i went to a reading last night for a new anthology called Love, Inshallah.
sadly, i am so broke right now that i can't possibly afford it, but i am SO happy. the response has been positive - and let's be honest - i am also completely thrilled that i am not the only "fallen" muslim woman in the fold.
when was in my late teens, my mother used to say to me, "lots of girls do what you do, of course, they do, but no one else does it so openly, why do you insist on writing about everything so it's all there for everyone to see. people don't like that." when Bombay Talkie came out, i might as well have sewed a scarlet letter on my chest.
so i stood up at the reading and thanked them for taking on the mantle. Alhamdullilah, i am no longer the only muslim woman to write about being divorced.
from what i heard at the reading and on amazon, the anthology cast a wide net from the sacred to the profane and back again. i am so relieved to have all these women on my side. one speaker's statement at the packed reading (at bluestocking books in the lower eastside), paraphrased because i was sitting so far in the back, i couldn't see her (and i don't remember it properly), "my Islam and my God is so loving and compassionate that I know that I am always welcome there... it is a part of me."
exactly how i feel about my relationship with the Divine now. phew. i found my tribe. even though i found them a bit late. they even talked about the woman-led muslim prayer service in nyc that i dragged my daughters to in 2006.
at the end of the reading, where you stand around holding all your stuff as they fold up the chairs, get overheated as you hug your coat and bag in the stuffy room, i was approached by a friendly woman with gorgeous brown eyes and a headscarf. we started talking about divorce. she was divorced, too, with a young son. we shared some stories about how our families and friends reacted to our situations. then she started asking me a lot of questions about my feelings about sexuality post-marriage and as well as the rules i was enforcing for my teenaged daughters. i was a bit taken aback.
i realized that in the exchange, i was the one being judgemental. i was the one assuming that this woman in hijab would be judging my choices so i was hesitant to express them. i felt like she would look at my miniskirt and t-shirt and my daughter and think, "well, this one is going to hell in a handbasket..."
real life's been a series of misunderstandings for me at the moment, so i was tense already and assuming the worst. not the best moment to build bridges. made me think of a conversation i'd had with some friends from the mosque about things that are "haram" (forbidden for muslims). we were at pop burger after a movie screening. it was a playful dinner conversation about what they would like to do if it weren't forbidden. when it came to me, i said, "i already tried everything i wanted to do!" (i meant to add - if i didn't try it, it's because i never wanted to anyway).
i wasn't sure what to tell the lovely woman in hijab in front of me - especially after all my stupid bravado of standing up during the reading and outing myself as a licentious, divorced writer in front of my 13 year-old - so it wasn't like i could play all demure and reticent now.
i tried to wriggle out of the conversation but she held me there and said, "as women, we need to start talking to each other, we need to stop criticizing, stop judging..."
in that instant, i remembered that that was exactly what i'd said all along. she was right. she is right. we need to look past other people's external choices for how they interpret faith. it is about accepting and respecting everyone's practice.
understanding and compassion.
i don't have nearly enough of it. harder still when i am under pressure - but isn't that when it's most important?
and isn't that the reason for the book? reminding us to see our common humanity.
"yes," i told her and gave her my information. "we're all in this together. please call or email me, let's have coffee."