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The Kurdish Bike

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  1,311 ratings  ·  173 reviews
This provocative and heart-warming novel, based on a true story, follows an American teacher whose values are challenged in an Iraqi village in 2010.

"Courageous teachers wanted to rebuild war-torn nation." With her marriage over and life gone flat, Theresa Turner responds to an online ad, and lands at a school in Kurdish Iraq. Befriended by a widow in a nearby village, The
Paperback, Paperback and Kindle, 323 pages
Published July 22nd 2016 by Alesa Lightbourne (first published 2016)
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Alesa Almost everything actually happened -- if not to me, then to someone I knew. Some of the timelines had to be adjusted to fit, and some of the real peo…moreAlmost everything actually happened -- if not to me, then to someone I knew. Some of the timelines had to be adjusted to fit, and some of the real people had to be combined to make a reasonable number of characters in the book. However, the cultural elements are all factual. Sad, but true. Which is why part of the proceeds of the book go to help Bezma and her child.(less)
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Average rating 3.92  · 
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 ·  1,311 ratings  ·  173 reviews

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Jul 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: cultural
The Kurdish Bike is the narrative account of an American teacher’s journey to Kurdish Iraq. Although entering Iraq as a teacher, Theresa leaves having learned more than expected.
On her journey, she immerses the readers into the Kurdish culture. It takes Theresa a while to adapt to the new environment and culture, but after purchasing a bike she is able to acclimate more rapidly.

To her surprise, she experiences but a small taste of the caste system primarily through a Kurdish woman that she bec
Donna LaValley
Aug 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I’m so happy to discover another author I completely enjoy. This book gets 5 stars for multiple reasons. First, it’s a debut novel of literary fiction, and to create an excellent book the first time in this genre deserves big applause.

Second, the story is based on experiences the author had while teaching English in Kurdistan. The characters are melds of people she knew at the time. The whole comes together as very real, so real that the reader feels s/he knows the characters too, and wants to f
Martha Bratton
Apr 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
All my preconceptions of this book said "stay away"--self published book, the topic is bound to be depressing. But those were wrong. I've worked as an editor, and this book has none of the shortcomings of many self-published books. It's carefully conceived and executed, so there's not one distracting nit in it's publication.

Depressing? No. Scary? Yep. But all the scary bits show Theresa's courage and commitment to her values. I admire her willingness to take risks for the sake of making somebody
Ron Firsk
Mar 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The Kurdish Bike works on many levels. Billed as a novel, it has the direct feeling and intensity of a memoir- which the afterword reveals it in some part is. This is a deeply personal story of connections between people from very different cultures, their strong affection and profound differences. In particular, the ways in which women in both American and Kurdish societies deal with the burdens placed on them by their societies- particularly by males- are illustrated with subtlety and insight. ...more
Oct 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The Kurdish Bike recounts the experiences of Theresa Turner, an American teacher who takes up a teaching job in Iraqi Kurdistan. In addition to financial troubles and emotional baggage from a previously failed marriage, Theresa's new environment proves to be challenging, made even more daunting by her new school's rigid guidelines. Determined to make the most of this new chapter in her life, Theresa gets herself a blue bike and sets about exploring a nearby village. She befriends a local mother- ...more
Biruk Saladin
Nov 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
One of the best books I have read. Perfectly written, easy to follow. Very Authentic due to the fact that the author doesn't show even slightest form of cultural bias and just tell things as they are. It is a kind of books that takes you to the set, so real that you don't see yourself as an observer but as a part of the story. The comparison between the lives of Kurdish women and an America woman is very interesting. It transcended cultural barriers and shows that being a women is difficult whet ...more
Bhagya Shree
Jun 16, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Deep and insightful !
Daring to Do!

