A Resultant Force, Women Writing about War

Silent Heroes by Patricia Furstenberg - Women writing contemporary war books

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 England. 

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, bulldoze them? 

With such role models, although nowadays women have changed spear for pen, where has history brought us?

Read my entire article here.

With thanks to Barbara Bos for so graciously facilitating the publishing of my piece.

Silent Heroes: When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for Patricia FurstenbergSilent Heroes, When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for is my latest book release, a thrilling read about military dogs, soldiers and the populace caught in the War in Afghanistan.

You can read the opening pages right here, on my website.

Read about the symbolism depicted in this novel.

Find out what the readers of Silent Heroes have to say.

Buy Silent Heroes from Amazon UK, Amazon US or use the international Amazon link here.

Silent Heroes is also available in LARGE PRINT.

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Why dogs Were so indispensable during warfare AND how dog training began via @PatFurstenberg #dogs #wardogs #war

Why were dogs so indispensable during warfare AND how dog training began

It was 1895 when Lt Col Edwin Hautenville Richardson, a Scot military man, noticed a German man buying a sheepdog from a shepherd.On engaging the two, Richardson learns that the German army was buying British collies to train and use in their own military service.

On engaging the two, Richardson learns that the German army was buying British collies to train and use in their own military service.

German Imperial Army
German Imperial Army

In the eve of WW1 Richardson and his wife Blanche Bannon, both dog lovers, were already training dogs. Soon the military asked them to begin a British War Dogs training school in Shoeburyness, Essex. The Richardsons trained hundreds of hounds for military service during both world wars.

Richardson particularly liked the Airedale Terrier.

Edwin Richardson trained Airedale terriers for the police in Glasgow before supplying canine recruits for World War One.
Edwin Richardson trained Airedale terriers for the police in Glasgow before supplying canine recruits for World War One.

“They’re very determined. They’re very single-minded and there’s no stopping them.”

Lt Col Edwin Hautenville Richardson

Right about this time, but a woman, her dog and her Harley-Davidson Motorcycle took the journey of a lifetime.

While in Europe Airedale Terriers were even taught to use gas masks as part of their military service.

Airedale Terriers were taught to use gas masks as part of their military service -Getty source
Airedale Terriers were taught to use gas masks as part of their military service -Getty source

The dogs were also trained to carry first aid and supplies for soldiers at the front.

“The dead and badly wounded are easily found; they lay where they fought; but the lightly wounded, those that had still strength to crawl and hunt shelter or water to quell their thirst, are the ones that te hospital corps is apt to miss. Speaking from the viewpoint of military efficiency these slightly wounded are the very soldiers that should be specially cared for, for on their speedy recovery they may prove in a long-drawn-out war the deciding factor that will end it, when they have again returned to the fighting line. Good Red Cross Dogs will quickly clear a battle-ground of all wounded soldiers.”

(Scout, Red Cross Army Dogs)
The dogs were also trained to carry first aid and supplies for soldiers at the front - Getty source
The dogs were also trained to carry first aid and supplies for soldiers at the front – Getty source

Richardson even paid unemployed locals to pretend being injured or dead people, lying around the dunes, and helping the dogs to train.

“We also served” is the special bandana of The Airedale Terrier Club of Scotland today.

"We also served" -The Airedale Terrier Club of Scotland today.
“We also served” -The Airedale Terrier Club of Scotland today.

Richardson’s contribution to the development of the military and Red Cross dog units was in-commensurable through his assiduous research, work and dedication towards canines. The first Army Dog School in England, at the start of The Great War, would not have been possible without his work.

Before his aid was required at the beginning of the Great War, the fame of Richardson’s highly trained dogs had reached far away, as proved by his services being required by Sultan Abdul Hamid, Empress Eugenie, of Bulgaria, the Abor expedition in India, the Gordon Highlanders, the Norfolk Regiment, and the King’s Durham Light Infantry, and Queen Mary on the eve of WW1.

Why were dogs so indispensable during warfare?

There is nothing like a dog’s loyalty and determination. Once a dog is taught a s skill, he will be happy to apply it to please his human master and friend.

It is our responsibility to be mindful of what we teach our dogs for they will do anything we ask them in order to make us happy.

A helpful dog
Helpful dog

Once a dog knows his destination he will get there at all costs. Pigeons cannot be sent in a fog or in the dark. Dogs will go in all weathers and at all times. During heavy bombardment by the enemy the casualties among the runners (soldiers sent to deliver messages) are heavy, especially when they have to cross n pen field where they are exposed to snipers, machine gun fire, or a heavy barrage. A runner would take two or three hours to do a journey from the trenches, while a dog only half an hour or less.

