In her debut memoir, Kirchner chronicles the unexpected transformation her life took while living and working in mid-2000s Qatar.
At the age of 35, Kirchner was happily married and working steadily for Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Mellon University. Three months after Kirchner suggested moving to the Middle East for a year so her husband, Geoff, could launch his career as a freelance journalist, they were living there. Having moved often as a child, Kirchner saw the transition as a fresh challenge. Furthermore, she believed the experience could be the couple’s last adventure before settling down to begin their family. Conveniently, Kirchner could accept a marketing director position at Carnegie Mellon’s soon-to-be-opened undergraduate branch in Qatar. Here, she provides a helpful overview of the intersecting political and religious cultures in Qatar, and she starts each chapter with translated Arabic words that foreshadow the content to follow. While Kirchner delved wholeheartedly into the university job meant to support her husband’s journalism dream, Geoff’s presence in Qatar began to dissolve as he seemed to be around less and less. In increasingly heavy foreshadowing of the unfortunate turn her marriage took, Kirchner evokes empathy through the effective communication of her raw emotions. As a result, the issues Kirchner faced, while sometimes obvious in hindsight, become surprising for readers. Meanwhile, Kirchner tirelessly navigated the challenges she faced as a female expat and breadwinner working in a patriarchal society. She found Qatar’s workplace culture to be especially complex, since the country is primarily occupied by a diverse group of foreigners. At times, Kirchner’s detailing of her daily work relationships can be a bit overly detailed and inessential to the narrative. However, through humor and her self-described “friend-dependency,” her internal considerations of her identity in Qatar as a woman, partner and feminist prove worthy of the reader’s patience.
A hopeful read exploring the complexities of navigating cultural and societal expectations abroad.