Sister of Saidnaya captures the story of a girl who immigrates to America from Syria with her parents in the 1920s. The saga chronicles her challenges to assimilate as a young woman, and her challenge to preserve her heritage with her children as she grows older.
While it’s a fictional account, Rose Ann Kalister, the author, modeled the story after her own family, and their experience growing up in the Ohio Valley.
“I grew up being asked ‘What are you?’” Kalister explained. “When I gave up trying to explain, I took the questioner to my home. Mother hugged my friend, put sweets in front of her, and asked where her family was from.” Kalister’s book answers the same question with a rich, compelling, dynamic story of life in America in the 20th century.
Much of Kalister’s research came from her family, including her brother Charlie. “Many readers said they knew little about Syrian people even though there were Mediterranean people in their community.” By combining her rich cultural heritage with her gifts as a storyteller, Kalister wove a story that illuminated a culture that is relatively unknown, despite frequent mentions in the media.
Kalister is an award-winning playwright, and her experience shines through the page with skillful, poignant dialog that brings her scenes to life. Kalister said that the reactions to her book have been tremendously positive and enthusiastic. And her online reviews agree.
She credits the excellent reception to the book in part to the production team of her publisher, Boyle & Dalton. “Before Brad Pauquette’s developmental edits, my improvements had stalled and I didn’t know why,” Kalister explained of her writing process. “Pauquette’s thoroughness, clarity, problem solving, and honesty in the second edit helped me apply my narrative and dramatic skills. Emily Hitchcock’s understanding and suggestions were no small part of the production process.”
And as for Rose Ann’s reaction when she first held her book in her hands—“Incredulous, relieved, and happy.”