'The Hundred-Year Walk: An Armenian Odyssey' (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) is a non-fiction debut by Californian writer and journalist Dawn Anahid MacKeen just published on January 12. Dawn MacKeen is an award-winning investigative journalist who devoted eight years to her grandfather’s story. Previously she was a staff writer at Salon, Newsday, and Smart Money. Her work has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Elle, the Los Angeles Times, and elsewhere.
At the age of 30, the writer reads a translation of Stepan Miskjian's - her grandfather - harrowing journal that reveals a detailed firsthand account of his journey of survival from the Armenian genocide of 1915 through Turkey and the Syrian desert and finally to safety armed with one gold coin and a bit of water.
A century later, and in an attempt to learn more about him, the author sets out on her own journey to follow his route through Turkey and Syria. The result is a compelling new take on an important, too-little-understood chapter of history.
For full interview HERE & for review HERE.
by Rana Asfour
It was on a beautiful Abu Dhabi October morning, in Vascos, a quaint Italian restaurant overlooking the sea that my path crossed with wife, mom, daughter, cancer survivor, inspirational speaker and author Laurie A. Nelson.
A week before this meeting, I’d contacted the wonderful ‘Real Housewives of Abu Dhabi’ who were organising Laurie’s debut release ‘When Gray Becomes a Primary Color’ asking if it were possible to attend the event and later meet with Laurie for a few questions. I knew many readers would be eager to read Laurie’s story and would want to know more about the woman whose world was turned upside down when doctors found a nickel size tumour on the right side of her brain. The nickel had a name: Stage 3 Brain Cancer. She was given two years to live. That was over twelve years ago.
With new advancements in medicine, Laurie is only too keenly aware she has been given a new lease on life. Five years ago she moved with her family from Arizona in the US to Abu Dhabi where she hopes that her message regarding early diagnosis will help to change many lives in a place where cancer awareness ‘is not openly talked about’. Her broader mission is to provide a safe and open conversation with other Cancer Survivors throughout the world.
The first thing that strikes me about Laurie is how much she genuinely loves people and how openly honest she is about what happened to her. I watch her briefly as she greets each guest who has come forward to say hello and how she attentively takes the time to listen to what they have to say. As soon as I introduce myself, I too am enveloped in a hug that takes me totally by surprise. Not prone to public displays of affection, I am amusedly surprised that I am totally un-self conscious. I take my leave, purchase my 'Hope Stone' and join the expectant audience finishing up the last of their coffee and cake.
‘I was a busy mom. Moms, we always put our health last,’ Laurie begins. ‘I was caught up in a busy life, not listening to the subtle hints that my body was giving me. I was so busy that I couldn’t have heard God even if he was shouting at me. But then my body decided it had had enough and that it was going to make me listen to it whether I liked it or not’.
Laurie proceeds in true captivating style to tell the details of her life-changing first seizure that took place at her Arizona home while she dozed off on the family couch.
‘I was shockingly awoken by a very loud BANG in my head. It was as if someone had implanted a bass electric guitar string into the left side of my head and plucked it viciously with the amplifier turned all the way up… I felt like I was being twisted in half. My legs violently were forced to the left while from my waist up I was yanked to the right. I felt my face was being forced into the back of the couch. I thought someone must have broken in to the house and was trying to suffocate me. I couldn’t move. I thought I was going to die’.
Unbelievably, Laurie was told at her first consultation that she was just overworked and needed to rest. It was only after further advice from those closer to her that she went in for a second opinion. Within two weeks she was booked for brain surgery and later chemotherapy ensued.
As Laurie delivered her talk and answered questions it was evident that two major forces had had a major influence on her recovery. Her daughter was one, and God was the other. Add to that a wry sense of humour that she admits has helped her through her adversity – ‘Popeye has spinach, I have giggling’ she has written in her book. But most of all Laurie is grateful for her amazing support system of friends and medical team members as well as every little gesture –sometimes from total strangers - that were as if guardian angels sent to ease her ordeal.
‘As strange as it may seem but I have come to think of my cancer as a gift. Everything I believe happens for a reason and look where mine has brought me,’ she says as she sweeps her hand over the misty-eyed crowd, and her gaze lingers briefly on the shimmering waters of Abu Dhabi, a long way away from home.
Two hours later, after she has signed her book and hugged the guests again as they said their thank you and goodbyes, Laurie and I finally get to sit down for a brief chat. She seems to have not lost one iota of her energy and looks totally glam. It’s as if there were an invisible magic reservoir of energy she alone is privy to. As we help ourselves at the salad bar and then ask for coffee – her favorite beverage by the way – I remark how absolutely courageous she is and ask whether she has always been this way and how much she has been altered by her condition.
‘When you’re told you have cancer and you have a bit of time to absorb the news, it leaves you with two choices really. You either give in to it and accept your fate or you decide to fight back and give as good as you get. There is no wrong or right way. But I chose to fight because I wanted to be there for my sixteen-year-old daughter who I love most in the world. I remember telling the doctors that whatever they had to do they should do because I was determined to see her graduate. Not only did I do that but I am now a grandmother to two adorable children’.
‘Of course there were some really tough and some low times particularly when I lost my hair but the point is that I came through. I now find that my colours are brighter. I have learnt to take things in my stride– although not as slow as I ought to – and I have learnt that human kindness and decency do exist. I also learned to find peace in prayer’.
