Friday, August 04, 2017

The Friend I Never Met


Yesterday the New York Times announced the death of Rula Quawas,  a Jordanian woman, who died at the age of 57. She was a prominent academic and champion of women's rights.

She was my friend.

It came about in a strange way. When she was studying in the United States she did a paper on my first novel, Come Spring. As I recall, she identified with the emotions of a woman coming to a strange land. The feelings common to outsiders is nearly universal, whether they are felt by a student going off to college, a young bride moving to a different state, or even professionals beginning a new job.

Rula specialized in feminism in American literature and founded the Women's Studies Center at the University of Jordan. I was humbled that she included my book on her required reading list.

When I read this article in the Times, I unwrapped the six needlepoint coasters she made for me. I want to display them in my office in a special shadow box. We exchanged Christmas cards and a number of letters.

Her biography is lengthy and a litany of prestigious awards. She received a doctorate in American literature and feminist theory from the University of Texas. In 2013 she was named a Fulbright scholar in residence to the University of Vermont. In 2009 Princes Basma Bint Talai presented her with a Meritorious Honor Award for Leadership and Dedication for her efforts to empower women.

Several times she invited me to come to Jordan and visit. I day-dreamed about the trip but never did. It sounded like an overwhelmingly exotic thing to do.

Novels touch in people in unexpected ways. Who would have thought that the loneliness of a woman on the plains of Western Kansas would strike a common chord with a Jordanian intellectual?

I was very sorry to read about the death of this courageous and inspirational woman.

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