Through the Veil didn't win the Oregon Book Award, but the judge, Kyoko Mori, wrote a lovely review of my book. Mori is the author of the memoir Yarn: Remembering the Way Home (2009). She has also published a book of essays, a memoir, and three novels. Her work has appeared in The American Scholar, The Missouri Review, Harvard Review and elsewhere. Here's what she says about Through the Veil.
In writing about the years she lived in the Middle East, Lisa Ohlen Harris displays her skills as a trained ethnographic observer and as a memoirist. In one single sentence, she can present facts, evoke a sense of irony, build suspense, and communicate the absurdity of the situation: “Carrying that symbol of peace [an olivewood dove from an evangelical Christian bookstore in Jerusalem] wrapped in tissue paper, I came out of the shop and stepped off the curb to avoid an Israeli soldier with machine gun ammunition draped across his chest, like the banner of a beauty queen.” Her portraits of the women she encountered are respectful, empathetic, and yet unflinching. She does not hide her own confusion when a woman who seemed to befriend her seemed puzzlingly distant—only to write to her years later about how her departure had broken her heart. Some things will always remain a mystery, like the blue eyes of the veiled women who surrounded her in a market place in Damascus. The book leaves these mysteries intact while shedding light on all it can. In addition to the compelling portraits it offers, the book’s ultimate strength is in its ability to imagine and understand how the American narrator might have come across to the people she encountered.