Columbia-based author Keija Parssinen knows what it's like to not quite fit in.
The writer, whose book "The Ruins of Us" is the 2013 One Read selection for the Daniel Boone Regional Library, was born in Saudi Arabia and lived there until she was 12, when her expatriate parents returned to the U.S. She spoke with a group of about 20 students at William Woods University Monday in the first of several One Read programs in Fulton and Columbia on her experience as a "third culture kid" - children who accompany their parents into another society.
"I grew up there, but I can't say I'm Saudi Arabian," Parssinen said. "I couldn't say I'm full American, but I'm not Saudi."
That culture clash and her experience as a third culture kid were the inspirations for "The Ruins of Us," a novel about an American expatriate, Rosalie, whose Saudi husband takes a second wife. Rosalie's 16-year-old son Faisal, struggling to reconcile his mixed heritage, falls in line with an increasingly radicalized sheikh in a country experiencing a surge of anti-American sentiment in the wake of 9-11, and her 14-year-old daughter Miriam who resists traditional rules regarding clothing and roles for women by wearing an eggplant-colored abaya.