As an author, I am the resultant force of the books I read. As a woman, I am the resultant force of the women who influenced my life – my mother, my grandmothers, my daughter, my girl friends, my female role models. As a human being, I am one of the forces shaping my children’s future; albeit a tiny one, I can point forward and upwards. Scientia potetia est.
It was an honor to have my article on Why We Need Contemporary War Fiction Written by Women published on Books By Women:
At some stage during my adult life, and this will astound my history teacher if she’d discover, I found myself fascinated by the thought of writing fiction inspired by contemporary events.
A thread that brought me here might have been reading Margaret Mitchell’s “Gone with the Wind” in my teens; another one, witnessing the terrorist attack on World Trade Center on Live TV while pregnant with my daughter. A definite thread, silky and alluring, came from enjoying historical fiction by Philippa Gregory and Diana Gabaldon. While the most recent one, still carding itself, draws from my son’s keen interest in war computer games and my own, in military working dogs.
Contemporary war fiction penned by
women pales in comparison to the amount of books written by men. Be it
in poetry or prose, throughout the centuries an author, not an
authoress, depicted more often the combat male protagonist. As Homer put
it in his Iliad, “war will be men’s business”.
Why so, since countless notable women
were not afraid of fighting battles? The Greek goddess Athena is shown
as a warrior, the patron of justice, strategic warfare, mathematics, and
arts. The Celtic goddess Brigid is the patron of poetry and smithcraft.
Scathach is an Irish Goddess who taught the martial arts. The Amazons
were fierce warrior women and there were even gladiator women,
gladiatrices, although Juvenal, the Roman poet of those times, depicted
them as a mere novelty. History is splattered with the blood of
innumerable women warriors: Hatshepsut, Queen Boudicca, Queen Samsi of
Arabia, the Trung Sisters from Vietnam, Empress Theodora of Byzantium,
Olga of Russia, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Mary I and Elizabeth I of
History also showed us that women who
took to war were willingly followed by an army of men and women and
that they won their battles much to their opponent’s dismay. Is it the
fact that women can stand up for themselves in times of political
upheaval what worries men or the fact that women could, eventually,
With such role models, although nowadays women have changed spear for pen, where has history brought us?
13 unique reads for thriller fans and the enthusiasts of the macabre or sombre comedy. If you like to sleep with your lights on, pick one book from my 13 for Halloween list.
1. The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
This book will give you the story of a mysterious writer with her own dark, ghastly past that will make your skin crawl. You will want to throw the book across the room to get rid of it, yet you won’t be able to, caught under its spell. Blood-curling. Creepy. Disturbing. Published in 2006.
2. Hallowe’en Party by Agatha Christie
A Halloween classic that will make your hair stand on end, plus you get Ariadne Oliver to torment Hercule Poirot. When a children’s party goes wrong, only looking into the past will help solve it. Ghoulish. Eerie. Witty. First published 1969.
3. Cross Bones by Kathy Reichs
One of my favorites by this author, it takes you to excavations conducted on Mount Zion in Jerusalem. It has corpses, tombs, tight spaces, and forensic anthropology. This the Temperance Brennan #8 book, but can be read as a stand alone. Frightening. Bone-chilling. Magical. Published in 2005.
4. Silent Heroes, When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for by Patricia Furstenberg
Sometimes violence, death, and gore are part of modern day history and we choose to ignore them, while making up our own versions, safer ones, of what Halloween looks like. A brutal read what life and humanity mean to the soldiers, the dogs and the civilians caught in the War in Afghanistan. Petrifying. Real. Deadly. Published in 2019.
5. Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Süskind
A timeless, international sensation and a classic, this is a petrifying and unnerving read. A hauntingly powerful tale of murder and sensual depravity. Omnius. Wicked. Haunting. First published 1985.