An unusual story set in Northern Iraq where divorced teacher, Theresa Turner takes on a stint of teaching in a ultra conservative school, the International Academy of Kurdistan, for the upper echelon in the far reaches of Kurdistan in 2010.
Somewhere between a novel and a memoir, I was fascinated by Theresa's purchase of a bike and steps towards exploring the culture she was working within. Her developing relationships with the women of the village is a jewel. Her entree into their h
Jill Dobbe
Nov 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a fascinating read for me and one that I could very much relate to, as an overseas educator. Based on Lightbourne's own experiences of teaching in a school in Iraq, I thoroughly enjoyed her depictions of the students, administrators of the school, and the personalities of her fellow teachers. Her story about befriending an Iraqi family, what I believe was the fictional part of the book, was woven in nicely giving the book another dimension, while portraying what it is like to be a femal ...more
May 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
I’m half-Kurdish, so I appreciated this investigation into Kurdish culture and circumstance. I especially enjoyed the juxtapostion of western-thinking against Kurdish values and ideals, specifically in regards to feminism. It was done respectfully - contrasts in ideologies were highlighted with neither championed as “superior” over the other. The conversation between Theresa and Houda on FGM contextualizes this; Theresa can not reconcile the act, and Houda patiently explains to her it’s rational ...more
Erin Robb
May 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The Kurdish Bike was an enthralling, lyrical novel that shared a perspective rarely portrayed in modern literature. The writing absorbed me. Not only did I imagine myself as the American protagonist, but I entered the minds and hearts of the Kurdish women whom the protagonist befriends. Now when I read the news about Iraq and Syria and the Kurds, I see more than a barrage of foreign sounding names and places and numbers. I see people. Thank you, Alesa, for this gift.
Jocelyn mel
Mar 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Kurdish Bike - wonderful novella about teaching middle school students in Iraq amidst poverty and unfamiliar customs and oddball ex-pat teacher/colleagues. I liked the narrator's voice and I liked learning about this small neighborhood so very distant from the ones I'm familiar with. It's a good read.
Amanda Madany
Feb 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Wonderful book! The story follows Miss Turner as she learns to navigate the impossible rules of the Academy and learn about the life of Kurds. This book shows how language is a barrier that can be broken down. I really enjoyed the story and the inner dialogue of the protagonist.
Aug 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audible, boom, 2018
Teaching in Iraqi Kurdistan.
I really enjoyed this audio version of The Kurdish Bike, a novel based on the author's experiences as an expat teacher in Iraqi Kurdistan.

The main character, Theresa, is an older, mature teacher, who has been through a messy divorce and decides to up-sticks to somewhere completely new to her. To have an adventure and escape from old memories. The job in Northern Iraq looks like the perfect opportunity.
Once in Kurdistan, she goes against protocol and buys a bike, then
Leroy Erickson
Aug 24, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Sections of this book were good, but there were so many things that were absolutely stupid. Her former husband treated his first wife horribly in their divorce, but she's surprised when he does the same thing to her. After the divorce she keeps her accounts in the same bank that she had when she was married, and then is surprised when the bank takes her money to pay her former husband's debts. Her Kurdish friend is noticeably gaining weight in the stomach and breasts before the wedding, so she m ...more
Aug 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
What a great read, and a fantastic adventure! It’s a 4.5 for sure.
The teacher in me is totally enchanted by the idea of packing up my skills and setting out for horizons unknown. What a wonderful challenge to teach and, just as important, to learn from people in faraway places. Soaking in and sharing in the cultures of distant lands.... Then reality hits. The rose-coloured glasses come off and romantic notions are replaced by conflicting values, political unrest, economic uncertainty and social
Neil Penso
My book club has both men and women in it, with people living in several different countries. We all raved about this book. We kept wondering how much of it is true -- because practically everything seems true. In parts it was funny. In other parts it was unbearably sad. It's super easy to read, but also has a lot of classy literary touches that makes me think it's going to become a best seller. I want to read more from this amazing author!
Jane Fowler
Nov 23, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this, and found the "factual" depiction of life in a Kurd village very enlightening. This is a story set up for an epilogue, and I hope so. I enjoyed the cast of characters, and how each of them came to be at "The Fortress;" and one learns that no matter where you go, there you are....baggage and all.
Donna Bijas
May 25, 2019 rated it it was ok
Was not a fan of this one at all. Best part was being done with it.
May 25, 2019 rated it liked it
The Kurdish Bike shares the experiences of one down-on-her luck American teacher, seeking to assuage her personal dilemmas through teaching English to nationals in post war torn Kurdistan.

