On any given day, we’re inundated with negative portrayals of Muslim and Islamic cultures which have fed an atmosphere of distrust. But recent studies have shown that reading literary fiction improves empathy. Positive portrayals of these and other marginalized groups helps change perceptions. Reading about meaningful relationships between characters of different cultures based on trust and confidence while maintaining different beliefs has a lasting impact. Author Kathryn Brown Ramsperger believes, that despite cultural differences, love is the answer to any conflict facing the world today. In her new novel, The Shores of Our Souls [TouchPoint Press, August 1, 2017], Ramsperger directly addresses cross cultural relationships and how powerful a connection can be. The story specifically follows Qasim, an Arab Muslim U.N. official fleeing family obligations in war-torn Lebanon, and Dianna who’s escaping her rural Southern roots to become a researcher at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Taking the reader from New York City to the bucolic beauty of the Carolinas and into the salons of Beirut, The Shores of Our Souls juxtaposes the personal and political landscape of fledgling lovers. While multiple factors try to destroy the immediate connection between Dianna and Qasim, including his own political ties and powers and her untrusting housemate who continues to plant doubts in Dianna’s mind, the couple faces the challenge of overcoming societal judgement and cultural boundaries. Is love enough for the lovers to sidestep history in order to make peace with each other and themselves? “Call it whatever you want, love is love. The whole point of my book is that love conquers all. It can lead to mutual understanding and help us resolve conflict. Every conflict we face teaches us about each other and the world we’re living in, but only if we try to walk in the other person’s shoes,” Ramsperger states. “My novel is a love story, not a story about Arab conflict and terrorism. It differs from other love stories in that it’s told both from an American Christian female point of view and a Lebanese Muslim male point of view. This gives audiences a better understanding of both of their cultures, backgrounds, and values that drive their characters and relationship.” A dazzling, well-researched work of fiction from an exciting new voice, Ramsperger’s debut is a not-to-be-missed addition to the bookcases of fans of Barbara Kingsolver, Khaled Hosseini and Carrie Brown.
Dianna is looking for something new and exciting to get her out of her slump. In 1980's New York City, Dianna works for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, however she is stuck typing out little green cards all day. Dianna longs to travel and help people, do something useful. Dianna meets Qasim and sparks fly. Qasim is older and well traveled. He is an Arab-Muslim U.N. official from Beirut, Lebanon. Qasim has known war in his home country for most of his life, and the present is no different. Qasim longs for peace and is trying his best to help through his position. As Dianna and Qasim spend more time together, they find out that love may not be enough to span the distance of race, religion, cultural differences and two histories filled with different pains.
I was drawn to the unique setting and issues that were covered in this story. I was very young when the war in Beirut was raging and I was glad to learn more about it from Qasim's point of view. With everything negative that we are inundated with from the Middle East, I enjoyed reading about the beauty of the land, the customs and Qasim's schooling. Dianna and Qasim's romance kept me in suspense. Moving very quickly at first and then getting derailed at several cultural, religious and social differences along the way. I was torn between Dianna and Qasim- feeling frustrated for Dianna, who was trying so hard to understand Qasim's culture and background and me mindful of their differences, however, she was never really filled in by Qasim except for being told it was too dangerous for her and for Qasim's need to separate himself from the negativity and weight of war and his strong ties to his homeland. I do wish that both Dianna and Qasim's pasts were delved into a little more, as I felt there would have been even more understanding uncovered there. Overall, a poetic and moving love story that uncovers much more than a romance. Although set thirty years ago, The Shores of Our Souls echos with themes that we are still struggling with today.
This book was received for free in return for an honest review.
KATHRYN BROWN RAMSPERGER’S literary voice is rooted in the Southern tradition of storytelling and is informed by her South Carolina lineage. She began her career writing for The Roanoke Times and The Gazette newspapers, and later managed publications for the Red Cross and Red Crescent in Geneva, Switzerland. She wrote for both National Geographic and Kiplinger. A graduate of Hollins University, Ramsperger studied under several esteemed writers including Pulitzer Prize winner Henry Taylor, her mentor Richard Henry Wilde Dillard, and Guggenheim recipient and poet Dara Weir. She holds a graduate publications degree from George Washington University, is the winner of the Hollins University Fiction Award, and her current novel is a semifinalist in the Faulkner-Wisdom literary competition. Kathryn currently lives in Maryland with her husband, two children, and two cats. Connect with Kathryn Brown Ramsperger at ShoresOfOurSouls.com as well as on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Goodreads.