Deborah Rodriguez, author of international bestseller The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul has written her fifth book. The Zanzibar Wife is an enchanting story of diverse cultures and powerful women, following the experiences of three interesting women in Oman.
Deborah’s two non-fiction and three fiction books have been inspired by her personal experiences of living in an array of spectacular countries, including America, Afghanistan and Mexico. In many of these countries she has been involved in humanitarian work.
Now living in Mazatlán, Mexico, Deborah has established Project Mariposa, which provides funding for young women to attend beauty school, helping them become financially independent.
Deborah shares with us her inspiring endeavours in the culturally diverse and stunning countries she has lived in.
You’ve lived in many countries including America, Afghanistan and Mexico. Which country has been your favourite to live in and why?
I also lived in the Bahamas for a little while. It’s hard to say which one is my favourite because they were all my favourite at the time. The Bahamas was hard because I lived in a tent with no running water or electricity, with two small children. I love the United States because that is my motherland. Mexico is spicy and full of noise and flavour, and the people are easy-going and friendly. But I do believe my heart will always belong to Afghanistan, because of the amazing people and the gorgeous countryside.
You’re currently living in Mazatlán, Mexico. What are your top five places to visit here?
Of course the number one needs to be Tippy Toes – my little spa! But besides that, my top five places are:
1. Centro Historico
2. Plaza Machado
3. Olas Altas and the Malacon
4. Stone Island
5. Immaculate Conception Cathedral
In many of the countries you lived in you were involved in humanitarian work, what do you think has been your biggest accomplishment so far?
I would have to say the Kabul Beauty School. I still do a lot of training in Mexico, and I will do that for the rest of my life, but the hardest and biggest accomplishment was in Afghanistan.
What are your top three holiday reads?
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty, The Break by Marian Keys, and The Woolgrower’s Companion by Joy Rhoades.
How did your experiences when living in Afghanistan influence the books you wrote?
My eyes opened when I was in Afghanistan. It was the first time in my life that I felt I needed to write everything down. Each moment of my life felt so outrageous, and often so hard to process. The stories of the people were so heartbreaking and heroic all at the same time. I got into the habit of documenting everything – not for a book, but so that I would never forget. This habit has stayed with me, and I still do it today.
Your new book, The Zanzibar Wife, explores the relationship between the east and the west. Have you found it difficult to be a Western woman in an Eastern country?
I personally have never found living in or working in or visiting Middle Eastern or Central Asian countries to be difficult. In fact, I find it just the opposite. I love the hospitality of these amazing cultures. I always do my best to understand a culture and respect it in my behaviour and attire. I find that by showing respect, you get respect. I am not careless in my travels, and always have a strong sense of security. But I think that is wise any place you travel. Once in a while someone tries to engage with me about American politics. I never talk about politics while travelling, and really try never to talk about it at all.
The Zanzibar Wife is a fiction novel, but how much of it was inspired by your own personal experiences whilst living in the Middle East?
I always do a lot of research when I am writing a book. My real life experiences while researching in Oman and Zanzibar are definitely part of the book. I don’t think I can write a book that will come alive on the page without having personally experienced many of the stories on the page.
You’ve written five books, three fiction and two non-fiction. Do you have a favourite?
That’s like asking a mother of five to pick their favourite child, I love them all equally!