Richardson on training the his war dogs:

“The drill yesterday began with an obstacle race by a squad well advanced in training. Across the road were placed a barbed wire fence and a few yards further on a hurdle, and beyond that a barrier made of branches of trees. The dogs were taken about a mile up the road and then released. There was a great race for home. The bigger dogs leapt clear of all the obstructions; the smaller ones wriggled their way through; but two wily sheep dogs, strictly in accordance with the rules of the game preferred to leap a ditch and make a detour, arriving home as quickly as the others.

Novices who go astray in these and other test are never punished. They are caught by the keepers and gently led back for another try.”

Airedale Terriers of War
Airedale Terriers of War

Sadly, most of the Dog Messenger Service heroes are anonymous as officially they were known only by the numbers on the collars.

Dogs, the Silent Heroes of World War One

After some trial and error, medium sized dogs with grey or black fur were preferred, with good eyesight and “character”. Breeds varies, from a cross between a bulldog and a mastiff to German shepherds, retrievers, pointers and large Airedale terriers.

But above all, “character and training” was wanted.

We saw how dogs became man’s best friend.

How well dogs helped during the Great War and the Second World War we will see soon, as well as finding amazing stories about dog war mascots and other mongrels.

Do return to find out.

My latest book is‘Silent Heroes’, a highly emotional read, action-packed, a vivid story of enormous sacrifice and bravery that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

It is a book extremely well researched, with authentic details and an epic sense of the place. The war and the military involved, Marines and dogs, are described with reverence, as are the civilians caught in the middle of the fire.

Silent Heroes, When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for
Silent Heroes, When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for
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Dogs joined Kings in battles, the Crimean War, the American Civil War, the First Anglo-Boer War and the Russo-Japanese War via @PatFurstenberg #dogs #war #history

Dogs joined Kings in battles, the Crimean War, the American Civil War, the First Anglo-Boer War and the Russo-Japanese War

“A man’s dog stands by him in prosperity and in poverty, in health and in sickness. He will sleep on the cold ground, where the wintry wind blow and the snow drives fiercely, if only he may be near his master’s side. He will kiss the hand that has no food to offer, he will lick the wound and sores that come in encounter with the roughness of the world. He guards the sleep of his pauper master as if he were a prince. When all other friends deserts he remains. When riches take wings, and reputation falls to pieces, he is as constant in his love as the sun in its journey through the heavens.

A man and his dog
A man and his dog

“If fortune drives the master forth, an outcast in the world, friendless and homeless, the faithful dog asks no higher privilege than that of accompanying him, to guard him against danger, to fight against his enemies. And when the last scene of all comes, and death takes his master in its embrace and his body is laid away in the cold ground, no matter if all other friends pursue their way, there by the graveside will the noble dog be found, his head between his paws, his eyes sad, but open in alert watchfulness, faithful and true even in death.” (George Graham Vest – c. 1855, “Tribute to the Dog”, George Graham Vest (1830-1904), U.S. Senator of Missouri)

This is one of the best speeches I ever read. In fact, while he was still practicing law, George Graham Vest won a trial with this speech.

“Tribute to the Dog”, George Graham Vest
“Tribute to the Dog”, George Graham Vest

Dogs helped Kings in their battles

It is said that four hundred terrier dogs, each “garnished with good yron collers” helped Henry VIII of England and Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Spain in their battles against the French.

Henry VIII with a dog and a falcon
Henry VIII with a dog and a falcon

Henry VIII kept quite a few dogs in his chambers. We know this for a fact because Henry’s fool), Will Somers, is said to have curled up among them to sleep.

Toe Greyhoundes collars of crimsun velvette and cloth of gold … two other collars with the Kinges armes … a collar of white velvette, embrawdered with perles, the swilvels of silver…”

Did you know that among the thirty breeds currently recognized by the American Kennel Club, only four have an origin other than the British Isles?

Napoleon Bonaparte also favoured dogs and Frederick the Great of Germany had them employed as watchdogs for his sentries.

“The lonely soldier on guard who, for the first time probably, faces the dark shadows with their lurking dangers in the enemy country, will do his duty better and more fearlessly if a faithful dog is with him to warn him of impending events.”

From “Scout, Red Cross and Army Dogs

Dogs and the Crimean War

The Crimean War involved a massive use of horses.

Fought for influence in the Middle East, especially control over the religious sites of the Holy Land, the Crimean War opposed an alliance of Britain, France, Turkey and Sardinia against Russia.

