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Salman Rushdie to Asheville with new novel

Atheist believes in genies, novel revealsby Rob Neufeld             Salman Rushdie’s latest novel—“Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights” (1,001 nights)—has permitted me to come up with a headline as wild as the one above because the book is so exuberantly and infectiously…See More
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Julia Nunnally Duncan updated their profile
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City Lights Bookstore posted events
Apr 23
Rob Neufeld posted a blog post

8th Annual Blue Ridge Bookfest Apr 22-23

The 8th Annual Blue Ridge Bookfest brings authors to Flat Rock There are a few oases where writers congregate to share wares and wisdom, and Apr. 22-23, the place is Blue Ridge Community College, featuring 19 readings and workshops, and many more opportunities for conversations with authors at exhibition tables.  See full schedule at…See More
Apr 20
Toby Hill posted a blog post

Asheville- The Way I Remember It- Hester

I have posted a new blog about a man I knew growing up in Asheville. It is entitled " Hester." Anna says guys will like it better than women. It's pretty long, but enjoy it.HESTERGrowing up in Asheville in N.C. in the 50’s and 60’s seemed, at the time, to be filled with a rhythm of adventure and strange encounters sprinkled with an assortment of particularly interesting and somewhat odd characters. One of those persons who fascinated me as a child was my father’s friend “Hester. “ My dad was…See More
Apr 19
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Frank Thompson at Yancey History Association

April 19, 2016 at 6pm to April 19, 2017 at 7pm
There is a permanent exhibit at the Yancy History Association in Burnsville devoted to the film "Then I'll Come Back to You" (1916) which was produced in nearby Pensacola. It's a small exhibit but well curated and filled with great photographs and other memorabilia of this century-old film.See More
Apr 19
Sharon Freeman Pace replied to Rob Neufeld's discussion Jerry Steinberg--Asheville history, contrarian views, new book
"In the 60's, early 70's, one of my uncles on my mothers side worked as a groundskeeper for Mr. Sternberg. I remember our driving up to the "castle" and my sister asking my aunt where the moat was.I also remember touching the…"
Apr 19
nancy dillingham replied to Rob Neufeld's discussion Interview with Ron Rash on occasion of 2016 Selected & New Poems
"A wonderful discussion on craft, Rob!"
Apr 17
City Lights Bookstore posted events
Apr 16
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Interview with Ron Rash on occasion of 2016 Selected & New Poems

Something unseen stirs the words in Ron Rash poemsby Rob Neufeld             Ron Rash, award-winning novelist and short story writer, is also an acclaimed and accomplished poet.  His new book, “Poems: New and Selected” (HarperCollins) draws from six volumes and adds eight new poems.  He comes to Malaprop’s…See More
Apr 15
City Lights Bookstore posted an event
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Fred Chappell to Present His New Fantasy Novel at City Lights Bookstore

May 13, 2016 from 6:30pm to 8pm
Poet and novelist, Fred Chappell will return to City Lights Bookstore on Friday, May 13th at 6:30 p.m. to read from and sign his new fantasy novel. In A Shadow All of Light, a young man sets off on a journey to become the apprentice of a master shadow thief. His mysterious master challenges him with difficult mental and physical tests, setting in motion adventures with con men, monsters, ingenious detection, cats, and pirates.Fred Chappell is a former professor of English at the University of…See More
Apr 12
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

A Shadow of All Light by Fred Chappell

Literary master evokes classic fantasy taleby Rob Neufeld             Let’s say you’re going to a book fair, and a guy with a long grey beard and glittering eye stops you at the entrance.  He points to worn and rebound books he’s laid out on a table: Gulliver’s Travels; The Story of Sir Launcelot; The Three…See More
Apr 10
City Lights Bookstore posted an event
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Courtney Lix Presents Her History of Women in the Smokies at City Lights Bookstore

May 6, 2016 from 6:30pm to 8pm
Courtney Lix will visit City Lights Bookstore on Friday, May 6th at 6:30 p.m. She will present her book Women of the Smokies which chronicles the women who contributed to making the Smokies what we know today. She will share some of the stories of these women and sign books. To reserve copies please call City Lights Bookstore at 828-586-9499.See More
Apr 9
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Horizons: Poems by Nancy Dillingham

Horizons: Poems by Nancy Dillingham(Stone Ivy Press trade paper, 2016, 51 pages, $10, www.oldmountainpress.com, distributor.  Cover painting by Fleta Monaghan.)Poet Nancy Dillingham reads from her works at the West Asheville Library, 942 Haywood Rd., Asheville, 2 p.m., Sat., Apr. 2, 2016; AND at Malaprop's Bookstore, Cafe, 3 p.m., Sun., Apr. 3 (254-6734).  Call 250-4750. …See More
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Mar 30

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.”

 

Peace-bringers

 

            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 BOOK

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

 

PHOTO CAPTION

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

 

THE EVENT AND MORE

 

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 pitaexpresshville.com/blog.

 

Regarding speaking engagements, contact Bahia Abrams at BahiaAbrams@aol.com and Lina Adas at w.Dove@Juno.com

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