This Ramadan has been hard. The long summer solstice days and deep heat. The nation charged with racial tensions. The obligatory iftars, the late night taraweeh, the early suhoor. The problematic tafsirs with implicit “-isms” that are so triggering. The thirst, the faltering, the not knowing if your piety is enough, and the wondering why piety doesn’t entail feeling more.
It is in this time of chaos and reflection that I choose to write. It’s the only way I know how to calm my mind, to focus my feelings. I know that if I can commit myself to writing one poem every day, that in those words I find healing energy, time to reflect, and a connection with Allah. It is for this reason that every Ramadan I challenge myself to writing a poem daily.
This year marks the second year I’ve hosted an online Poetry a Day for Ramadan virtual writing group. With close to fifty members, the only rule for poets is they must commit to writing daily. They can share if they want to. Just write. Make art.
Two and a half years ago, I left my financially comfortable global marriage for an expired passport and economic uncertainty. It was the saddest and bravest decision I’ve ever made. The US economy teetered in the worst recession since the Great Depression. There was no alimony, and I had not worked in twelve years.
The fear of “what ifs” loomed in monstrous proportions. I had no soft spots to land and no deep-pocketed family members to help me start over. Leaving meant leaping into a terrifying yet potentially poetic abyss.
Marriage had furled me tight. I couldn’t celebrate my complexities, and I longed for a different rapport with my spirituality. I felt like a fat and undesirable failure, and how I experienced my identity within the relationship wasn’t what I wanted to be out in the world.
When you find that you can’t locate yourself in a significant part of your known world, you have a spiritual obligation to make a new map. I jumped wide and fierce into the unseen with no compass.
I started an anonymous, now defunct blog. I had one published book and an anthology essay out in the world, but this secret writing felt unusually invigorating. My hands shook with unspoken truths so badly that I had find release. The words dribbled from my fingers as their own life forms. The writing was raunchy, irreverent, and always deeply personal.
I wrote about everything and everyone, although identities were kept secret. I admitted how I felt undesirable and then documented with questionable discretion the men who proved otherwise. But in those debilitating moments of post-divorce trauma, when nothing seemed to exist except fear and self-loathing, writing offered sanity and empowerment.
Sometimes, the best survival kit is one that includes only hope, prayer, and writing.
Here is a salute to creative selfies!
BuzzFeed recently featured Yasmeen, an American-Muslim’s tongue-in-cheek Tumblr take on being a hijabi in America.
Hailing from California, this eighteen-year-old developed the prefect social media response to those questions: “Is it, like, hot to wear that?” and “Do you take it off to shower?”
The things you learn when writing your first novel:
- Novel-writing is a lonely process.
- Your first novel relies heavily on a blend of things you’ve actually experienced, people you’ve actually known, and your wild imagination.
- God help you, you have no idea what a second novel looks like once you’ve run out of experiences to mine.
- Having imaginary conversations with yourself and with people you know helps with plot breakthroughs.
- Having imaginary conversations with yourself and with people you know will make you look like a crazy person.
- The right triggers will elicit the right memories so vividly, it’s like being in Sherlock Holmes’ Mind Palace.
- Sometimes you will spend hours down a rabbit hole of researching types of farmhouses for sale in Connecticut and their realistic distance to Manhattan in order to get the details right in a scene.
- Sometimes you will spend days on one chapter and it will be complete and utter crap.
- Sometimes, you will spend fifteen minutes on a chapter and it will feel as Minerva emerging fully formed from the head of Jupiter: brilliant and beautiful and powerful.
Veiled Humor is a creative You Tube channel featuring Mona and Dana, who are “two hijabis who want to prove to the world that Muslim women can be funny, intelligent, and religious all at the same time. I don’t see oppressed on that list. Do you?”
Happy Friday, loves!
The Honesty Policy’s video of Pharrell’s “Happy” featuring UK Muslims has taken the world by storm this week. Here’s to joy & creativity. Enjoy & happy Friday 🙂
We are happy to spread the word about a new project by Saba Barnard that includes the numerious diverse faces of American Muslim women. Visit Technicolor Muslimah and consider being part.
Call for Subjects
I was included in a list of beautiful photographs of American Muslim women:
If you scroll down to the comments section, there is a pretty clear and legitimate concern with this list – the women who have been left out.
I spent 16 years in predominately white private schools that were dripping with privilege. But as one of few Muslim females in these environments, I very deeply felt the consistent ache and insecurity of being an “other,” of my lack of privilege.
A few years ago while I was at North Carolina Central University studying Art Education, I took a course called “Diversity and Pedagogy.” We took a “calculate your privilege” quiz, and I remember feeling really angry. Because as I was taking the quiz, as I was learning about the results, I felt that it took away something that had defined me, and suddenly, I was one of them – one of the privileged. I thought that I knew everything about racism, about feeling “othered” and less than… so eventually I stopped talking in class, stopped contributing my self-assumed expertise in the subject, and listened.