Women in Syria—real or fiction? Book review of “Dreams in the Medina”

Sometimes it takes a story to make you care.

Dreams-in-the-Medina-by-Kati-Woronka“You know, it's dirty to wash your feet in the same sink as we wash our food.” Leila turned back and saw that Maha had stepped out of the kitchen to confront Leila, who just stared back at her for a moment.

Then Leila understood. Of course. Maha is a Christian and does not know our traditions. How could Leila explain to her that she herself didn't much like washing for prayer in the same kitchen where she washed her dishes, but there was nowhere else in this building where she could wash. It would be too dirty to wash in the bathroom, where only evil spirits dwell, and there was no other sink in the building. In her house in the village, as in all good Muslim homes, the sink was outside the toilet room, but here there was no separate sink.
KATI WORONKA, Dreams in the Medina

I listen as Kati encourages us to pray for what’s going on in Syria (in real life). And I do offer a prayer in those moments. But it seems so distant and almost unreal.

Until I internalize a story. Even a fiction one.

I suspect that’s one reason Kati wrote her book, Dreams in the Medina. To bring to life what’s only been flat. And she has succeeded.

This novel shows the intersecting lives of college-age women enrolled in the University of Damascus. There are Muslims, Christians, English literature majors, lawyers-to-be. No two characters are the same, thus demolishing our stereotype of the “typical Middle Eastern woman.”

As the stories progress, we are effortlessly educated on the geography of Syria, the diversity of religious practices, even food choices and lifestyles.

But it’s the people that keep us reading. While differences between them and us are great on the outside, the inside struggles are similar across the globe. Love, happiness, traditions, God—narrowing the gap between we and they.

And we grow to imagine they could be our own friends. And thus we make the leap to care about the real people who are alive now in Syria, who are fleeing or fighting or grieving, in this very moment.

If you need to care a little more, too, sure, watch the news and read web updates and pray about it.

But don’t rule out a little fiction to prod you along. Sometimes it’s just the awakening you need.

* * *

Get Dreams in the Medina for only $2.99 on your Kindle. Other formats also available.

Read more about Kati’s journey and reasons for writing Dreams in the Medina.
You can like her Facebook page to learn more, too.

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