Journalist O’Neill, whose parents fell in love with Morocco and thus gave her an Arabic name, studied the Arabic language in graduate school, but found that she still struggled with
All Strangers Are Kin
by Zora O’Neill
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (2016)
Journalist O’Neill, whose parents fell in love with Morocco and thus gave her an Arabic name, studied the Arabic language in graduate school, but found that she still struggled with everyday conversations. So O’Neill went on a quest to master the language in the best way she knew: through travel. She packed her dictionary and her courage and embarked solo on a grand tour to Egypt and the UAE, Lebanon and then Morocco, soaking up dialects, customs and sights along the way, making colorful new friends at every stop. Her travel memoir, All Strangers Are Kin, is a really fun, engaging read. She talks about the real Middle East, the one at street level, not the constant war zone that headlines would have you believe.
Zora O’Neill is a freelance travel and food writer based in Queens whose work has appeared in the New York Times and Condé Nast Traveler, among other publications, and she has authored or contributed to more than a dozen titles for Rough Guides, Lonely Planet, and Moon. Check out this op-ed Zora wrote about the Syrian refugee crisis for USA Today.
Early Praise for All Strangers Are Kin:
“Part travelogue, part Bildungsroman, part ethnography, this work is as intricate and nuanced as the Arabic language itself. O’Neill masterfully weaves together vignettes, linguistic musings, and a colorful cast of thousands into an always-thoughtful, often hysterically funny paean to a part of the world about which most Americans remain woefully ignorant.” –Suketu Mehta, author of Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found
“In her engaging, colloquial account, freelance and travel writer O’Neill recounts how, at the age of 39, just after the events of the Arab Spring, she decided to return to Egypt and take up a more vernacular approach to studying Arabic rather than approaching it ‘as if it were a dead language’…A valiant chronicle of the author’s ‘Year of Speaking Arabic Badly.'”—Kirkus Reviews
“O’Neill doesn’t teach readers to be fluent in Arabic, but she imparts a more valuable lesson on how (and how not) to learn a language, and the journey is more fascinating than the result.”—Publishers Weekly
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