Dogs were used as sentries or for sighting. Surely the use of their acute smell was the main reason, although very little was known or understood back then about the dog’s superb olfactory abilities.

Crimean War - photo by Roger Fenton 1855 -Officers of the 71st Highlanders Regiment with dog. Source allworldwars
Crimean War – photo by Roger Fenton 1855 -Officers of the 71st Highlanders Regiment with dog. Source allworldwars

Dogs and the American Civil War

The American Civil War another war carried on horseback.

Little Sally was the mascot of the 11th Pennsylvania infantry.

Sally, mascot of 11th Pensylvania Infantry, American Civil War
Sally, mascot of 11th Pennsylvania Infantry, American Civil War

Sally followed the men everywhere, she marched with them, she was the first to get up in the morning and the last to sleep at night.

Sally, mascot of 11th Pennsylvania Infantry, would follow the soldiers everywhere
Sally, mascot of 11th Pennsylvania Infantry, would follow the soldiers everywhere

At the Battle of Gettysburg they thought she was lost. They found her three days later, guarding the bodies of some of the men in the 11th Pennsylvania infantry that had been killed. Sadly, in February 1865, during a fight in the south of Petersburg, Virginia, Sally was killed. Despite the battle going on, the soldiers dropped their muskets and buried Sally in the field.

In 1890 the 11th Pennsylvania raised a monument at Gettysburg. With a soldier on top and a statue of Sally at the bottom, still guarding her soldiers of the 11th Pennsylvania.

Sally, mascot of 11th Pennsylvania Infantry, American Civil War
Sally, mascot of 11th Pennsylvania Infantry, American Civil War

And you can see a doggy biscuit or two. (From Untold Stories of the Civil War)

A special dog during the Second Boer War

Since I live in South Africa I feel that I need to mention the sturdy, brave dog Bob who helped many British soldiers, by the look of this propaganda postcard.

Although the British would have fought against the Boers, which were the South African farmers of Dutch, German, or Huguenot descent settled in the Transvaal (now Mpumalanga Province) and the Orange Free State (now Free State Province), Bob proved extremely brave and he did saved human lives after all.

Bob, a brave dog during the Second Boer War
Bob, a brave dog during the Second Boer War

It was a very hot summer and water supplies were limited. The soldiers would strap bottles to Bob’s body and the brave dog would go to a nearby stream, dodging bullets on his way there and back, lie down in the cool water until the bottles were full and bring them back to the troops.

Dogs and the Russo-Japanese War

In 1904, Imperial Russia used ambulance dogs during the Russo-Japanese War as well as to guard railways. But these dogs were trained by a British dog enthusiast who later trained hundreds of dogs for the Allies during both World Wars.

Dogs helping during the Russo-Japanese War
Dogs helping during the Russo-Japanese War

The Russian Embassy in London asked Edwin Hautenville Richardson to supply ambulance dogs for the Russian troops. He sent Airedales that performed so well, the Dowager Empress Marie thanked him with gifts.

Lt Col Edwin Hautenville Richardson, The Dog Whisperer
Lt Col Edwin Hautenville Richardson, The Dog Whisperer

Major General Tucker, commanding the forces in Scotland, concluded at the War Office:

“Forwarded and strongly recommended. Seeing that every foreign government has already recognized the use of dogs, either for ambulance purposes or sentry work, or both, I am of opinion that advantage should be taken without delay of Major E. H. Richardson’s knowledge and experience in the matter of breeding and training them, and some military training centre selected for the purpose. it seems likely that Salisbury Plain might offer greater facilities in this respect than Aldershot; but on this point, as on other matters of details, I would suggest that Major Richardson be consulted.”

This is only a drop of information about the amazing roles dogs played in so many battles.

We saw here how the old claim that a dog is one’s best friend is validated through historical records, be it art, folklore or books.

Next time we will look at why were dogs indispensable during the two world wars, at the dog’s role during the Great War, during the Second World War, at dog mascots and true war stories about dogs as well as many more amazing tales about dogs in the war, throughout the decades.

I hope you will join me again!

My latest book, Silent Heroes, is a work of fiction about the Military Working Dogs and the amazing Marines and local people caught in the War in Afghanistan.

Silent Heroes, When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for
Silent Heroes, When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for
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Women Writing About War via @PatFurstenberg #war #women #writerslife #literature #books

Women writing about war

The question I was asked most often after publishing “Silent Heroes” was: why I wrote a book about war?

To me, “Silent Heroes” is a book that asked to be written. The idea behind it began to germinate in my mind long ago. It took over two years of research and assiduous work for this book to see the printing press.

