Cultures Without Borders
Cultures Without Borders
From Beirut to Washington, D.C.
Perfect Bound Softcover
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I have never met anyone who so adeptly mixes academics, philosophy, technical know-how, advocacy, and common sense like May Rihani. I have watched with awe as she has applied her unique set of skills and made a difference in the lives of women and girls around the world.


Stephanie Funk, USAID Mission Director, Zimbabwe



May Rihani’s book is proof of the emptiness of three stereotypes: she challenges the idea that Arab women are submissive, that there are no democracies in the Middle East, and the notion of a “clash of civilizations.” Her life demonstrates global leadership by a Lebanese Arab woman, and her memoir describes a golden age in Lebanon when democracy and freedom of expression were taken for granted. Perhaps most importantly, Cultures Without Borders finds the common ground among cultures despite apparent differences. This is an eyewitness account of the rich and profound goodness in humanity.


H.E. Amine Gemayel, former President of Lebanon



Weaving between poetry and politics; evoking the intimacy of family and the openness of public service; at once struggling for local girls’ education/poverty alleviation and negotiating with World Bank and UN officers; laboring every day for economic development for women and yet running high romance with Romeo lovers; conversing equally with illiterate village friends and global leaders – May Rihani invites us into a Lebanese and American garden throbbing with its unfolding mystery; enchanted by fragrances of East, West and South; and exhilarated by the empowering possibility of a life lived fully every moment and yet always with an eye to the possibilities ahead.  She humbles, she empowers, she inspires.


Suad Joseph, Distinguished Research Professor, University of California, Davis



Cultures Without Borders contains important lessons for all those who aspire to live as productive global citizens in the twenty-first century. On the macro level, May Rihani’s book demonstrates the falsity of the “clash of civilizations” theory that posits inevitable conflict between peoples of differing cultures. Instead, through personal anecdotes and authoritative evidence drawn from real-world experiences, she demonstrates the universality of the impulse to transcend frontiers of the mind and connect peacefully with “the other” through education and dialogue.


Suheil Bushrui, Professor Emeritus, University of Maryland

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May Rihani is a pioneer in girls’ education and a tireless advocate of women’s rights. She served as co-chair of the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI) between 2008 and 2010. Her seminal book, Keeping the Promise, is a framework for advancing girls’ education that is used by global organizations.

Her knowledge on the subject is drawn from years of experience designing and implementing programs in more than 40 countries in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East for a range of donor agencies, including the U.S. Agency for International Development, UNICEF, the World Bank, as well as private and corporate foundations such as GE and ExxonMobil.

With reports of abduction and assassination of girls in Nigeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries for the sin of seeking an education, May Rihani’s work could not be more relevant or timely. She has faced and firmly talked down hardboiled Afghan leaders and respectfully argued with uncompromising male community elders in African, Asian, and Middle Eastern countries using their values to gain their support for programs that would improve educational opportunities for girls. In the U.S., she has played an important part in increasing our awareness of the challenges young women around the world face by testifying on Capitol Hill, and by contributing to the docudrama, Girl Rising produced by Ten Times Ten that aired on CNN in 2013.

Born and raised by remarkable parents in Lebanon during that country’s “golden years,” May Rihani is a woman whose full life is dedicated to helping girls and women take charge of their lives. She is able to do this while remaining feminine and in love with life and beauty. She is recognized in her country and the Middle East as an out of the box thinker and poet with three volumes of poetry to her credit.

Cultures Without Borders is the story of a unique woman who has found and embraced the Other within herself.


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