MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. – Navy Capt. Edward Zellem, director of Resources and Requirements Division at U.S. Central Command’s intelligence office, recently earned awards for two books he wrote.
Zarbul Masalha: 151 Afghan Dari Proverb, his first book, earned a gold medal in the 2013 Military Writers Society of America Book Awards. Afghan Proverbs Illustrated, his second book, took top honors at the 21st Annual Writer's Digest Self-Published Book Awards.
Zarbul Masalah, published in 2011, is a collection of 151 traditional proverbs he collected and translated during his time embedded with the Afghans from 2009 to 2011. Afghan Proverbs Illustrated, published in 2012, is second edition of Zarbul Masalah.
Zellem began collecting and translating proverbs as a hobby he took up while he was deployed. He now hopes his book(s) will help bridge the gaps in cultural communication for those who read it.
“One of the messages I hope people take from this book is that people all over the world aren’t as different as people think. Most people, and certainly average families, want the same basic things and think the same thoughts no matter what their religion, culture or national origin is,” continues to be Zellem’s message in the books.
In an effort to capture the beauty of their culture, Zellem reached out to the art program of a local high school in Kabul to create illustrations for the book. Zellem reviewed more than 200 illustration proposals by art students before selecting the 50 he used in the books. After he selected the illustrations, his collection became his first book. He used many of the same illustrations in Afghan Proverbs Illustrated.
Zellem has translated Afghan Proverbs Illustrated into six languages, with two more in progress. With the success he’s had with his book until now, his goal of creating a global army of Paremiologists [academics engaged in the scientific study of Proverbs] and writing a proverbs book in every language to enhance cross-cultural communication hasn’t changed.
In addition to being an accomplished author, Zellem is also a decorated naval officer. Zellem earned his commission in 1987 as a Naval Intelligence Officer. His personal awards include a Defense Superior Service Medal, three Defense Meritorious Service Medals, two Meritorious Service Medals, a NATO Meritorious Service Medal, three Navy Commendation Medals, and a Joint Service Achievement Medal.
Zellem attended the University of Virginia on a football scholarship earning All Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Academic Team honors and a bachelor’s in Foreign Affairs. He has also earned three master’s degrees.