What’s On Your Nightstand: Nadia Hashimi

What's On Your Nightstand-From Left to Write

After raving about The Pearl That Broke Its Shell last week, I reached out to author Nadia Hashimi to share what’s on her nightstand. It also turns out that she lives in the same state as I do. What a small world the internet can be, especially for us book nerds! Did you know that Nadia is a pediatrician by day? Multi-passionate people unite!

Nadia Hashimi

My nightstand is a very real source for inspiration, information and procrastination. 

I’m currently reading Barbara Kingsolver’s Flight Behavior.  She creates magic with words and I love the way she gives her characters such depth that you feel like you can reach out and touch them.  

I’ve also started Nushin Arbabzadah’s Afghan Rumour Bazaar.  It’s an irreverent look at Afghan society and the nuances that color our culture.  It’s always helpful for me to read how other Afghans have interpreted the history that created our identity.  She has a unique voice and does not shy from any matter in her book. 

The Pearl That Broke Its Shell by Nadia Hashimi

I keep a copy of my own book on my nightstand as well as motivation while I work hard on finishing my final round of revisions on my second story. 

My debut novel, The Pearl That Broke Its Shell, is a fictional tale of two Afghan women who live a century apart.  They are linked by blood and by a life that pushes them to dress as a male if they want a chance at survival.  It’s my way of exploring the implications of gender and war on Afghan girls and women and I’ve been so thrilled and humbled to hear the discussions it has stimulated.   

Thank you for sharing what’s on your nightstand Nadia! You can follow Nadia at her website, Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.




Review: Yes, Chef by Marcus Samuelsson

Yes, Chef by Marcus Samuelsson audiobook

Four days ago, I finished the audiobook Yes, Chef by Marcus Samuelsson, but I cannot stop thinking about it. Samuelsson’s voice still runs in a constant loop in my head. His eloquent words bounce around my mind as I recall how he spoke of his his inspiration, his journey, and his ambition. I’ve read many books and it’s rare that one sticks with me for so long.

I knew a little bit about Samuelsson’s life before reading his memoir. I first heard of him while watching Top Chef Masters, a favorite reality show of mine. Soon after he was named the season 2 winner, I met him at BlogHer in 2010. I was drawn to his story: Ethiopian born, Samuelsson and his older sister were adopted by Swedish parents. My children, while not adopted, are biracial, and I was fascinated by the dichotomy of Samuelsson’s life. My children will probably face similar challenges as they straddle their different cultures and races.

Thien-Kim cooking with Chef Marcus Samuelsson

Yes, Chef opens with Samuelsson’s memory of his Ethiopian mother, who was one of many tragedies in a tuberculosis epidemic that hit Ethiopia. Both he and his sister were stricken but survived. Samuelsson doesn’t mince words as he describes how life must have been for his mother, yet his calm, strong voice hit me hard:

I have never seen a picture of my mother.

I have traveled to her homeland, my homeland, dozens of times. I have met her brothers and sisters. I have found my birth father and eight half brothers and sisters I didn’t know I had. I have my met my mother’s relatives in Ethiopia, but when I ask them to describe my mother, they throw out generalities. “She was nice,” they tell me. “She was pretty.” “She was smart.” Nice, pretty, smart. The words seem meaningless, except the last is a clue because even today, in rural Ethiopia, girls are not encouraged to go to school.”

(You can listen Samuelsson read the opening chapter on Audible.)

Samuelsson shares his journey with complete honesty. He’s a chef, so of course the text is peppered with expletives that are probably thrown around in restaurant kitchens. His observations of race and of being black as he travels throughout Europe and America are gut wrenching because there is truth to them.  Being black in the restaurant business was almost as bad as being female, but Samuelsson didn’t let the racism stop his ambition. In fact, he aimed to prove that he was the best, no matter his skin color.

The topics he covers in his memoir are weighty but he adds levity in the right places. I found myself laughing out loud throughout the book. I”m sure my fellow Amtrak passengers thought I was crazy!

Samuelsson’s curiosity about food and flavors combined with his extensive travel has given him a unique view on cooking.  This is evidenced by the recipes in his cookbook New American Table. He wants to create more than food that tastes good, but he aims to build restaurants and dishes that create and build community, just like the Red Rooster in Harlem, NY.

I highly recommend getting the audiobook so you can hear him tell his own story. My only regret is not purchasing a print copy to read in tandem with the audiobook. There are many passages that I would have highlighted or made notes next to.

Even if you’re not a foodie like me, you’ll enjoy Yes, Chef by Marcus Samuelsson.

For a more personal post about how Marcus Samuelsson’s memoir inspired me, head to my blog I’m Not the Nanny.

50 Authors Celebrate Summer With Original Stories on Biographile

I recently learned about Biographile, the Penguin Random House website dedicated to biography, memoir, and truth in fiction. It looks like a great site to read about new and distinguished authors, inspiration, and the craft of writing. Currently, the site is in the midst of That Summer, a month-long series celebrating the magic of summer. Every day in […]

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Summer Reading Challenge Check-In Week #3

From Left to Write Summer Reading Challenge

Holy, moly! We’ve just wrapped up Week #3 of Summer Reading Challenge for Adults!  It’s never too late join, so head over to the main challenge page to sign-up. Those who sign-up via the form are eligible for prizes you can only win via our challenge newsletter. (Make sure you read today’s newsletter!) I confess I hit […]

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What’s On Your Nightstand: Lauren Francis-Sharma

Lauren Francis-Sharma Nightstand

Social media has made it so easy to chat with authors. I was thrilled when Lauren Francis-Sharma responded to my tweet about her book  , which I recently reviewed. I was nosy curious to hear what she’s reading, so I asked her to share what’s on her nightstand. My nightstand is actually a desk. I moved […]

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Book Review: The Pearl That Broke Its Shell

The Pearl That Broke Its Shell by Nadia Hashimi

Thanks for the great response to my post yesterday about diverse books for adults! I’m putting my money where my mouth is and want to tell you about a book I recently fell in love with. My knowledge about life in Afghanistan was limited to news blurbs and short website articles. This all changed when […]

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