QUESTION: Are you a reader who …
- another race?
- other faith traditions?
If you said “Yes” to any of the questions above, chances are that the list below contains titles of books you would really enjoy reading!
1. Funny in Farsi: A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America (2006), by Firoozeh Dumas. A delightfully humorous, insightful, and non-politicized depiction of how the author and her parents/family went through cultural adjustment when they moved from Iran to America. Its (2009) sequel is Laughing Without an Accent: Adventures of an Iranian American, at Home and Abroad.
2. Heartbeat of Iran: Real Voices of a Country and its People (2021), by Tara Kangarlou. Sensitive, multifaceted portraits of a diverse array of people living in Iran—based on one-on-one interviews with the author, a recognized Iranian American journalist.
3. The Rumi Prescription: How an Ancient Mystic Poet Changed My Modern Manic Life (2020), by Melody Moezzi. Raised in a Persian (Iranian) household where her dad’s devotion for the ancient Persian poet Rumi becomes an annoyance, the author conducts her own exploration of Rumi’s writings. In the process, she discovers wisdom and guidance from Rumi to successfully battle mental illness and navigate the challenges of modern life.
4. From Scratch: A Memoir of Love, Sicily, and Finding Home (2017), by actor Tembi Locke. A young Black American woman goes to Sicily to study art meets and marries the man of her dreams. In the face of grievous challenges that follow—like her husband’s untimely death and his family’s racism—she rebuilds a meaningful life for her and her daughter.
5. The Catch Me if You Can: One Woman’s Journey to Every Country in the World (2022), by Jessica Nabongo. The first Black woman to visit every country in the world shares a travelogue full of her discoveries of the countries, cultures, and people she engaged with—along with her travel recommendations.
6. Walled in, Walled out: A Young American Woman in Iran (2017) by Mary Dana Marks. A young American Peace Corps English teacher serves in Iran during the Kennedy administration and the era of the Iranian monarchy. In the process, she rides the fascinating and often difficult waves of both cultural discovery and self-discovery, which she writes about with respect, wit, and humility. She also finds cross-cultural romance along the way.
7. Searching for Hassan: A Journey to the Heart of Iran, by Terence Ward (2002). The author, who knew Iran as a child when his American father was living and working there, returns to the country from America forty years later in search of the Iranian people who cared for him and his family so kindly and faithfully—especially a man by the name of Hassan.
8. It’s Not What You Think: An American Woman in Saudi Arabia (2022), by Sabeeha Rehman. An American woman who accompanies her husband to Saudi Arabia accepts an administrative position at a medical facility. There she learns that the common stereotypical view of the Saudi woman as “oppressed” is not an accurate depiction, either personally or professionally.
9. The Good Shufu: Finding Love, Self, and Home on the Other Side of the World (2015), by Tracy Slater. A White American woman sees her life take a completely new turn when she falls in love with and marries a man from Japan, where the couple starts a new life together. Through lived experience, she successfully rises to the challenges of their cross-cultural romance and life in Japan.
10. The Perfect Gentleman: A Muslim Boy Meets the West (2012), by Imran Ahmad. A candid account of a Muslim boy’s experiences when he and his Muslim family emigrate from Pakistan to the UK. In addition, as he chronicles his growth from boyhood to manhood, he engages in intriguing internal reflections, all to reconcile conflicting beliefs and values he observes between cultures and faiths (particularly Islam and Christianity). Its sequel is The Imperfect Gentleman: On an Unimagined Journey (2020).
11. Have a Little Faith: A True Story (2011), by Mitch Albom. A man finds hope and restoration to his own faith through what he discovers by observing two practicing friends of different faiths and communities—a White Jewish rabbi and a Black Christian pastor.
12. The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World (2016), by Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu. Two recognized spiritual masters, one from a Christian faith tradition and the other from a Buddhist faith tradition, exchange their thoughts and experiences on dealing with some of life’s biggest questions and challenges. Through their lively and fun-loving dialogue, they demonstrate the potential benefits and joys of interfaith communication and connections.
For those of you who don’t know me, I am Leslie: a Black American Christian woman from Columbus, Ohio, who married an Iranian man and lived four years with him in post-revolutionary Iran. This has led to a lifetime of cross-cultural, interracial, and interfaith experiences for me, both domestically and abroad (1992-1996). It is also the reason I have started this website: so that I may share some discoveries, personal insights, and resources with those of you who might want to know. Not only about what life in Iran was like then compared to now, but what living across cultures, races, and faith traditions required of me--and the rewards and challenges I gleaned from it in return.
Of course, I am not the only one who has something to say about cross-cultural, interracial, and/or interfaith relations, and I am not the only one with a personal story to tell. This is why I’ve compiled this list of readings that represent other voices and other people’s stories. I hope some of you will have the chance to read and enjoy then, especially as you note both parallels and differences across stories.
Finally, if you would like a more complete reading list of twenty timeless titles instead of just twelve, you can access it at the link.
Dr. Leslie Ahmadi discovered her intercultural calling in her parents’ home at age four--where between the jazz, the spirituals, and the rock ‘n roll music, she heard folk songs in languages from around the world. Thirty years later she had a doctorate in foreign language and culture education--and her folk song guitar never far away.