Elsewhere, Home

I absolutely loved this collection of short stories about people who straddle cultures or homes in different countries and how difficult that is. Some of the stories deal with major life events, but others are about quiet, everyday moments and how being half this and half that and living half here and half there affects even those moments. The majority of the characters are Egyptian or Sudanese women living in England or Scotland. 

This is a must-read book for expats, third-culture kids, or anyone who dreads being asked “Where are you from?” But it also speaks to the way that all of us struggle with belonging, especially when we’re between belonging to our family completely and forging out on our own. 

“Summer Maze” is my favorite story, and it is the closest words on a page have ever come to mirroring my life. It follows an English daughter and her Egyptian mother as they travel to Cairo to spend the summer. It was the little things in this story that got to me: the crazy amounts of luggage Egyptians travel with, the weird, almost surreal relationships you forge with relatives you see only once a year, and being able to order whatever you want at Pizza Hut because the meat is all halal. The story is told first from the daughter’s point of view and then from the mother’s. It’s about expectations, but it’s also about each woman being torn in half by their mixed identities and double homes. There is a poignant moment where the daughter is delighted to see an English couple and hear their accent while sightseeing because she is feeling rather homesick. But when she finally catches their eyes, they see an Egyptian girl. They are surprised by her English and compliment her on it. She belongs to many identities, but none of those identities accept her into their fold fully. Her mother, meanwhile, is as homeless as her daughter: by leaving Egypt, she has fallen behind the times and the culture, and her sister tells her, that’s not how we do it anymore. By leaving home, she lost touch with it, but she doesn’t quite belong to the new place either.

My other favorites were “The Boy from the Kebab Shop” (about a non-practicing Muslim student who meets a boy at a fundraiser and starts to rethink her life) and “Pages of Fruit” (a woman’s second-person narration to a writer she spends years admiring).

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Thank you to NetGalley and Grove Atlantic for an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Find it here: Goodreads | Grove Atlantic | Amazon.com | Book Depository

The Quran and its Study

The Quran and its Study is an exhaustive textbook on the sciences of the Quran, or the discipline known as ulum al-Quran. It was written by Adnan Zarzour and translated by Adil Salahi (the author of the famous biography Muhammad: Man and Prophet).  Weighing in at more than 500 pages, this tome is carefully organized and is probably best suited to serve as a textbook or a reference book for students of the Quran and Islamic studies. The contents are divided into chapters, sections, and subsections that are carefully numbered and named. It is easy to locate specific topics and then to peruse the headings and subheadings of each chapter to find an exact point or opinion. View Post

Unmarriageable

If we women decide to marry according to standards, then we are gold diggers, but when you weigh us in terms of looks and chasteness, then you’re just being smart. I can’t stand these double standards.

I have frequently thought about the similarities between Jane Austen’s regency era and Muslim life, so I’m always glad to see an Austen reboot with a Muslim spin. Unfortunately, I found the Muslim representation in Soniah Kamal’s Unmarriageable offensive and the writing mediocre. View Post

Signs on the Earth

There are too many of us now wanting much, much more than past generations. Contentment is now a scarce commodity.

Corruption has appeared in the land and sea,
for that men’s own hands have earned,
that He (Allah) may let them taste some part of that which they have done,
that perhaps they may return. (Quran, 30:41)

Signs on the Earth: Islam, Modernity and the Climate Crisis is a wake-up call and a call to action by one of the world’s leading Muslim environmentalists—Fazlun M. Khalid. Khalid tells the story of how money, power, and culture have created the current environmental crisis. While this book is full of information specifically about climate change and other topics, where it really shines is as a beginner’s text to talk about the interconnectedness of environmental issues, world economics, and world hegemony. For example, the development of modern day banking and colonialism (from the 1500s until today) are two of the major topics Khalid contextualizes in relation to the catastrophe that is our management of the Earth. Khalid even tackles the fact that I just alluded to the “management” of the Earth: we have dissociated ourselves from nature in order to rule over it. In reality, we are a part of nature and cannot survive separate from it. Quranic verses throughout the fact-heavy text show that environmentalism is as much a part of Islam as we are a part of the Earth. View Post

Escape from Syria

Escape from Syria, written by Samya Kullab and illustrated and colored by Jackie Roche and Mike Freiheit, is a graphic novel following the journey of a girl and her family from their home in Syria to a refugee camp in Lebanon to resettlement in Canada. View Post