It relates a plethora of (possibly too many?) cultural and personal clashes, ultimately posing the question of why private citizens would volunteer to spend their time and effort where initial aspirations and hope of making a difference are so often slashed by reality - the harshness of the environment, the re
Sep 05, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was not a memoir but based upon the author’s experience teaching in Kurdistan in 2010. The writing was okay and the book offered was seemed to be a realistic view into a complex culture.
Oct 03, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting book with some wonderful parts. Worth the read and ought to make for a good F2F book club gathering.
Dec 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
Readers rated this book 3.95 of 962 readers. I concur. I recommend this book although the author notes, at the end, that the book is mostly based on her experience, but not entirely, hence the "fiction" category. Now I wonder, what was true and what not or exaggerated. Guess I should have paid more attention to that before I drove in. Oh well, still really enjoyed.
Karen Muncy
Apr 29, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great read if you want to learn about the Iraqi culture post sadam, specifically regarding treatment of girls/women.
May 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: middle-east
I loved this book. Books having to do with the Middle East always interest me. This is a region that the author says is “older than the flood.” It is a land that has been ruled at one time or another by the Assyrians, the Sumerians, Akkadians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Parthians, Romans, Islamic Arabs, Mongols, and Ottomans. I was really enthralled with this part of the book.
The protagonist Theresa is an American teacher working in Iraqi Kurdistan. Unlike the other expat teachers assigned
Pat Hanson
Feb 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing

Review THE KURDISH BIKE by Alesa Lightbourne

Not only do I rank this novel among the top 10 of all I’ve read, I just was gifted at my book club with an in-person slide show presentation by the author on “The Real Story,” complete with maps, an outline of the history of the area, photos of the characters (all names changed) she depicted so vividly, both in the private school she taught at in Kurdish Iraq in 2010, and the extended family she befriends and visited weekly in the novel and twice sinc
Rich Vicenti
Oct 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing

Timely Must Read – perfect for book groups

I was really impressed with the Kurdish Bike. It is a good read, well written, paced, and draws you into the awesome story of a woman teacher from the Northwest struggling with culture, sticky teaching challenges, and the realities of the Kurdish people. At the midway point in the book, I couldn’t put it down, and stayed up late reading, which I rarely do.

The book provides a glimpse into the human impacts of Saddam Hussein’s reign of terror on the Kurdis
Kathie I
Dec 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The Kurdish Bike does what all good books should do: allows you to escape your present life and become immersed in a world unlike your own. I felt like I was right there with narrator Theresa Turner living through her experiences as they unfolded in this desolate part of the world that so few of us know or understand.

This is a remarkable story about life in an area of the Mideast that has suffered through the ravages of war and left it's people poverty stricken and disenfranchised. A story that
Aug 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
What a delightful read. And Lesa provides a first-person (and personal) insight into a part of the world that is far away from us, both geographically and emotionally. If one has never had an experience of living and working in an environment that, for most of us, would be unfamiliar and unsettling in its differences, this story helps us build just the smallest bridge between our comfortable daily lives and that of a different culture. The efforts of this small group of expats living in a war-to ...more
Mary Pat Spon
Jan 14, 2019 rated it it was ok
I have to admit I was torn as to how to rate this one. So many of the events seemed far-fetched, like the former teacher, Binny, returning out of the blue and leaving a crate of supposed explosives in her bedroom because he still had a key to the apartment. His character development was thin, at best, but I’d have to say the same for many of the other characters.
The way the author describes her Kurdish friends seems shallow. So many missed opportunities to develop the experiences among the women
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Alesa Lightbourne has been an English professor and teacher in six countries, lived on a sailboat, dined with Bedouins, and written for Fortune 50 companies. She lives close to Monterey Bay in California, where she loves to boogie board and ride a bicycle.

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