The Couscous Chronicles: Stories of Food, Love, and Donkeys from a Life between Cultures (Paperback)
Azzedine Downes moves between cultures, places, and time in this wryly comedic, at times mysterious, and always curious memoir of a lifelong nomad.
The best strategy was to drink tea, smile, and enjoy the frustration of not knowing where the story leads. If time is endless, why rush to the point of a story?
Now an international leader in the fight for animal welfare, Azzedine began his career as a volunteer teacher and later was appointed to leadership in the U.S. Peace Corps. An American Muslim with Irish roots, he's a natural cultural shape-shifter, immersing himself in the cultures of Morocco, Eastern Europe, Northwest Africa, Israel and his native United States. Along the way he befriends the glue-sniffing shoemakers of Fez, becomes the de facto manager of a traveling break-dance troupe, dodges bullets on his daily commute, and finds himself cursed over a feast of couscous gone very, very wrong.
But his most powerful story recounts Azzedine's marriage to an elusive girl from Tangiers. Arranged after only two meetings their love story ultimately spans continents and withstands language barriers, international intrigue, and one very antagonistic State Department bureaucrat.
A labyrinth of tales as complex as its namesake dish, The Couscous Chronicles is for anyone who believes that the only real failure is to remain unchanged and in place, that true love is always a blind leap, and that a good story over a cup of tea holds the power to change one's destiny.
About the Author
Azzedine Downes is the President and CEO of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW). Before joining IFAW, he served as the Chief of Party for the U.S. Agency for International Development in Jerusalem and Morocco, as well as the Acting Regional Director for the U.S. Peace Corps in Eurasia and the Middle East. Fast Company has named Downes one of The 100 Most Creative People in Business. He is a member of the Global Tiger Forum Advisory Council, the Jane Goodall Legacy Foundation’s Council of Hope, and currently sits on the U.S. Trade and Environmental Policy Advisory Committee. He currently lives in Providence, Rhode Island. The Couscous Chronicles is his first book.
"The Couscous Chronicles is one of the most extraordinary and fascinating books I have ever read."
—Jane Goodall, PhD, DBE, ethologist and conservationist
“Azzedine has woven a masterful tapestry of a life lived in faraway places that very few people get to experience or even see. Every page is overflowing with a bouquet of unique characters, diverse cultures, and random humorous events that envelop and capture the senses.”
—Sir Graham Russell, founding member and songwriter for Air Supply
"An often delightful memoir that explores the challenges and possibilities of living among multiple cultures."
Filled with anecdotes, travel tales, and history lessons, The Couscous Chronicles is a memoir that revels in immersive cultural experiences amid powerful personal and global changes.
"Azzedine has lived an inspired life full of adventures and purpose. His accomplishments and impact would make any mother proud!"
—Jon Levy, Founder of The Influencers, New York Times bestselling author of You’re Invited
"Azzedine has an exceptional power of observation, an ability to understand language-embedded traditions that escape most people, and a delightful writing style. This is a terrific book to teach the intricacies of cultural understanding."
—Jody Olsen, Director of the US Peace Corps 2018-2021
"An exceptional life lived by an exceptional person. The Couscous Chronicles is a beautiful book written by a true citizen of the world."
—Ned Benson, filmmaker and producer
"A wonderful collection of stories told with humor, insight, and compassion. I was swept up in a world of travel, culture and rich human experience!"
—Mark Beaudouin, Chair of IFAW Global Board of Directors
"A heartfelt romp through an adventurous life told with wit, poignancy and an observant eye."
—Timothy Jay Smith, award-winning novelist and screenwriter
"This riveting, unforgettable memoir by Azzedine Downes showcases his marvelous perception of humankind. A gifted storyteller with an open heart, he recounts vignettes from his well-traveled years that are both funny and poignant, tender and insightful."
—Martha Reynolds, bestselling author of I Wish I Had a River
“A cross-cutting adventure that juggles many exhilarating elements. With a light touch, the unique voice and wit offers credence to deeper illustrative meanings.”
—H.E. Professor Judi Wakhungu, Kenya Ambassador to France