Rose Ann Kalister is the author of Boyle & Dalton’s latest release, Sister of Saidnaya: A Syrian Immigrant’s Tale. This fantastic debut novel tells the story of Nadra, a passionate Syrian immigrant woman who fights to balance the expectations of her heritage with the temptation of independence in the new world.
While Sister of Saidnaya is fiction, Rose Ann drew from her own experiences as she wrote the book. Below she writes of the changing cultural landscape of America:
When I was growing up the first question we asked a new friend was “What are you?” Those who said something like “Irish” or “Italian” had it easy. When I said “Syrian” I got the blank look, sometimes suspicious. Once I figured out the location of Syria, I tried the geographical explanation. That didn’t help. No one knew or cared about geography.
My family were foreigners to the West by-God! Virginians and what we ate was also foreign. Now we say “exotic.” I’m still amazed when my friends haul out pita, olives, and hummus for snacks. Now everybody even knows the various spellings for tabbouli. I once asked my mother why she never made falafel. She raised her brows and said “That’s street food!” My mother was a purist, in more ways than that.
I see that the new restaurants are hawking imjaddrah, either alone or as a base for meat or veggies. In my day imjaddrah was what we had to eat on Friday, the day of abstinence, if mother didn’t want to fry fish. And other than perch, there was no fish worth frying in West Virginia. I still remember the day I saw that large jar with baba Ghanoug swimming in olive oil. I was afraid of it!
Rose Ann Kalister has a BA in English from Wheeling Jesuit University, an MA in English and Drama from John Carroll University, and graduate courses from Ohio University. She taught English at John Carroll University, West Virginia University, and Ohio University. Her longest tenure was at Ohio Dominican University where she was Director of the Academic Center and a Lecturer in Humanities. She is a member of The Dramatists Guild, the National Association of American PEN Women and Writers Satellite.