Today we're talking with Stephen J. McGrane, author of Don’t Sell Grain to a Bird on Credit and More Arab Proverbs
FQ: Why proverbs? Is there something specific that made you want to put these collections together?
All cultures use proverbs but the Arabs use them even more than we do in the West. However, I noticed while living and traveling in the Middle East that there are American or Western proverbs which have the same meaning as many of the Arab proverbs I was hearing. I selected for this book many of those proverbs which we have equivalents to in the West. I also included some which will give the reader special insight into the Arab culture and some that are more humorous.
FQ: Do you have a favorite proverb that has stuck with you all these years?
One of my favorites is, “Proverbs are knowledge of the street.” I like this saying because it shows how proverbs will help you to understand a culture.
FQ: Is there a personal story - a person in your past, perhaps, who offered tips for making better choices, etc., by utilizing proverbs?
I chose all of the proverbs myself but I did have some Arab friends check them to see that I had the wording and meaning correct.
FQ: I saw in the Preface that many friends began sending you proverbs from various countries after your first collection was made. Do you feel that all countries could learn more and understand more about each other if they could simply read the important points that proverbs make?
Yes, I do. Proverbs are a great way to learn about a culture. As the Arabs say, “To understand a people, acquaint yourself with their proverbs.”
FQ: The collection truly shows the faith and love of the Arab culture. Is it your hope that perhaps some bias could be swept aside if people would simply stop judging and start listening to one another?
Faith, love, and family are very important in the Arab culture as you can see from this collection of proverbs. I think these values are important to all cultures and by reading these proverbs you will see that we have a lot in common.
FQ: The illustrations in this book are absolutely amazing and truly fit in with each category. Were you a part of creating or picking them?
The publisher found the illustrator and he did a great job of visually interpreting the proverbs. I gave him a little guidance based on my travels in the Middle East but it was mostly his own work. He also illustrated the first volume, Trust in God but Tie Your Camel.
FQ: Plato, Socrates - these were also men of words. Are you a personal fan of philosophy?
I think philosophy has an important role in society but I have never formally studied it.
FQ: What is the one point you think everyone should remember when it comes to different cultures?
The one thing to remember is that we have a lot in common. That is one of the points of this book.
FQ: I have to say my favorite from this book was under the Education category: “Learn from the cradle to the grave.” Do you feel the next generation and all coming up behind could find peace if education was a focus in their lives?
Education is a good path to peace and it starts by learning about other cultures.
FQ: I want to add here that I read you are a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and I want to take a moment to thank you for everything you’ve done.
Thank you. One of the best things about serving in the U.S. Marine Corps was traveling the world. Now I have the chance to share some of what I have learned. One of the sayings in the book is, “Travel is both school and a picnic,” meaning it is educational and fun. This certainly describes my experiences traveling in the Middle East while in the Marine Corps and after leaving the service. I hope readers will find this book both “school and a picnic.”