I would not recommend The Importance of Paris as a beach read, but I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in the fragile political, economic, and social issues that continue to flare up in the Middle East. Author Davidson moved to the Middle East with her family as a young girl. During her many years abroad, she established numerous significant friendships and connections. Some of these she has maintained to the present time. Her memoir details three strands of personal biography, woven together as one long braid that keeps her connected, at least in her mind and heart, to Paris, the Middle East, and her birthplace in the United States.
I learned in the book why Beirut is known as the “Paris of the Middle East” and why spending a significant portion of her time in Paris in the ’80s was a necessary component of her attempt to make sense of all that she had experienced by that point in her life. She used Paris as a place to process relationships with her family of origin, her search for meaning and identity as a young adult out on her own in the world, and her entry into a career.
One strand of her autobiography details her experiences searching for the right significant man with whom to share her life. She gives the reader glimpse into the confusing and complicated realities of love and all the emotions that accompany.
Another strand details Davidson’s efforts to secure an interview with Lebanese model Georgiana Rizk, the 1971 Miss Universe. Rizk’s husband was assassinated and Davidson hoped to write a book about what happened. Her memoir details the struggle to get Rizk to honor her promises to work with Davidson on a book. This strand also details other aspects of Davidson’s entry into the work world as a journalist and cross-cultural management trainer.
The third strand details insights into unresolved family issues and the challenges of sustaining international cross-cultural friendships. Because of her experiences as an American who spent her formative years away from the States, Davidson is well prepared and qualified to help others navigate cross-cultural situations.
The author obviously knows a great deal about her topic. It took me longer than I anticipated to finish the book because she included so many details about food, fashion, geography, and the personality quirks of people she encountered. However, I am glad I did read to the end.
Davidson offers good insights into what we must do to live together peacefully on this one planet we all share. I come away from her book with new insights and respect for those in and from the Middle East. I recommend this book for those who seek to travel beyond the borders of the United States, or who wish to befriend internationals living in our neighborhoods.
[Ed: The reviewer is acquainted with the author, but has given an honest review.]