Lisa Ohlen Harris shared a household with her mother-in-law, Jeanne, for seven years. When Jeanne’s health deteriorated due to COPD, Harris became one of 65 million American family caregivers. The two women grew so intertwined that Harris began to feel she herself was the one fading away.


Harris helped Jeanne file an advance directive specifying that no extraordinary measures were to be taken to preserve life. As they navigated the healthcare system in Jeanne’s final months, Harris and her mother-in-law realized that an advance directive is not as clear and controlled as it seems. End of life issues involve a series of small decisions—sneaky ones, with no big drama—and life support is already established before any one big decision is made.


In The Fifth Season, Harris’s recounting of those years poignantly reveals the difficulties of caring for an elderly parent while raising four young children in an extended family household.


Chronicling that last season of love and struggle as she grappled with ethical convictions and personality clashes, Harris finds her way through conflicted emotions to a place of compassion and peace.

In Damascus, a Muslim woman rises before dawn and performs a ritual washing before covering her head in prayer. A Kurdish man smiles with interest at the American researcher visiting his niece, but over time his smile turns to disapproval. A student from Damascus University invites her American friend home to break the fast and stay overnight in the village. 


As part of an ethnographic research team in the 1990s, Lisa Ohlen Harris was able to see the true face of Damascus. A few years later, she returned to live in Jordan with her husband and small child. In Through the Veil, Harris provides a long and honest look at scenes usually hidden from Western eyes. The essays collected here dispel stereotypes, focusing on the real people of the Middle East.

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