Readers Write

Germantown Academy Bookies, Fort Washington, PA

We are a book club of retired teachers who enjoy catching up with one another’s lives as well as discussing intriguing books. Since the Covid pandemic began, we have been connecting monthly via Zoom, a boon to those who are no longer local and can now join us. 

One of our members suggested Alesa Lightbourne’s The Kurdish Bike as our September read and we were not disappointed. It is a fascinating retelling of the author’s adventures as a teacher in a small village in Kurdistan and an amazing introduction into the Kurdish culture. When we serendipitously discovered that Alesa participates in book group discussions, we invited her to join us and the special dimension her participation added was truly wonderful. We were able to see the actual characters and locations described in the book with a superb power point presentation and then had the opportunity to discuss the book with its brilliant author. We enthusiastically recommend both the book and Alesa’s kindness in making herself available to interested readers.

~ Emily Wagner, Germantown Academy Bookies, Fort Washington, PA

Bookworms Book Club in Paphos, Cyprus, discussing The Kurdish Bike on zoom.
Dear Alesa,
 
Greetings from the Bookworms Book Club based in Paphos, Cyprus. It’s a club that has now been going for over twenty years and still has some of its original members. What we have in common is that we are all ex pats who have all chosen to travel, live and work overseas; when we discuss a book we can draw on many experiences from Europe, Africa, Asia, the Middle East, the West Indies and North America.It is great fun! The Kurdish Bike was a perfect book for us.
 
Yesterday we had a lock-down Zoom meeting to discuss your book and we wanted  you to know how very much we all enjoyed it. Your passion for the Kurdish culture was immediately clear and we found your writing compelling. It is a compliment to you if I tell you that it was very difficult indeed to keep our discussion strictly to the book! Your experiences in Kurdistan sparked so much debate about living overseas and the success, or sometimes failure, in feeling part of the local culture. One of us found your description of the dividing line in the staff room apt and amusing from personal experience, a radiographer had experience of transvaginal ultrasound and the effects of FGM, and we all had thoughts about the effects of war, the status of women in society and what motivates us to seek out new experiences and knowledge about different cultures.
 
We thoroughly disliked the Rabinowitz character and Theresa’s partial acceptance of him. Is the character based on someone you knew? If he is not fictional, please would you tell us what has happened to him now? We wondered why Theresa allowed him to invade her personal space?
 
I’m attaching a photo of our Zoom meeting yesterday where five members were in Cyprus and two in the UK.
We look forward to the opportunity to read more of your fiction writing,
 
With best wishes
Judith Cartwright
 
 
Dear Alesa,Screen Shot 2020-01-22 at 9.22.13 AM
 
I cannot thank you enough for your presentation this morning at our book club, for writing your book, and for working in the Middle East.  You have made a genuine impact in “closed” communities, to students, and to women around the planet.  
 
I go on trips for pleasure, you go to serve humanity.  I taught school, you changed thinking and opened hearts.  I ride my bike to try to encourage other people to ride, you ride to encourage woman to be more independent.  I ride to avoid driving the car, you ride to show women that they can drive themselves.  I read books about people who are adventurers, you are the adventurer.  I am blown away by people who do all the work it takes to write a book, you spent the time and energy to write, revise, make an audio, publish, create power point and web site, host speaking engagements.  I cringe hearing about violence, poverty, “cutting”, war, oppression, repression, injustice, you are involved, helpful, generous, a living example, experiencing first hand, making a difference, .  You are honest, humble, unpretentious, talented, professional.  Your awards are well deserved.  You effect the world in a grass roots way.  Your book will change lives and be a living legacy.  Thank you, thank you!
 
Kind Regards,
Rebecca Kleis
Aptos, CA

Life is like riding a bicycle, keep moving and you’ll stay balanced.

Screen Shot 2018-11-07 at 8.19.36 PMOur group, The Bookeez, really enjoyed The Kurdish Bike and all of the information in it. We had an especially thought-provoking discussion after experiencing/reading it. We also had a Kurdish brunch during our discussion, where we made recipes from your website and dressed up according to the spirit of the book. It was one of our best book club meetings ever!

~ Robin Hurewitz, Monroe, New Jersey

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Dear Alesa,Screen Shot 2018-10-08 at 5.36.56 PM

Thank you so much for coming to the October meeting of the Santa Cruz County AAUW Evening Book Group’s discussion of The Kurdish Bike and sharing the real life experiences behind the book. Your illustrated talk was so interesting, and, of course, it was loads of fun dressing up in those elegant and sparkly Kurdish “special occasion” dresses.

Needless to say, we greatly admire your adventurous spirit, your commitment as a teacher, your efforts to enlarge our understanding of the unique history, culture and people of Kurdistan, and your efforts to provide meaningful ongoing assistance and support to the people of “your” village

~ Joan Schwimmer and the Santa Cruz Evening “Bookies”

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Dear Alesa:

Thank you  for taking the time to Skype with our book club this evening. It was a real treat for all of us to “meet” you and hear your life’s story. Our members are still talking about the event.

We will be sure to spread the word about your awesome book – to put in our reviews and anxiously await seeing A Kurdish Bike up on the big screen!

~  Liz Ray, Mt. Vernon, VA

 
Screen Shot 2018-10-04 at 11.54.29 AM
Members of the Southwood Bookclub Points North and South in Virginia served a Kurdish-themed dinner and posed with a real Blue Angel bicycle for their Skype presentation with the author. They all live on farms previously owned by George Washington.
 
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Dear Alesa,
 
While returning from our honeymoon in Iceland, we passed through Toronto on the way home. Our book club had selected the Kurdish Bike for our September reading, so I brought the book along, and had it in my hand when boarding the plane. A lady passed me in the aisle, pointed to the book and said, “That’s a great read. I loved the book, and I even got to meet the author!”
 
After refreshments, I found the lady again. She explained that she met you at a book club and heard about the real-life experiences on which the novel is based. I shared all this with my friend and co-founder of our Pearl Earring bookclub after returning home. We found your contact information, and were delighted that you agreed to come to our club.
 
What a wonderful evening it was. We laughed, learned, and felt really close to the Kurds and teaching community you were part of. The Kurdish food we shared, the open dialog, the colorful photos and the local outfits made the story come even more to life.
 
Thanks, Alesa, for sharing a wonderful evening with us. Beyond the story, we felt connected to the real people and culture behind the story, and were touched by your resilience, delightful story telling, and insights into the Kurdish culture you lived. I felt like I was right with you on your journey, facing challenges with you!
 
~ Elsbeth TeBrake, Los Altos, CA
 
20180821_183047
Members of the Pearl Earring Book Club in Los Altos, CA, enjoying Kurdish food catered from Urfa Bistro Mediterranean Restaurant. Elsbeth is at far left, and founder Margriet De Lange is in the foreground.

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Hi, Alesa. I just recently finished The Kurdish Bike, and I want you to know that it was one of the best books I’ve read in years. I loved a number of different aspects of it: the character development, the ease of the read, and the way you balanced humor and seriousness. Oh, yes, and the breadth of the vocabulary. About a decade ago, I had a near-perfect score on the verbal section of the GRE, and I must’ve looked up 40-50 words while reading your novel! Anyway, I just wanted to say thank you for sharing your gift with us. I often looked forward to curling up with that book at the end of long and challenging days. Hope you’re finding your current labors rewarding, too!  Warmly, Tom Meredith, Wernersville PA



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