6. The Pale Horse by Agatha Christie
Death, witches, a spooky inn and Ariadne Oliver sleuthing. Published in 1961, The Guardian wrote: “the black magic theme is handled in a masterly and sinister fashion.” Witchful. Superstitious. Spook-takular. First published 1961
7. Dracula by Bram Stocker
Written as a series of diary entries, it has vampires, spooky locations and everyone will mention it, at some stage. And, no, it is not based on Vlad Tepes Dracula, or Vlad the Impaler, ruler of Wallachia, Romania. Supernatural. Bloody. Fang-tastic. First published 1897
8. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein
Not many know, but the latent reasons behind Mary Shelley’s narration of Frankenstein is the death of her first child, Willy, whom she had thoughts to restore to life. A Gothic thriller and a passionate romance, Shelley wrote this book when she was 18 years old. Black. Pagan. Eerie. First published 1823.
9. The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux
What would Halloween be without a ghost? Both a Gothic horror novel and a romance story, it will capture you and fill you with a terror that the musical could never emulate. Moonlit. Chilling. Unearthly. First published 1909.
10. The Complete Tales And Poems Of Edgar Allan Poe
Pick this collection of ghastly stories for words that will stick to your skin like a cobweb. A classic, must-read from the pioneer of short stories. Unearthly. Fear-inspiring. Strange. First published in 1902.
11. It by Stephen King
A 1138 page horror novel by a haunting author and a book that has been refereed to in mass media more than we care to count to out loud. Read it quietly and with a friend near you or a clown will show up at your door. NOT for people suffering from coulrophobia. Frightening. Nightmarish. Nasty. First published in 1968.
12. The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
A dark and funny comic tale for lovers of satire and spine chilling reads. A book written in the Soviet Union between 1928 and 1940 during Stalin’s regime and censored by Stalin; first censored edition out 1966, full manuscript published in 1967 in Paris, after the author’s death. Dark. Spine-chilling. Mischievous. First published 1967
13. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
First published in 1886, this Gothic novella can still hold the modern reader’s attention. For the book lovers of split personalities and classic horror. Supernatural. Gothic. Occult. First published 1886.
‘Although this is a work of fiction there are truths to it that will tug at your heart. For anyone who has not read one of Patricia’s books then I would recommend this one. ‘ Mandie Griffiths, Book Reviewer
‘Wisdom is threaded throughout Silent Heroes. This novel is an intense, evocative and heart-wrenching narrative of destruction and hope. There is a philosophical exploration of the fragility of human life and the consequences of power struggles.’ Amazon Reader
‘I recommend that if you are unfamiliar with why and how the young men and women of our armies are involved in this conflict, that you read Silent Heroes.’ Sally Cronin, Author, Goodreads Review
Silent Heroes, When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting For, is the new novel by Patricia Furstenberg, the author of Amazon Bestseller Joyful Trouble.
How far would you go to save strangers in need? Military Dogs risk their life for their humans in a heartbeat, but can soldiers do the same when personal struggles and global affairs defy humanity? When Taliban raids an Afghan village and discovers that girls can read, a woman accepts the blame to save the community. Her teenage daughter witnesses the sacrifice swearing revenge, her own life and that of her brother becoming intertwined with those of the Marines serving at a nearby military base. Led by Captain Marcos who conceals, under a cool appearance, his lifelong disability to read human emotions, the solid team of soldiers is faced with the trauma of losing platoon-mates, both human and canine, with PTSD and with becoming estranged from families left behind. When the Marines are instructed to accept a mysterious young Afghan as their guide the humanity of local population they come in contact with raises questions about the necessity of war. It is a race against time, fending off the Taliban lurking at the ancient Qala-e-Bost fortress and defending Bost Airport, a vital strategic point for the allies, while saving the kidnapped civilians at the same time.
Silent Heroes, When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting For
“They’re coming!” are the words synonym with death.
The war cry sweeps along the eastern snowy slope of
Hindu Kush Mountains in an avalanche of hoofs. It conquers the empty streets of
our village amplified by dark, bearded men waving Kalashnikovs above their
heads, thirsty for blood.
