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Reviewed by Betty Taylor for Readers' Favorite
Books having to do with the Middle East always interest me, and especially those set in Iraq. This is a region that the author says is “older than the flood.” It is a land that has been ruled at one time or another by the Assyrians, the Sumerians, Akkadians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Parthians, Romans, Islamic Arabs, Mongols, and Ottomans. I was really enthralled with this part of the book. In The Kurdish Bike by Alesa Lightbourne, the protagonist, Theresa, is an American teacher working in Iraqi Kurdistan. Unlike the other expat teachers assigned to the school, Theresa yearns to get out and see the landscape and meet the people. Her purchase of a bicycle gives her the freedom to explore. On one of her trips out she meets a Kurdish family that becomes her “village family.”
I enjoyed the portions of the book that address some of the differences between the Arab and Kurdish cultures. The story addresses some traditions that have been banned in most of the world, but are still followed in the more rural areas (such as female genital mutilation). I felt like I had met the characters through Ms. Lightbourne’s thorough character development. Most of the story is based on the author’s actual experiences in the region. I can envision Theresa riding along on her bike; Ara and Theresa dancing and laughing; Theresa’s frustration with the love-smitten Bezma. I wanted to remain right there among these people with such open hearts. They know how to appreciate the small things in life.