Deonna Kelli Sayed interviews writer Patricia Dunn, author of the YA novel, Rebels by Accident, in this episode of Love, Inshallah’s author interview podcast.
(Track listing: “Ala Warag il Ful” and “Drum Solo” by Zikrayat. Music in this podcast is found at Free Music Archive: Middle East.)
Sixteen year old Egyptian-American Mariam just wants the normal teenage American high school experiences. After she is busted at a party with her best friend, Deanna — a party the police break up — Mariam’s parents decide to send her to Egypt to spend time with her grandmother, Sittu. Mariam arrives days before the Arab Spring and finds her grandmother to be far more of a delight than she expected (Sittu is a political blogger and Facebook aficionado). Mariam returns to her roots and unearths family secrets, discovers romance, and finally realizes the power of her voice.
Huffington Post hails the work as the next best YA novel, and Rebels by Accident is long-listed for the 2015 Teen Choice Book Awards. Voting ends February 2nd, and you don’t have to be a teen to vote! Cast your ballot here.
Read more by Pat on our site, here!
Writer Krista Bremer met Ismail fifteen years ago on a North Carolina running trail. A romantic relationship developed through an unexpected pregnancy, eventual marriage, and subsequent spiritual growth. Krista’s recent memoir, My Accidental Jihad, details her jump into the deep space of marriage and an unexpected faith journey.
Deonna Kelli Sayed speaks with Krista and Ismail — “Ish” for short — about the bicultural nature of all marriages, Krista’s writing process, and her evolving spiritual journey.
The division of labor in our household is wildly disproportionate whenever we are trying to get out the door. I get everything and everyone ready. If we’re traveling, I pack. Picnics, I pack. Dinner invitations, I pick out everyone’s clothes and prepare a dish to share. Birthday parties, I buy the gift and wrap it. And, maybe I’ll throw in a load of laundry, take out the trash, and clean the kitchen. My husband, Hadi, has his list, too: He gets himself ready and loads up the car if I haven’t gotten to it first.
We’ve been married for seventeen years, but these moments can still fill my mind with the words always and never. Hadi is always late. He never helps us get ready. I always have to do everything all by myself. I never get to take my time getting ready so I always look like a harried mess.
Most of the time, Hadi knows what I am thinking. “I’m in trouble, aren’t I?” he’ll say as we’re getting into the car. Sometimes I say, “Yes,” and spew every frustration that comes with doing too much for too many people. Sometimes, I fume wordlessly, a quiet grump in the front seat. But on better days, I remember this truth: The very thing I hate about my spouse in one context is the same thing I love in another.
I became Muslim in my early 20s. During those early years, I would entertain myself on nights when I couldn’t fall asleep by conjuring a story where a mythical creature occupied the rural family cemetery beside my childhood home. This idea actually started with something I dreamt involving an early explorer to America who had lost his way. Somehow, in his travels through out the New World, he slipped through a portal that would later become a traditional grave house over the oldest marked plot.
This creature was a Muslim from some undisclosed foreign land, and he’d fallen through the cracks of time and space while exploring the uncharted territory of early America (where all things were possible, including bending the nature of reality). Occasionally, he would pop into my contemporary world from another dimension.
I’d often find him perched on a high limb of a fragrant and large magnolia tree in the middle of the cemetery. In my story, there were rumors of his existence –like a Bigfoot sometimes spotted by hunters — but he remained an unconfirmed myth. I existed as the only person he trusted.
This imagined character was my attempt to create a narrative that linked my identity as a Muslim to the very different experience of growing up as a Southern Baptist. And as silly as the story felt, it provided one example of how imagination – creative third space — offers the ability to rescript our place in the world.
Alas, my conjuring wasn’t so fantastical. Five hundred years ago, a Muslim’s feet may have touched my ancestral land. His name was Mustafa, and Laila Lalami writes his story in the new novel, The Moor’s Account.
Order Irene’s new collection, the galaxy of origins. Scroll down for audio.
what’s your name the heavy chimes clot the hours in the air and my blood asks, do bones carry future memories in their marrows? waiting for a face that is a mirror, I turn the page of a tome that lists only my name my name my name. tonight each cicada sings its name, the only one it knows, and when I stepped out the door this morning and a chipmunk slammed into my shoe, it couldn’t remember its name for a moment. our eyes met – I blurted sorry, sweetie! its name I did not know an emptiness arching around my tongue as if to know and say it could undo our small collision.
Irène Mathieu is a writer and medical student at Vanderbilt University. Before medical school she studied International Relations at the College of William and Mary and completed a Fulbright Fellowship in the Dominican Republic. Irène’s poetry, prose, and photography have been published or are forthcoming in The Caribbean Writer, the Lindenwood Review, Muzzle Magazine, qarrtsiluni, Extract(s), So to Speak, Diverse Voices Quarterly, Journal of General Internal Medicine, Love Insha’Allah, Los Angeles Review, Callaloo Journal, HEArt Journal, and elsewhere. She has been a Pushcart Prize nominee and a Callaloo fellow. Her poetry chapbook the galaxy of origins was published in 2014 by Dancing Girl Press. You can read her blog and follow her on Twitter.