Those who have heard it before know it brings
terror and death. Those who have met them before remember the reek of slaughter
that seeps through their long robes, the wild beards that swell from underneath
their flat hats, pakols, revealing gap-toothed jaws. Even those too young to
comprehend, the tots born after the last grown men of our village left for war,
shrink from their sight.
The Taliban soldiers breeding in our mountains.
Their sulphur stench yanks us, women and children,
from behind the fake safety of mud walls. It is execution time again.
A young woman stood in the door frame of a modest
hut, holding herself tall in an attempt to shield her young brother who,
transfixed, watched as a cloud of menacing smoke tumbled along the mountain
slope, thundering and calling “Allāhu akbar”, “Allah is great.” The same praise
women sang, with tear-stained eyes, whenever a healthy new-born arrived into
Her mother still called her ‘girl’, although she
already passed the threshold to womanhood. But a girl would still fit in her
mother’s arms where she would be protected. A girl would not be expected to
obey and cover herself with a burqa and a girl would not be forced to cease her
learning because she is over a certain age.
A second woman, with eagle eyes and a guarded
attitude, materialized behind. Adjusting her hijab over her head she kept to
the shadows, yanking the young one inside. Only her hooded, dark brown eyes
spoke. There was distress in them and a prophecy, words no one was allowed to
Between their skirts, a skinny boy of eight moved
along. The girl, Emma Dil, meaning ‘Dil ki khawahish’, ‘Heart’s Wish’, was thus
named to illustrate her father’s pride in having a girl as their firstborn,
instead of a boy. His heart’s wish. The same honour had glinted in their
mother’s eyes the night their father decided to join the fight against the
Afghan insurgents in the never-ending war versus Taliban; even knowing it might
cost them his life.
“Come, my heart, inside. It has to be done. We must
hurry, hurry,” the second woman said, her voice in check, yet Emma Dil’s strung
nerves picked the rise in pitch, its agony and anguish. The mother pulled Emma
indoors bolting the door, sealing out most of the light. A gleam of steel in
the mother’s right hand caught the last of the sunshine. Hugging her daughter
one last time the mother pulled the little boy between them, her free hand soft
and warm on Emma’s wet cheek. The girl filled her lungs with the familiar scent
of faded rose petals she had associated with love and safety all her life,
knowing it was the last time she will. The three of them lingered in their
embrace, the girl holding her breath, willing time to stop. Yet three
heartbeats later the mother pulled away.
“Rafik, my clever boy, my pride, take your flying
legs and run like the wind to the neighbouring village. Warn them,” her eyes
urged him, “they’ve come again.” Her work-worn hand lingered on his face,
cupping his childish cheek one more time. His eyes gleamed, his body all wired
up, ready to please, yet his mother’s hand stayed on his face, drawing him
closer for one more kiss. The woman pulled him near her chest while urging him
to go at the same time, “run, child, run!”
When he was out through the back door the woman
turned dead eyes towards the girl, scissors at the ready. “Swear, my girl. No
one must ever find out.”
As a culmination of each one of their raids, the
Taliban troops would round us all in the dusty centre of the village, my
brother and I always trying to obstruct our mother’s presence. But today it is
only me so I try to square my shoulders.
My aunt and her three daughters nestled themselves
against us, eyes cast down, the young ones shaking like leaves, counting their
heartbeats, “One – alive. Two – alive. Three – alive;” the small one wetting
I never understood why we were held at gunpoint by
men speaking the same language, only crazed for power, thirsty to kill in the
name of Islam. Throwing menacing looks, their black eyes, heavily creased,
glaring from behind filthy headdresses that would come up to cover their faces
as soon as they entered the village.
