Kati Woronka (a researcher, humanitarian worker, professor, consultant, faith worker) has lived in many places and traveled to many more, doing what she calls “CulturTwining” – interacting with people of different cultures and discovering their stories. Growing up in Brazil with parents who serve with OC International, Kati has since lived in the Sudan, Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, Kosvo, East Timor, Haiti, Jordan, England and the U.S. This mixing of cultures has expanded her worldview and given her the opportunity to hear captivating stories.
Syria stole Kati’s heart when she moved there in 2001 to study Arabic in Damascus. While in Syria she lived in the university dorms for one year. Her experience there, coupled with her master’s thesis research, inspired her to write her novel Dreams in the Medina.
Dreams in the Medina is a coming of age story revolving around four young Syrian women from different regions in Syria, backgrounds, and religions. Kati based her characters on women she met while living there. Three of the young women are Muslim, but of different sects, while one girl is Christian. Of the four, the reader follows Leila the closest. Leila, a Muslim from a small village, came to the University of Damascus to study English literature. Two factors change Leila’s world from a narrow perspective to a broader one – reading her course work and the relationships she builds with the other three characters.
Throughout the story, the reader discovers how the girls breakdown their cultural and religious barriers to become a family. “It is a picture of community I think God intends for us,” say Kati. Different personalities and different perspectives come together in times of celebration and times of crisis, leaning on one another for support.
As is common in many books, authors reveal aspects of themselves in their characters; Kati identifies her own personality in her characters. “Growing up as a TCK (third culture kid), I have often felt like an outsider,” she says. “I have learned to jump into things and ask people questions to understand them.” As this is something so natural to Kati, her characters take on this quality as well. The reader gains a better connection with the girls because of Kati’s ability to have them ask questions, which helps them better understand one another.
The Syrian civil war, erupting in 2011, inspired Kati to publish Dreams in the Medina with the hopes of shedding light on a different side of Syria – the pre-war lives of young Syrian students. Several customer reviews have raved about Dreams in the Medina and its ability to bring a human face to a misunderstood nation. “We grow to imagine they could be our own friends,” says Lisa Evans, blogger and book reviewer at Lisanotes.blogspot.com. “And thus we make the leap to care about the real people who are alive now in Syria, who are fleeing or fighting or grieving, in this very moment.” Cathy Hoffman, arts and entertainment writer for examiner.com says of the book, “As news of conflicts in Syria and other Middle Eastern countries filter to readers in the United States, Dreams in the Medina succeeds in offering another perspective on this culture.” The book brings a sense of human emotion and experience to this devastating situation.
Kati is currently working on a sequel to Dreams in the Medina. “In 2013, the opportunity to see first-hand the humanitarian response and how Syrian volunteers are working to support the needs of the truly desperate in their communities inspired me to write a sequel,” says Kati. She wants to portray the four characters as their lives may be during this time, and she wants to tell the untold story the media is missing. She plans on highlighting how all religious groups in Syria have come together to serve during this conflict along with other relief efforts happening around the nation.
For the last 10 years, Kati has been on a journey of self discovery as she blends her faith, humanitarian work, and research and teaching. As the story of these girls in the medina unfold, the reader also peeks into Kati’s world and her global perspective.
You can order Dreams in the Medina at amazon.com or wherever e-books are sold.
Would you like to give to support the community outreach and other projects in this area of the world?