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The Old Woman and the River
by Ismail Fahd Ismail
Print copies available in catalog
At the outset of an 8-year war between Iraq and Iran in the 1980s, Um Qasem, her husband and grown family are forced from their village of Sabiliyat in Iraq’s lush delta region of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Years later, widowed and homesick, Um Qasem, accompanied by her donkey, Good Omen, journeys home to Sabiliyat to deliver her husband’s unearthed bones and his spirit to a final resting place. In her absence, her family's bountiful and wondrous homeland has become desiccated, but with determination she sets out to restore its natural order. To do so she befriends a few of the soldiers and officers who remain quartered there, but their directives and her plans often collide. In order to get them to do her bidding, Um Qasem, a sage and courageous woman, must use her wiles to outsmart these men who foolishly think they are in charge of the region. The beauty in this story lies in Um Qasem’s ability to assertively protect and to lovingly nurture her land and those she loves. The wisdom she imparts, that losses are chapters in life, but hope must be written on every page and in every volume will resonate with readers especially during times of crisis.