Greetings sports fans and welcome to the first ever independent edition of Vegas Valley Sports Beat. The little sports column that now stands alone in the wake of the sudden and unexplained demise of Vegasvalleynews.com.
In spite of what may be, I am determined to carry on the name until the ownership figures it all out or hell freezes over.
Given the weather that we’ve been having lately that could very well be tomorrow. But for now, it’s shaping up to be a beautiful day here in the verdant Las Vegas Valley.
So let us turn our attention now to the wide world of literature and today’s featured author, Dr. R.J. Zarkani and her anthology of poems titled Stranger Paths. The magic in the madness poetry collection.
Stranger Paths provides its readers with a unique window on the world of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and the Iraqi war as seen through the eyes of a child growing up in its shadow as war brought stark reality home to her. Literally.
The book is divided into three parts and each one paints its own vivid portrait by dint of RJ’s economic usage of words which invoke those mental images.
Part 1- Of Childhood And War.
This section of Stranger Paths “contains more than 30 poems shining a light on the untold truths of war.” It looks back to RJ’s childhood and the shock of a young girl who discovers that her life has been built on a foundation of lies and propaganda as bombs begin falling and she has to avoid soldiers, barricades, and wild dogs just to get to school.
Part 2- Of Positivity & Philosophy A Spiritual Journey.
The second section of Stranger Paths contains poems that RJ says play with positivity to show the good in the bad and the choice of happiness. Which she hopes will inspire thought and happiness in her readers. Such as this poem which conveys a simple yet profound truth called growing up.
GETTING OLDER By R.J. Zarkani The things you were dying for, Are the things you don’t want anymore.
Part 3- Of Magic And Madness
In the final section of Stranger Paths, RJ writes more about coming to America and the culture shock of trying to find a place within a foreign world where hopefully she can find herself.
I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with, Dr. Zarkani on several occasions and I am still under her magical spell. In the sense that she is a very lovely and personable lady who has been through hell and made it to the other side.
Not only that, she’s a Pharmacologist just like my best friend and mentor, Dr. James Belvin. She also works with juvenile cancer patients in a hospital I helped build years ago. That makes her a super-duper superhero in my book.
After reading her prosaic tale in Stranger Paths she’s even more of a superhero than ever in my estimation because I was born with a tumor on my left eye, and I recently lost my left kidney to cancer. She’s a warrior fighting childhood cancer on the front lines. Physicians diagnose diseases but it is the Pharmacists who actually treat them.
Doctor Zarkani told me that it was her desire to paint visible pictures in the mind of her readers and I can say, for myself at least, that she succeeded admirably. In Stranger Paths, Dr. Zarkani expresses that in her own words: The author wishes to share her story through poetry in hopes to inspire the survivor in you, the reader.
In the starkness and minimalism of the words she utilizes to relate her emotions and the austerity of her simple black and white photographs and pencil illustrations, you get the feeling of being in her shoes. But without a lot of clutter to dilute the vision and cloud the emotional imagery of the thoughts she expresses.
Dr. Zarkani says it best herself:
“I hope you join the child I was, as she stood watching missiles brighten the darkness of her village, smiling as she hopes for a change. I hope you see the positivity leaking through my pages bit by bit as poems continue on. I wish to share the untold story of my people, of the civilians at war, of the children that had no choice but to accept their fate. Our days are numbered but those numbers mean that we have survived so much, that we’re all the same.” – R.J. Zarkani
I got my copy of Stranger Paths on Amazon and I read it nearly all the way through in one sitting. I skipped a few of the poems to get an overall picture of the journey but I read most of them. And I am reading the book right now. As this goes to press, Stranger Paths is the #2 ranked poetry offering on Amazon. I have no doubt that it will soon be at #1.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading Stranger Paths, and I have no doubt that many people will enjoy it just as much as I did. All things considered, I believe that “Stranger Paths” is more than worthy of five of five stars.
Thank you, Doc. Both for sharing your work with me and for being a wonderful friend.