Rachel Pieh Jones

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So far Rachel Pieh Jones has created 679 blog entries.

The Bookshelf, August 2019

The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You, by Elaine Aron.Any HSPs out there? Pretty sure there’s one right here.

The Blue Jay’s Dance: a memoir of early motherhood, by Louise Erdrich

The Butterfly Mosque,by G. Willow Wilson, a young American woman converts (reverts) to Islam, moves to Egypt, and falls in love with an Egyptian. I appreciated hearing her story of faith and her story of adjusting to all that she gained and lost, by embracing Egypt.

I confess, that’s it.

I’m in the USA, land of no peace or quiet, land of breakneck pace of life, land of no end of things to do or people to talk to, land of just one more person I want to get coffee with, land of no darn time to read. This, for an HSP, is stressful, but I know a breather is coming. We’ll go back to Djibouti and then I’ll complain about nothing interesting to do and feeling lonely. #expatlifetruth


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(all links go to my Amazon Associates page)

Help, Thanks, Wow, by Anne Lamott

Blue Nights, by Joan Didion

Two powerhouse female writers, right there. I loved both of these books.

What are you reading?

Headshots. Schmeadshots.

I love having my photo taken.


I am all about makeup and cute clothes.


It is super easy to smile and look natural while also looking cute and smart and interesting and trying not to look like the dorky, nerdy, clueless person I am.



I had new headshots taken.

I wanted a picture that makes someone think, “Oh, hey! I bet that lady wrote a great book. I would really like to read that book. I would really like to sit down with her over coffee and talk about the things she writes. She looks like someone I can trust, someone welcoming.” I kind of also wanted to look like someone who vacillates between wild hope and desperate cynicism. Not sure that came across but that’s where I sit, swinging between those two extremes and wishing that I could just settle into the happy middle. That’s what, I think, you’ll find in a lot of what I write.

The old pics were almost seven years old. In those seven years, schtuff happened. Schtuff that continued to develop both the hope and the cynicism.

I got cancer. Took it out. It came back. I graduated two out of three of my children. They haven’t come back (yet). I got more wrinkles, lost a lot of hair, developed new scars. Started to get more of those weird bumps that just pop out with age and also some of those funny red dots. What are they anyway?

Jessica Lee Gardner took the pics. We took them at Villa Camille, the cutest new cafe in Djibouti. I didn’t sweat through my shirt until we were nearly done. We did have to stop a few times to wipe the sweat that was dripping, dripping I tell you!, off my face from the exertion of sitting still and moving my face muscles.

Ah, the natural Djibouti glow.

It is funny, the things you know and notice about your own face that probably no one else even thinks about. I have to be careful of curls boinging out at strange angles so as to avoid looking like I have horns. I can see my scar in some of the pictures, depending on how my head is tilted or if I swallowed right when she snapped. I see the veins and lines and they all tell the story of me. Jessica said she didn’t notice any of these things and never even thought about the scar. So. We are all vain and we should all knock it off because no one else cares.

Here are a couple, you might see a variety of them in all the places we writers put our faces.

And if you are in Djibouti and want some pictures taken, Jessica is amazing. Check her out here.



By |August 14th, 2019|Categories: Uncategorized|Tags: , , |Comments Off on Headshots. Schmeadshots.

Stronger than Death, Book Cover Reveal!

I wrote a book.

I’ve actually written many books, from the cloth-covered book about animals running a race I wrote in elementary school, to the several novels that are completed and gathering dust on my hard drives (for very good reasons!), to my self-published books the Djiboutilicious cookbook, Finding Home, and two editions of Welcome to Djibouti.

This coming book has been the work of my heart for almost five years. It is the biography of Annalena Tonelli, a woman who faced disease, terrorism, massacres, lonely isolation, and chose love over fear.

“People would call her a doctor, a missionary, and a nun. And they would call her a saint… Should Annalena be made into a saint? That was how I thought of her, at first. I only knew the high points in Annalena’s life. I knew nothing of the dark valleys, her secret and controversial compromise. I knew she had accomplished something remarkable, something about tuberculosis but also about love and faith…”

It is the product of collaboration with Matt Erickson, so many people I interviewed all over the world, those I followed and pestered, and the Plough Publishing team.

A few months ago I shared the book cover in my Stories from the Horn newsletter.

Now, I want to share the cover here, too.

You may have already seen it, if you’ve visited the Plough, Indiebound, or Amazon, but let’s make this the formal “cover reveal”.

