visit www.gratefulsteps.orgRescheduled for Jan. 24.


Pita Express is located at 1034C Greenville Highway, Hendersonville. Call 696-9818; visit


Regarding speaking engagements, contact Bahia Abrams at and Lina Adas at

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