Mother said such questions were not to be uttered,
maybe, just maybe, raised in the back of my mind when I was alone in our
Then their leader would arrive, dressed in black
pants and a black, long shirt, the traditional shalwar kameez. Wickedness
“Allah is great!” they’d all yell. “May Allah give
Davron a long life,” they’d welcome him. It is a call for joy. It is also a
call to sentence us, innocent or not.
This time they found enough proof to kill another
one of us, all in the name of Islam. A law had been broken by a child. Or a
woman. Their bloodlust and fanaticism in reinforcing their dominance over us
know no limits. To them, the Islam law stands above human life.
In the middle of dirt, in front of us all, lands a
tattered book. A small cloud of dust rises as the book touches the ground. Its
pages open by themselves to the part most enjoyed, a line drawing of a world
map. In its middle someone had penned, in blue ink, a little star. It marks
Afghanistan’s place on the map. The small star on a two-page chart shows how
big it is, the world we are all a part of. So promising, this big world. A
world I often dreamed of. A world that knows nothing of us.
The man dressed in black, the one they call
Commander Davron, has a scar along his left cheek.
Once I asked mom if she thinks he was chosen as
their leader because he is the ugliest man on earth. She watched me, amazed,
then laughed so hard as I’ve never seen her laugh before. When she was done she
wiped her eyes, hugged me, and asked me to never say those words again. But
that she thinks I was right and that I had a brilliant intellect, and I must
never forget that.
Their leader kicks the book with the tip of his
stained shoe then tramps past us all, hands behind his back, his eyes boring
into our souls even as we look down at our feet. His stench turns my stomach.
From the corner of my eye, I watch the book flying
like a wounded bird, landing a few feet away, face down. A page is bent and my
book-lover self winces.
He strides back, his black robe swaying with every
step like a death flag, his beard nodding disapprovingly like it’s got a mind
of its own. Halting near us he toots his lips and turns his head sideways,
listening, making a show out of it.
A trickle of water echoes nearby. To the right, my
little niece has wet herself again. Commander Davron’s mouth twists in a smile,
yet his eyes frown. He bends forward, his beard almost touching her cheek, hot
and wet, lined with dust. Her small hands are pressed against her mouth in a
desperate attempt to keep any noise inside. I freeze. There is an ink stain on
her index finger. The bearded leader pretends not to notice, but as he turns
towards the rest of us his hand, as sharp as an eagle’s beak, fastens on the
girl’s fragile wrist pulling it forward. She collapses near the book, her knees
scraping the dust, her shoulder nearly dislocated. She lets out a sharp scream.
He still holds her wrist.
“Proof! Again!” he bellows. “Islam’s sacred law had
been broken! AGAIN! Girls, that read AND write?”
Should his shouts be visible, they would be a whip
reaching each one of us, extracting any hope out of our hearts.
I grab my mother’s hand, willing her to stand
behind. But it is too late. She would never witness one of the girls tortured.
I feel my heart ripped from my chest as mother throws herself in the sand at
the feet of Commander Davron, her arm protecting the little girl.
“Please,” she sobs through her burqa, “let her go.
In the name of Allah, it is my fault, only mine.”
His tongue slithers over his bottom lip, like a
snake pushing out of his hideout, and he lets go of the girl’s wrist turning,
with greedy eyes, towards my mother.
“Take off your burqa,” he orders her.
All the women gasp. The law of Islam orders women
to stay covered in front of any men outside their immediate family.
“I want to know who broke Islam’s holy law.”
If she shows her face, she will break a law; a
different law, by Taliban’s standards.
My ears ring and tears burn my eyes, yet I dug my
nails into my wrists, behind my back. I promised mother not to tell.
Not to tell a soul.
My knees shake underneath my father’s dark robe and
a trickle of sweat rolls down my neck, escaping my short hair and my manly
headdress, also my father’s. The tiny hairs stuck to my neck after mom’s hasty
haircut itch, but not as much as my tongue. I want to yell the truth, but I
The dark Commander turns towards me.
“You have a boy, I see. Almost a man. He doesn’t
need his mother anymore. Take off your burqa.”