Having lived through a Revolution and the fall of the Eastern Bloc, I can see that the power of historical knowledge is often overlooked. From my point of view, the situation in Afghanistan is of global interest. There are many similar historical hot spots throughout the world. My interest in the War in Afghanistan was stirred on understanding what a major influence the use of military dogs has on the lives of civilians. Most books written on this subject are from a military or political perspective. A retelling of true facts. I wanted to create a work of fiction that will appeal as well as stir emotions, something plausible, yet appealing to a wider category of readers.

We tend to read a book from the perspective of our own experiences. Some books, after reading them, manage to change the way we see our own life – and this is what I tried to achieve with “Silent Heroes”. Find out more about the symbolism behind its pages here.

I would rather have you ask me “why I wrote ‘Silent Heroes’, rather than “why I wrote a book on war”.

Women writers wrote about war many times over. But how many are know?

War is a part of life. As in life, there is fear in war, but there is also resilience and a raw lucidity in it.

War draws in all kinds of people, men and women, children and elderly, rich and poor. War stamps its tattoo on their lives, no questions asked, by killing their loved ones, by forcing them to relocate, to give up the mere life necessities in order to survive. To give up life, as they knew it, in order to stay alive.

Most war literature I came across during my lifetime and while researching for “Silent Heroes” and for “Joyful Trouble” before it was written by men. True accounts of battle and hardship. “War and Peace” by Russian author Leo Tolstoy must be the best known war novel. I have enjoyed Ernest Hemingway’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls” and loved, for its epic descriptions and sensitivity in portraying human beings and raw emotions, Margaret Mitchell’s “Gone With the Wind” in which an entire generation was wiped out by the Civil War.

The question that inevitably rose was:

what is the major difference between a war story written by a woman and one written by a man?

And I don’t mean linguistic differences.

When reading a book written by a woman, I tend to feel closer to the author than when to a male author. I find their writing style more interactive. This aspect does not involve characters, but the overall feeling I get when reading -reading for pleasure.

Male authors tend to focus on conveying information, on the courage of the soldiers, on their super-human acts and vigor and less on the emotions that trigger or haunt them. On the intensity of their pain, the taste of their passion, the gut feeling.

From a sociology-cultural point of view we are a product of our upbringing and of the society we live in. Considering ideological factors and forces, we are a product of our interactions with and of our reactions to society. It is only normal that this will reflect in a writer’s work.

What about the communications style?

Will the fact that men and women have a different communication style reflect in their writing? Much like a piece of art or a music sheet reflect the author’s core structure.

On the other hand, writing is very much a products of our biographical reading. Which brings us back to our upbringing, influencing us in everything we do.

But since we only speak of the war theme here, I think that this difference shows in the type of relationships the characters tend to built with one another.

If you look at a novel as it would be a river, I tend to see a woman’s writing running smoothly, in a fluid movement, while a man’s is almost bubbling in it’s banks. But this is only my own imaginary.

War stories are a two way narrative.

War involves those who actively take part in it and those who are sucked in it, no choice given. Soldiers and civilians. And civilians, too, deserve to be heard. Their emotions should be given a voice, too.

But what if we don’t know if a book was written by a man or a woman? Would we still be able to spot the difference? And how will that knowledge influence our perception of the book?

Again, we only look at war books here.

We are past the women’s rise to prominence during the mid-nineteenth century and past the women’s rights movements.

Do women still need to prove themselves by writing about war?

War is a topic monopolized by men authors throughout the centuries.

Four years ago The Guardian published an interesting article, “Male writers continue to dominate literary criticism, Vida study finds“, VIDA being a group of volunteers interested in drawing attention to gender inequality in the field of book reviewing. The results of the study shows that men appeared 66 percent more often in The New York Times Book Review; three times more often in the London Review of Books; The Times Literary Supplement and others had worse numbers.

If reputable publications involved in book reviewing choose less books by women, will this influence the reader’s / buyer’s choice and view of books written by women?

My view on this subject may be biased as I am both a woman and a woman writer penning stories about war. Yet I feel that little is known about war stories written by women.

