Beyond Our Degrees of Separation by Judith Ravin

Beyond Our Degrees of Separation by Judith Ravin and Muhammad Hassan Miraj

four stars

beyondBeyond Our Degrees of Separation: Washington Monsoons and Islamabad Blues by Judith Ravin and Muhammad Hassan Miraj follows the intermittent intertwining and unraveling of two lives that seemingly could not be more disparate. This memoir, centered around an American woman who finds herself in the thick of Pakistan and a Pakistani man who happens to be a U.S.-trained member of the Pakistani military, demonstrates the unbelievable serendipity of fate and confronts some of the most pressing social issues of our time. As Miraj points out at the outset of the book, “We are nothing but the stories we tell and the stories we live,” and in laying out his life story as it intermingles with Ravin’s, he illustrates exactly this principle. Each tale, told largely separately through alternating perspectives in different chapters, beautifully speaks to the intricately woven nature of reality. The authors’ paths should not, by all rights, have crossed as much as they did, but it was for that reason that they felt compelled to share their experiences. In traversing the globe and immersing themselves in other cultures, they discovered that—despite the myriad warnings against interfaith harmony—the world is both far smaller than we like to imagine and much richer than we could ever have dreamed. By the end of their journeys, they’ve come to endure painful losses, traverse the tricky realities of a world marred by terrorism, but also revel in the awesome power of connection and delight in the levity of a life shared across borders.

Poignant beyond words, this memoir weaves its disparate stories through delicate prose that most closely resembles poetry. Each sentence masterfully captures a moment, a sentiment, an idea—and brings each to life in unfathomable ways. Beyond Our Degrees of Separation bears infinite re-readings for the sheer beauty of its writing, and even more for its devastatingly gorgeous messages about the universality of the human experience. No matter the distance, no matter the cultural separations: we are all in this together—this message rings loud and clear throughout the pages of the memoir. If you have any inkling of wanderlust, this memoir may just quench your thirst for adventure without ever leaving the confines of your reading nook. In exploring the intersection between two vastly different worlds, Beyond Our Degrees of Separation proves that we all experience loss, heartache, joy, love, and triumph in much the same ways. It only takes recognizing the threads that bind us together in order to fully appreciate the impossible intricacy and immutable beauty of the world: all of which this truly remarkable book encapsulates.

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