Are cover reveal parties a thing? Like for pregnant moms and gender reveal parties? I feel like they should be, with balloons and a cake a fireworks. Well…oh well.

There is so much I want to tell you about the book, like who endorsed it and some behind the scenes stuff. Like how I’ve been changed through this project. Like how it feels to write a book while dealing with cancer. Like all the ways this book connects to current issues from Ebola to cross cultural relationships and humanitarian aid, to conquering fear and talking about race and faith. I love the way this woman turns these conversations upside down in surprising, even shocking ways.

But for now, here’s the cover! No drama, no explosions, no band playing in the background. Just me and my excited little heart.

(Number 1 new release in Kenyan History!)

You can preorder it here




What could be stronger than death? Only a love bigger than fear and bigger than hate. We need this message more than ever.

The Bookshelf, August 2019. Doing Good, Adoption, Somali poetry


Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth, by Warsan Shire








I’ll let her words speak for themselves, here is some of her poetry:

Home, by Warsan Shire

no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark.

you only run for the border
when you see the whole city
running as well.

your neighbours running faster
than you, the boy you went to school with
who kissed you dizzy behind
the old tin factory is
holding a gun bigger than his body,
you only leave home
when home won’t let you stay…

Strangers Drowning: Impossible Idealism, Drastic Choices, and the Urge to Help, by Larissa Macfarquhar

I loved this book. As a person who often feels the urge to help and who makes what others see as drastic choices (though not even close to as drastic as the people in this book!), I was curious. She writes about the lives of people who are not widely known and who have made incredible, sometimes questionable, choices in the name of doing good. And, she examines the entire enterprise of do-gooding (doing good?) and explores the idea of it being harmful, instead of helpful. The book goes beyond a critique of things like the White Savior Complex or Helping Without Hurting into WHY some are compelled to do good and WHY that might be problematic. The title is based off a philosophical question along the lines of: if your child were drowning and five strangers were drowning, which are you morally obligated to save? The one or the many? And what does your answer say about you and your values and way of being in the world? Fascinating.


The Faith of Other Men, by Wilfred Cantwell Smith, published in 1963

This book explores several different faiths and makes a valiant attempt at seeing them from their own perspective. Which of course is ultimately impossible, both for an outsider and to try and impose one perspective on things that have such wide interpretations even from insiders. But, it is fascinating and I enjoyed his respectful position.

Many Thorns, Yet Still Roses, by Jessie Gallaher

This is about a couple who adopted a sibling set of five, each of whom came into their family with significant development, health, and trauma issues. It is a book to read if you or someone you love has made a similar choice. It isn’t a book to read if you’re looking for a well-written book. For one thing, she uses too many exclamation points(!). Also, I find the cheeriness a bit grating, but I’m learning that I like dark more than I’d like to admit. Also, it is just plain too long. As a book. But, that said, I still highly recommend this book if, like I said, you or someone you love has made a similar choice. I have kids like this in my life and because I love them and the family they are in, I want to be educated, informed, compassionate, empathetic, and not a burden or a pain or a snooty know-it-all.

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What are you reading?

The Bookshelf July 2019

The Wave, by Sonali Deraniyagala. This book just destroyed me. It was on the list of 50 best memoirs that the New York Times put out and I read it in a day. It is the shattering story of when Sonali lost her entire family in a tsunami. Husband. Two children. Mother. Father. She writes of the tsunami, of the aftermath, of trying to breathe and trying to live. The writing is sharp and piercing and it is impossible to read and impossible to stop reading.

Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change, by Pema Chodron. A lovely book about learning to live with struggle and pain and how to hold it all. It comes from Buddhist ideas and if that’s not your jam, there are still plenty of rich insights to glean, which is how I read it. There is a lot of of uncertainty and change in my life, in all of our lives, and it was good for me to think about how I respond to these things and how I can improve those responses.

H is for Hawk, by Helen Macdonald. I wanted to love this book, it was also on the list of 50 best memoirs. And some parts of it, I adored. The way she writes about hawks is powerful and descriptive and moves beyond birds into the realm of life. But at the same time, I have a lot of books to read and things to do and it moved a bit slowly. But I’m also super impatient. If you like a slow, moving, beautiful read, this is a great book.

A Sense of Place: Great Travel Writers Talk about Their Craft, Lives, and Imagination, by Michael Shapiro. Loved this. Interview style, and all kinds of insights into identity, writing, travel, and humanity. Really fun for anyone who wants to write about travel especially.

What are you reading?

*all links go to my amazon page, from which I earn pennies, which goes toward running this website and my Stories from the Horn newsletter.