Fadia Basrawi: Brownies And Kalashnikovs

Fadia graciously agreed to be interviewed for FHWS: “Thank you very much for your interest in my book and it would be a pleasure to have brownies and Kalashnikovs discussed on your blog. It took me 5 years to write the book and immediately after it was published, it was quite popular on the Lebanese and Saudi scene. But with time, it was pretty much left it to deal on its own by my publishers who are not adept in getting it out there to more readers and neither am I!  I am ready to cooperate with whatever I can do. Your blog is spot on with its timing and subject material.” Before answering my interview questions, Fadia confides that, “As you will discover when you read my book, I did not have much contact with my fellow Saudis nor was I raised in a particularly Saudi manner (although my father is a Saudi through and through), I don’t speak the dialect and the Saudis themselves don’t really know how to place me. All of this is because I was raised in Aramco during my formative years when the population was overwhelmingly American.”

Fadia gives a brief description of her background on her Facebook group, Brownies And Kalashnikovs: “Fadia, a Saudi Arab, grew up in the strictly circumscribed and tailor-made ‘desert Disneyland’ of Aramco (the Arabian American Oil Company). This slice of modern, suburban, middle America was located in Dhahran, Aramco’s administrative headquarters in Saudi Arabia, a theocratic Muslim kingdom run according to strict Wahabbi Shari’a law. Eventually, after only brief holidays abroad visiting relatives in colourful Arab cities like Medina, Damascus and Alexandria, Fadia moved to Beirut, the glitzy ‘Paris of the Middle East’, to attend high school. In Beirut she fell in love with a passionate and idealistic Lebanese journalist with whom she eloped against her parents’ wishes, subsequently getting caught up in Lebanon’s fifteen-year civil war while raising a family of five children. Providing a fascinating account of a Saudi woman’s painful journey from naive Aramcon girl to life as a resident of a war-torn capital city, this book provides new insight into two very different Middle Eastern worlds about which so little is known by those living outside the region.”

Fadia’s book is also known by the title, Arabia’s Hidden America: A Saudi Woman’s Memoir.

It gives me great pleasure to promote Fadia’s book on FHWS and I hope that this exposure will launch a renewed interest in Brownies And Kalashnikovs. Fadia, I appreciate you taking the time to participate in the interview and I thank you for supporting FHWS,

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BROWNIES AND KALASHNIKOVS QUESTIONS

What inspired you to write “Brownies And Kalashnikovs”? It was mainly written for my children as they began to have many questions as they grew into their adult lives about my life before they or their father was in the picture

How did you decide on the title? Brownies refers to the American side of my life as a child and Kalshnikovs, of course, refers to my life in Lebanon as a young mother during the civil war.

Who designed the book’s cover and what are the significance of the pictures? It was a joint think tank with my kids and the editor. The pictures reflect the periods and people that are covered in the book.

Who is the targeted audience of your book? Everybody who is interested.

What are some examples of the main subjects you tackled? Basically the theme of the book is that life will go on in spite of its hardships, hiccups and setbacks and these will happen regardless of the best set plans plus a chance for me to erase the stereotypes on both Lebanon and Saudi Arabia though my history in both countries.

What benefits or messages do you expect readers to get out of your book, if any? That there’s more good than bad regardless of war and autocratic rule and that one must stand up to their code of ethics regardless.

Did you learn anything from writing your book? Please explain: That writing a memoir is very cathartic.

What has been the reception in Saudi Arabia and internationally towards “Brownies And Kalashnikovs”? It’s banned in Saudi bookstores although it did quite well on the amazon in Saudi . When it first came out I was touched with the number of people from far corners of the world who made the effort to contact me and share their feelings and experiences , both Saudis and Lebanese as well as American.

What are your hopes for “Brownies And Kalashnikovs” in the future? I want it to reach as many people as possible because I feel that the content dispells many otherwise pat reference to the Lebanese and Saudis and their history.

Do you plan to write a sequel to your book? No.

Any other books on the horizon? Yes, hopefully.

PERSONAL QUESTIONS

Your nationality and country of residence: Saudi, I live between Lebanon and Austria.

What are the things you like/liked about living in Saudi Arabia? The people particularly the young generation.

What are the things you dislike/disliked about living in Saudi Arabia? Its quite boring as everything is totally under surveillance.

What would you like to see improved in Saudi Arabia? Removing the muttawa’.

Do you feel trapped when in Saudi Arabia or do you feel comfortable visiting or living in the country? It’s okay.

What do you think about the abaya and is it a problem for you to wear it? Its a problem and an insult.

Do you think non-Saudis should change anything about themselves in order to fit into Saudi society? No.

Do you think a non-Saudi man/woman can be happy in Saudi Arabia? Probably in that they know at the end of the day they pack their bags and bank accounts and go back home.

Do you think a non-Saudi woman can live alone in Saudi Arabia without a husband or her family? She should be able to, yes.

What do you think non-Saudis should know about Saudi men/women? That they’re gentle, well behaved, caring and yearn for free interaction with the world in general plus they love their country.

As a Saudi, how do you feel about Saudis marrying non-Saudis? Great.

What is your advice when a non-Saudi man/woman meets their potential/future Saudi in-laws? It should be like meeting any non-Saudi, in-laws manners are paramount.

What advice would you give a non-Saudi considering marriage to a Saudi? Know what you’re stepping into, rules and regulations that are beyond the Saudi spouse’s control.

Use this space to write anything else you would like to say: I hope I’ve been of help, all the best, Fadia.

Photo Credit: Google Books and Fadia Basrawi

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Published by

Tara Umm Omar

American married to a Saudi.

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