Marlowe cover


In 2006, Barbara Marlowe of suburban Cleveland filled her coffee cup and sat down to read the Cleveland Plain Dealer. There, she glanced at a photo of a little girl who lived halfway across the globe, in Iraq.

As Barbara recalls in A Brave Face: Two Culture, Two Families, and the Iraqi Girl Who Bound Them Together (Thomas Nelson, 2019), it was the child's eyes that captivated her. They were dark, soulful eyes that belonged to a face covered in scar tissue and with only small tufts of hair on her head.

The young girl, whose name is Teeba, had been the victim of a roadside bomb that had claimed the life of her brother. Barbara felt drawn to the girl who wished for a wig because she had lost the ability to grow hair. So Barbara decided to use her contacts from her work with the charity Wigs for Kids, but what followed turned into a much larger mission than either Barbara or Teeba ever envisioned.

While Barbara's initial idea was to help Teeba receive a wig shipped from the United States, she began thinking on a much larger scale and wondered if Teeba's family would be interested in Teeba receiving reconstructive surgery for her scars.

Barbara then turned to her many friends, family members, and contacts in northeast Ohio to help make this happen. She contacted the Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital in Cleveland and enlisted the help of local health reporter, Monica Robbins, who is familiar to many in the Cleveland area.

Thus began the journey which ultimately led to numerous surgeries and Teeba's legal residence in the U.S. It quickly became clear to Barbara and her husband that this simple idea was turning into a complex endeavor and there would be many roadblocks along the way to overcome.
The story is told from the voices of Barbara, Teeba, and Teeba's mother, Dunia. It takes the reader back to the era of the Iraq War and describes the conditions in Teeba’s hometown in Iraq and the travails of Teeba's family as they lived in the midst of chaos and fear. The family faced a heartbreaking decision in allowing their five-year-old child to travel to a foreign country to an unknown couple’s home in order to seek medical treatment.

A Brave Face is an inspirational story of how these two families and two mothers from different countries, different cultures, different languages, and different faiths became bonded by their love for one little girl. It is also the story of Barbara Marlowe’s faith journey. Barbara chronicles the sense of calling she experienced which caused her to intervene in the life of this child.

The challenges Teeba faced beginning with the initial culture shock after her arrival in America are also described. Her adjustment to a new place and a new lifestyle all while experiencing the fear and pain of multiple medical procedures is truly admirable.

All in all, this is a story of the unstoppable power of family and love.


Published in The Daily Record (Wooster) on October 6, 2019

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