‘But cancer does change everything including those around you; including friendships you thought you’d have for life. It does happen and most times it’s because people don’t know how to cope with the illness and so they just stay away. It’s not because they are bad but it’s because they genuinely cannot understand what you are going through’.
‘And writing,’ I interject, ‘Did you ever think you’d ever author a book? And was it hard re-living the events as you wrote them?’
‘Never in a million years,’ she laughs out loud with the twinkle back in her eye, ‘I never had the time to read before because I was always so busy. The book was birthed through talking to people about my experience and answering their questions and letting them know you can come out the other side. ‘Cancer’ is just a term; it doesn’t define who you are. I am lucky that my family were constantly pushing me to write down my thoughts and my husband, David, has even written the Foreword. It hasn’t stopped though, and now they want me to write another’.
‘In a way, writing this book has been cathartic in a sense. Because I found that there were certain emotions I hadn’t had time to deal with as I was going through my treatment and that still needed to be addressed. Writing helped me do that’.
As we finish up and I walk with Laurie to the car park, I am reluctant for our meeting to end. I have loved being around such a positive hope-driven woman inspired by her Faith. Charismatic, pragmatic, and who knows a thing or two about horoscopes – she’s a Scorpio by the way. An adventurous, compassionate, courageous woman who is isn’t bitterly stuck on ‘why’ this happened to her but is actively engaged with ‘how’ it can enrich others’ lives. A hero!
For more info click HERE.
'Coming Home' by Annabel Kantaria
Evie has been away from home long enough to bury the pain that shaped her childhood. Now, with the sudden death of her father, she must return. Back to the same house. Back to the memories. Back to her mother.
At first, coming home feels unexpectedly comforting. But, as she goes through her father’s files, Evie uncovers a secret that opens old wounds and changes her life forever. That’s only the beginning. As Evie’s world starts to shatter around her, she realises that those she loves most are also those capable of the deepest betrayal.
A powerful, poignant novel, Coming Home is perfect for fans of Jodi Picoult and Liane Moriarty.
Extra: World Exclusive!
Come and meet Annabel Kantaria author of 'Coming Home' a gripping new novel that also features Dubai! Annabel will be at Magrudy's Al Wahda store, Abu Dhabi this Saturday May 2, from 3-4pm for book signing. This is an event not to be missed!
'The Gulf Wife: A Memoir' by Jocelyn Henderson
Since she first arrived in the Trucial States with her husband, British diplomat Edward Henderson, Jocelyn Henderson has seen the region transform beyond all recognition. Set against the backdrop of cataclysmic wars and events that came to shape her life, 'The Gulf Wife' tells the story of Jocelyn’s remarkable life, her relationships with the families of the ruling Sheikhs, and the people she met along the way.
From tumultuous political developments to meetings with celebrities and international statesmen, The Gulf Wife is a window into the life of one of the UAE’s most prominent expatriates and an intimate look at life in the UAE and all that has changed.
'Generation Z: Their Voices Their Lives' by Chloe Combi
Generation Z have never had to save their pocket money to buy an album. They laugh when you tell them there used to be four channels on TV. Not many of them have grandparents that fought in a war. They've never known a world without the internet and have grown up with violence and porn at their fingertips with an object barely known to just one generation before them: a mobile phone.
Generation Z are growing up in a world of widening social inequality, political apathy and economic uncertainty. They join gangs, are obese, have underage sex, drink, commit crime and are a menace to society - or so the media leads us to believe.
Chloe Combi has interviewed hundreds of teenagers and children born between 1994 and 2005. She has talked to some of the richest and poorest in kids in the country. She has travelled on night buses with gangs, gone on a post-GCSE trip to Glastonbury, hung out in crack houses where teenagers get high, rehabilation centres where they get help and churches where they find God.
Chloe has found that Generation Z are selfish, violent, scared, sex-obsessed and apathetic. She has also found them delightful, curious, kind, and worried about their futures.
Generation Z is an emotional, illuminating, sometimes dark, sometimes hilarious odyssey through the lives of this generation told in their own voices.
Extra Reading: Hard-core porn, violent YouTube videos and live sex shows: A devastating new book reveals the terrifying truth about what teens really get up to on their laptops and smart phones (by Chloe Combi for The Daily Mail)
'Love & Justice: A Compelling True Story Of Triumph Over Tragedy' by Diana Morgan Hill
At the age of 29, Diana Hill fell under a London train. In 7 seconds the tall, glamorous businesswoman went from busy woman of the world with everything to live for to double-leg-amputee, her life in ruins.
Then it got worse. A few days after her accident, as she lay in hospital, traumatised and heavily sedated, she learnt via a newspaper article that the railway's Transport Police were to interview "The Fall Girl", as the Press had labelled her, with a view to prosecution. She had boarded a moving train, they said, and trespassed onto their railway line.
Her fight for justice took five years and was, she declares with no hesitation, a more harrowing experience than having both of her legs 'stolen' from her. As any young, single woman would be, Diana was shocked to the core by the sudden, catastrophic change in her body image. What man would ever love her now?
The issues surrounding sexuality and disability are explored here with stark honesty as she recalls her complicated love life, the High Court dramas, and the rawness of her pain amidst a turmoil of emotion, all told with tremendous humour, charm and heart. For Diana loves to tell stories. Especially true ones. A brutally honest, heartwarming memoir that shocks and delights in equal measure - when you're not crying for her you're laughing with her.
Extra Reading: 'I lost both my legs under a train - then the rail company sued me!' Diana Morgan-Hill was rushing to meet a friend when, in a split second, her life changed forever