Amazing fiction books on war written by women

  • Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell (for the vivid image of how much the American Civil War changed people’s lives and characters)
  • Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain (an entire generation changed by WW1)
  • The Story of a Brief Marriage by Anuk Arudpragasam (for its hypnotic details of the Sri Lankan Civil War)
  • The Gold Lieutenant by Whitney Terrell (for depicting so truthfully the surviving nature of women during the Iraq War)
  • Suite Française by Irène Némirovsky (filled with the human sensitivity that often escapes WW2 written by an author who, sadly, died in the concentration camp at Auschwitz)
  • Nella Last’s war by Nella Last, an inside view of WW2 from a civilian’s point of view.
  • The People of Forever are Not Afraid by Shani Boianjiu (a touching tale of teenagers’ experiences in the Israeli Defense Forces)
  • The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli (an amazing novel about the Vietnam War).
  • The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank (although an autobiography, is a must-read portrayal of the Holocaust)
  • Transcription by Kate Atkinson (a great spy novel of WW2)
  • The Night Watch by Sarah Waters (a great historical fiction set during WW2 London)
  • Goodnight Mr Tom by Michelle Magorian (an amazing WW2 read for children over the age of 10, especially boys)
  • A Boy in Winter by Rachel Seiffert (set during the WW2 occupation of Ukraine and Longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2018)
  • Good Evening, Mrs Craven: Wartime Stories by Mollie Panter-Donnes (short stories written during WW2)
  • The Tiger’s Wife by Tea Obrecht (set during in an unnamed Balkan country experiencing a rebirth after the collapse of communism).
  • Can you Hear the Nightbird Call? by Anita Rau Badami how three women survive the rise of the Sikh separatists in India).
  • Sparta by Roxana Robinson (about a war veteran’s battle with PTSD after the Iraq War).
  • Bel Canto by Ann Patchett (for the humanity shared by different cultures when held hostage by terrorists)
  • Silent Heroes by Patricia Furstenberg (on the strong connections between US Marines and the Afghan civilians during the Afghanistan War).
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Celebrating the Readers of “Silent Heroes, When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for” and Their 5 Stars Reviews for This Book via @PatFurstenberg #SilentHeroes #book #kindle #read #holiday #fiction

Silent Heroes: When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for, 5 stars reviews

Published less than a month ago, “Silent Heroes, When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for” already receives praise from its readers: ” I thoroughly enjoyed reading this novel”, ” extremely well written and well researched”, “It was also very interesting to read about the important role Military Working Dogs played in the US Marines’ war against the Taliban insurgents, “I highly recommend this book”, “a very exciting, moving and well written book “, “I especially appreciated the amount of research that went into making the story as true to life as possible. Would highly recommend this excellent book”, “a great read”, The research into the Afghan culture, as well as the American war dogs, is like none other. The historical aspect was brilliantly done.”

“Silent Heroes, When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for” is still a #1 New Release on Amazon US.

Number 1 New Release History in Afghanistan since publication
Number 1 New Release History in Afghanistan since publication

5 Stars Amazon UK Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars I highly recommend this book and give it a full five stars! 26 July 2019 Format: Kindle Edition Silent Heroes: When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for

“I thoroughly enjoyed reading this novel from Patricia Furstenberg. The book is extremely well written and well researched. Not only does she depict the harsh realities of war, but the emotional turmoil and pain of the soldiers and the Afghan population innocently caught in the war. It was also very interesting to read about the important role Military Working Dogs played in the US Marines’ war against the Taliban insurgents.
I highly recommend this book and give it a full five stars!”

5 Stars Amazon UK Review: I  thoroughly enjoyed reading this novel from Patricia Furstenberg."
5 Stars Amazon UK Review: I thoroughly enjoyed reading this novel from Patricia Furstenberg.”

5 Stars Amazon Australia Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended 31 July 2019 Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase

“This is a very exciting, moving and well written book about war in Afghanistan. Although I didn’t serve there, as an ex Airborne Engineer and veteran of many IED search teams, I especially appreciated the amount of research that went into making the story as true to life as possible. Would highly recommend this excellent book. ”

5 Stars Amazon Review: "This  is a very exciting, moving and well written book about war in  Afghanistan."
5 Stars Amazon Review: “This is a very exciting, moving and well written book about war in Afghanistan.”

“The premise of this story is fantastic! I went through a whole variety of emotions. The research into the Afghan culture, as well as the American war dogs, is like none other. The historical aspect was brilliantly done. I loved the characters. They all had special stories within the story as a whole. The setting made me feel as though I were there. Absolutely delightful telling.” (Amazon Kindle Unlimited Reader)

Amazon UK #2 Bestsellers Arms Control.jpg
Amazon UK #2 Bestsellers Arms Control
Amazon UK #4 Bestseller Middle Eastern
Amazon UK #4 Bestseller Middle Eastern

Have you read “Silent Heroes: When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for” yet? I would love to hear your thoughts.

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