A guttural wail escapes my mother as she removes
her headdress and face covers in front of Commander Davron and his army.
She had just sentenced herself.
They cheer in the name of Allah, crazed at the
thought of another kill.
“This woman broke two of His sacred laws!” he
bellows. “No girl over the age of eight is to learn to read or write, yet this
woman taught reading and writing. And she has removed her face cover in the
absence of her husband and in front of strange men! If you want lessons to
learn, I’ll teach you lessons!”
His army cheers and they empty their guns towards
By the time he is done speaking our brave mother
lays dead in the dirt, a bullet through her brain. Her open eyes are fixed on
the book, yet she can’t see it anymore. All because she was willing to pay the
ultimate sacrifice to save us. Her face is as beautiful as ever and I want to
kneel and cradle her, but I cannot, I am a boy now and I promised not to tell.
Perched on a nearby eave, a purple sunbird watches us and my heart warms to her. Its lapis lazuli plumage is my mother’s favourite colour. I remember mother telling us an old Egyptian belief. When a person dies, a bird is sent from Heavens to escort its spirit home.
If you love coffee as much as I do each day is coffee day, but since today my American readers celebrate #NationalCoffeeDay and on the 1st of October everyone will celebrate #InternationalCoffeeDay, I thought I’ll dedicate this post to coffee lovers all over the world!
A Love Letter to Coffee
My beloved, it has only been moments since I’ve left you and… I already miss you!
I will not shy away from my feelings for you! You are my one, true joy in the early hours of the morning. No matter how restless my night has been or how busy my daily schedule is, sharing those special moments with you in the morning, holding you, reveling in your scent and your full body… Oh, nothing can take away the simple pleasure of our time together.
sweet and understanding you are of my living you behind each morning.
You do know that there is no one else for me, but you. I always return
You are so unique, yet your flamboyant personality has me under a spell, I can never get bored with you.
Don’t bend your ear to childish gossip. There is only one for me and
that one is you. The others, as you perceive them, are but mere
acquaintances. No even a fling, but a brush with cruel, ordinary life.
None will ever stand a chance near you, let alone compare itself with
you, my beloved. They are. .. so different, so much more less than you
will ever be. They do not have your charm, the strength of your core,
your unmistakable perfume. They are not you. They can never take your
the way you can change your looks, it never ceases to surprise me! And
the heavenly scent of your voluptuous body, always surprising, yet
always them same; homely, unique, promising.
You can be hot or cold, I’ll take it; I’ll never turn you down.
My Espresso, my Latte, my Cappuccino, my Americano, my Chococino, my Macchiato, my Viennois…
Besides BOOKS, what else can one pair coffee with?
Chocolate, of course! Since both tend to originate from similar regions of the world… Try Dark Chocolate with Brazilian Coffee if you dare…
Sweet pastries, bread, doughnuts, and dairy also go really well with coffee…
Poultry is said to go well with a coffee with fruity notes like the coffee from central and east Africa, while red meat is best paired with a dark roast coffee originating in the Pacific Islands.
Last, but not least, berries go well with the coffee from east Africa, while pitted fruits such as peaches, plums, apricots, and the citrus fruits enhance the taste of coffee originating from central Africa and central America.
I love how Gertrude Stein speaks of coffee:
Coffee is a lot more than just a drink; it’s something happening. Not as in hip, but like an event, a place to be, but not like a location, but like somewhere within yourself. It gives you time, but not actual hours or minutes, but a chance to be, like be yourself, and have a second cup.
Gertrude Stein, Selected Writings
I hope you will have a fabulous day today and will never have to say:
“I’d rather take coffee than compliments just now.”
Louisa May Alcott, Little Women
How do you enjoy your coffee?? I love coffee during any time of the day, milk, no sugar. I am not very fond of espresso though, but I love cappuccino, cafe latte, macchiato, chococino, Viennois… you name it and – in summer – the iced coffee!