Deborah Rodriguez, Author of Island on the Edge of the World, Shares How Her Story Evolved

Deborah Rodriguez, Author of Island on the Edge of the World, Shares How Her Story Evolved

About the author

Deborah Rodriguez is the author of the international bestseller The Little Coffee Shop Of Kabul. She has also written two memoirs: The Kabul Beauty School, about her life in Afghanistan, and The House on Carnaval Street, on her experiences following her return to America. She spent five years teaching and later directing the Kabul Beauty School, the first modern beauty academy and training salon in Afghanistan.

Deborah also owned the Oasis Salon and the Cabul Coffee House, and is the founder of the nonprofit organization Oasis Rescue, which aims to teach women in post-conflict and disaster-stricken areas the art of hairdressing.

She currently lives in Mexico.

Buy a copy of Island on the Edge of the World here // Read a review of Island on the Edge of the World here

The genesis of our protagonist, Charlie: I come from a family of hairdressers ¾ my mom, myself, and my son Noah. Hairdressers are great listeners. They can get themselves mixed up in all sorts of dramas. Most are problem solvers, are empathetic, and have a keen intuition., (At least the good ones do, or they won’t be in business very long.) And honestly? Most are kind of quirky.

When we meet Charlie, she has taken over the Bea’s Hive salon from her hairdresser grandmother, Bea. Both characters feel so familiar to me. Telling a story from a perspective of a hairdresser is as natural as breathing.

I see a little of the young me in Charlie, and I hope that I become just like Bea, my eccentric psychic, when I grow up. I am looking forward to both Bea and Charlie joining us in more books.

The genesis of this story:  One day I received a phone call from my son Zach in Northern Virginia. I could hear that sound in his voice, the one where you know your child has gotten himself into trouble? He began to tell me about a girl he’d started to date. I figured it wasn’t too serious yet, as this was the first time I was hearing about her. He told me how smart she was, how nice she was ¾ all the things a mother wants to hear.

He told me that Aretha was not from the United States, that she was from Nigeria. He told me about her family ¾ that her father was a four-star general in the Nigerian army and had died, that she had eleven brothers and sisters spread between the USA, Turkey, the U.K., and Nigeria. That her mother had come to the United States to visit her older sister and while there, passed away, leaving Aretha without a mother or father. Aretha was granted a visa to attend her mother’s funeral in the U.S., and, afterward, her sister didn’t want her to go back to live alone in Nigeria, so they enrolled her in school, and she stayed on with a student visa.

Then finally, Zach told me that Aretha was pregnant. It took me a minute to process this information but, always striving to be a supportive mom and, more importantly, wanting my sons to be responsible for their actions, I did my best to be understanding. But I was not prepared for the rest of the story.

“It is possible,” Zach said, “that before the baby is born, Aretha will have to go back to Nigeria.” He added that her sister had applied for a permanent visa for her, but that can take years, and she was still waiting for an interview. My mind began to whirl. She might have to go back to Nigeria? Will she ever be able to return the United States? Will I ever see my grandchild? Should Zach marry her right away to keep her in the country? Is Zach ready to be a father? I decided I needed to get answers to my questions, so I booked a flight to Northern Virginia.

Long story short, six years later they are happily married, expecting their third child.

But I kept going back to the “what ifs.” After our sweet baby Silas was born, I couldn’t help but think about how far would I go to find my grandchild. Would I go to the ends of the earth? The answer was a firm yes. I still have anxiety attacks thinking of all the other possibilities that could have occurred. What if Aretha had gone back to Nigeria not knowing she was pregnant? Or what if she had gone back deciding she didn’t want Zach in her life? What if I never had the chance to hold my beautiful grandson in my arms? I continued to be haunted by this, to the point of the anxiety becoming the inspiration for the plot of this novel.

Why Haiti? While searching for a location for this particular story, I was put in touch with an American woman who has been doing work in Haiti for twenty-five years. She’s visited the country fifty times. We talked, and she convinced me that it was the perfect location, that this was an excellent opportunity to tell the story behind the Haitian orphanage situation, as well as shedding some light on the unintended consequences of many of the humanitarian efforts directed at the country.

My biggest takeaway after talking with her? Leading with your heart isn’t necessarily the best way to create positive change. It made me question the way I’d been approaching some of my own humanitarian efforts. And after visiting Haiti? Well, I’ve learned just how complicated things can be. Haiti is such a misunderstood country. But hopefully this story will help people see things just a little more clearly, and inspire them to do some good in a way that actually does good.

Reviews

Island on the Edge of the World Author, Deborah Rodriguez Shares Book Club Questions and How to Help Haiti

Review | Extract

12 December 2019

Island on the Edge of the World Author, Deborah Rodriguez Shares Book Club Questions and How to Help Haiti

    Add to Your Summer Reading List: Read an Extract From Island on the Edge of the World by Deborah Rodriguez

    Review | Extract

    21 November 2019

    Add to Your Summer Reading List: Read an Extract From Island on the Edge of the World by Deborah Rodriguez

      Enthralling and Captivating: A Review of Island on the Edge of the World by Deborah Rodriguez

      Review | Our Review

      12 November 2019

      Enthralling and Captivating: A Review of Island on the Edge of the World by Deborah Rodriguez

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                            Publisher details

                            Island on the Edge of the World
                            Author
                            Deborah Rodriguez
                            Publisher
                            Penguin
                            Genre
                            Fiction
                            Released
                            05 November, 2019

                            Synopsis

                            From the author of the international bestseller The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul, comes a captivating story set in the colourful but chaotic land of Haiti, as four very different women work together to find a lost child.Haiti. A poor country rich in courage, strength and love. As these four women are about to discover.Charlie, the rootless daughter of American missionaries, now working as a hairdresser in Northern California. But the repercussions of a traumatic childhood far from home have left her struggling for her way in life.Bea, Charlie’s eccentric grandmother, who is convinced a reunion with her estranged mother will help Charlie heal.Lizbeth, a Texas widow who has never strayed too far from home. She is on a daunting journey into the unknown, searching for the grandchild she never knew existed.And Senzey, a young Haitian mother dealing with a lifetime of love and loss, who shows them the true meaning of bravery.Together they venture through the teeming, colorful streets of Port-au-Prince, into the worlds of do-gooders doing more harm than good, Vodou practitioners, artists, activists, and everyday Haitian men and women determined to survive against all odds.For Charlie, Bea, Lizbeth and Senzey, life will never be the same again . . .
                            Deborah Rodriguez
                            About the author

                            Deborah Rodriguez

                            Deborah Rodriguez is the author of the international bestseller The Little Coffee Shop Of Kabul. She has also written two memoirs: The Kabul Beauty School, about her life in Afghanistan, and The House on Carnaval Street, on her experiences following her return to America. She spent five years teaching and later directing the Kabul Beauty School, the first modern beauty academy and training salon in Afghanistan.Deborah also owned the Oasis Salon and the Cabul Coffee House, and is the founder of the nonprofit organization Oasis Rescue, which aims to teach women in post-conflict and disaster-stricken areas the art of hairdressing.She currently lives in Mexico.

                            Books by Deborah Rodriguez

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