Local author's 'The Ruins of Us' selected as One Read book

Monday, May 20, 2013 | 8:20 p.m. CDT; updated 3:59 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, May 21, 2013

COLUMBIA — Local author Keija Parssinen's first novel, "The Ruins of Us," was chosen Monday as this year's One Read winner, according to a news release from the Daniel Boone Regional Library.

Parssinen lives in Columbia and works as director of the Quarry Heights Writers' Workshop, a community for Columbia's creative writers.

Community members suggested more than 140 books for this year's One Read program, and the reading panel narrowed the list by focusing on whether the book encourages discussion, appeals to a diverse audience, is widely available and is applicable to different programs conducted by the Daniel Boone Regional Library.

The programs, which integrate music, movies and dance, will be decided in July.

The book is available at Columbia Public Library, Callaway County Public Library, Southern Boone County Public Library and Bookmobile stops.

For One Read's 12th year, the reading panel selected Yannick Murphy's "The Call" and Parssinen's novel for a final community vote.

Mitzi St. John, spokeswoman for the library, said "The Ruins of Us" was a "clear favorite."

"The votes came in strong," St. John said.

"The Ruins of Us" is about an American expatriate named Rosalie who is married to a Saudi man, Abdullah al-Baylani. Once Rosalie discovers her husband's marriage to a second wife, a Palestinian beauty named Isra, she considers leaving the husband she loves and the country she calls home. However, leaving will not be an easy feat considering the country's restrictions on women and her children's needs for her guidance, according to One Read's website.

Parssinen was born in Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia, in 1980 and moved to the United States in 1992 after her father retired, Parssinen said. Because Saudi Arabia has strict visa laws, she couldn't easily go back to the country.

Parssinen returned to Saudi Arabia once in 2008 for research purposes. Before then, she had only a child-like perspective of Saudi Arabia, a perspective that was shaken after Sept. 11, she said.

Parssinen began writing the novel in 2005, hoping to gain a better understanding of Saudi Arabia, but she said returning "destroyed her naivete about the country." Prior to writing the book, Parssinen missed the naive view she had of Saudi Arabia, however, she said she believes it's dangerous to overly romanticize places.

"Ignorance is bliss, but it's still ignorance," she said.

Parssinen wants her readers to see that Americans and Saudis share values and beliefs about family; culture isn't black or white.

"We as human beings exist in the gray area," Parssinen said.

Supervising editor is Shaina Cavazos.

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