The Nayir Sharqi-Katya Hijazi Series
Finding Nouf, City of Veils, and Kingdom of Strangers are riveting literary mysteries that offer an intimate glimpse into Saudi society. Scroll down for reading group guides, photo galleries, and links to interviews about the series.
WHAT INSPIRED ME
When I was 20, I met and fell in love with a man from Saudi Arabia.
We married and had a daughter, and when she was still an infant, we went to Jeddah to visit his family.
I arrived at the airport in some kind of purple witchy cloak—the closest thing San Francisco could offer to an abaaya at the time—I believe it had pentacles and black cats on it. I was completely clueless.
What should have been a two-week stay turned into a months-long odyssey of cultural immersion in the Jeddah of the early 90s. I returned a changed person. Saudi opened the shell of my mind to a new understanding of culture, religion, history, politics, and family.
My husband and I eventually separated, and I spent the next ten years as a single mother constantly explaining my daughter’s background to a mystified American population. Very few people knew the basics about Saudi, and what they did know was often distorted by stereotype. Every time I’d have one of these conversations, I’d think: someone should write a book about Saudi.
No one wrote the book.
Eventually, I decided to write it myself.
What I wanted was to re-create a world I knew and loved. To give readers a portal into that world that would tear down the negative stereotypes Americans tended to have about Saudi and replace them with living stories, with the truly complex experience of being inside a living culture, with all of its surprises and contradictions.
I didn’t set out to write a mystery novel. I came to it through my character, Nayir.
He's a devout Muslim man, a Palestinian Jeddawi and desert guide, who has no way of arranging a marriage for himself but who wants marriage and family almost more than anything else. Part of what blocks him is feeling unable to talk to women, and I needed a situation for him that would push him out of his comfort zone. For him, that had to be something morally compelling enough, something that would trump his virtues of modesty and restraint, and murder seemed like a reasonable choice. A friend’s sister is found dead in the desert, and Nayir wants to find out what happened. His determination for justice leads him right into an awkward relationship with Katya Hijazi, a young, open-minded forensic tech who is also keen to solve the crime--and who really can't stand men like Nayir.
The result was Finding Nouf, my 2008 debut novel. It went on to be published in 45 countries and to win numerous accolades and awards. I followed this with two more novels in the series: City of Veils and Kingdom of Strangers. See below for details on each of the books.
"Exhilarating. Ferraris masterfully captures the nuances of the Saudi culture and its women, while brilliantly exposing the conflict between tradition and desire."—Mahbod Seraji, Author of Rooftops of Tehran
"Taut and intelligent, set against a troubling backdrop of brutality, oppression and searing desert heat."—Anne Zouroudi, Author of The Messenger of Athens
"A marvelous book. Ferraris demonstrates the instinctive authority of both an elegant stylist and a born storyteller."—David Corbett, Author of Do They Know I'm Running?
Finding Nouf, planting roots: A nomadic author comes home to the Presidio with a debut novel
San Francisco Chronicle
Unveiling Islam Today: PW Talks with Zoë Ferraris
Crime and Conundrum: After realizing how little Westerners knew about Saudi Arabia, author Zoë Ferraris decided to weave a tale and dispel some myths
The Dubai National
A Conversation with Zoë Ferraris
Envisioning Herself as a Saudi Man
STEELE Interviews: Author Zoë Ferraris
Uncovering Life Behind the Burqa: Interview with Zoë Ferraris
The Invisible Hero: A Conversation Between Zoë Ferraris and David Corbett
Mystery Novel Gives Insight into the Ban on Men
John Scalzi's whatever.com
Uncovering Life Behind the Burqa
Christian Science Monitor
An Interview with Zoë Ferraris
Author Conversations: Bestselling Mystery Writer Zoë Ferraris
Thor News: Supplier of Norwegian Culture
And here is one of the only video interviews I've ever done. I was pressured into it by my Danish editor, who is now my husband, which hopefully explains that. The interview is in English, because Danes can do that.
Interview med Zoë Ferraris (Bogvaegten)
Book Notes: A Musical Playlist for City of Veils