Book Review: “Bestest. Ramadan. Ever.” by Medeia Sharif

“Bestest. Ramadan. Ever.” by Medeia Sharif

It has been through reading books about characters struggling to reconcile their bicultural identities that I’ve been able to validate my own experience. Two years ago, there was no way I would’ve talked about it. I was embarrassed that I couldn’t articulate how I felt and why. I mean, seriously, “Who doesn’t know who they are?” That was until I picked up several books with a common thread running through them: characters teetering between two cultures. Examples of these are Victor Villaseñor’s Burro Genius, Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, An Na’s A Step from Heaven, Tanuja Desai Hidier’s Born Confused, Julia Alvarez’s How The Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents and Alice Walker’s The Color Purple.

BESTEST. RAMADAN. EVER. by Kurdish-American author Medeia Sharif piqued my interest in 2009 because I’d never read anything written from the perspective of a fifteen-year-old Muslim-American teenager.  I wondered about her experience when the American and Muslim cultures are so different. How might she struggle?

In a lot of ways, Almira Abdul is like any other teenager: she wants to fit in. Her story is set in culturally diverse Miami, where she attends an exclusive high-school. Her father’s a well-known dentist, her mother a stay-at-home-mom. It’s only the first day of Ramadan, “the month God revealed the Koran to Muhammed,” and she’s already starving, because you see … it’s her first time fasting.

My family is halfway religious — we do most things, not everything, Islamic. Let’s just say holiness has tapered off through the generations. My grandparents follow Islam to the tee, my parents are pretty religious (they pray frequently, but not every day), and I’m sort of religious. I pray once in a while, and I’ve been to a mosque only twice in my life …

Almira is a combination of naivete, snark and intelligence. She’s also not free of her own preconceptions when she makes assumptions about a new Muslim girl who moves to her school. Her life gets further complicated when she develops a crush on a non-Muslim boy who her best-friend also likes. In the end, she has to make some decisions that could put her at odds with her family.

B.R.E. is a light and humorous view into the life of a young girl struggling to remain true to her own ideals while honoring her family’s culture and traditions during the holy month of Ramadan. I think what’s important to remember is that this book is written from the perspective of a “Muslim-American.” Set aside any preconceived ideas and assumptions about what you “think” that should look like.

Be sure to come back on Wednesday, when Medeia answers a few questions about her novel. We will also be giving away a signed copy of “Best. Ramadan. Ever.” in this upcoming interview with the author.  Details available in Wednesday’s article!

Learn more about Medeia:

www.sharifwrites.com

www.twitter.com/sharifwrites

sharifwrites.tumblr.com

 

GUEST WRITER:

Ezzy is a mom, wife and the daughter of Mexican immigrant parents. She loves to read, is the first in her family to attend college, and feels passionately about education, culture and social awareness.  Find her blogging at www.ezzylanguzzi.blogspot.com.

 

 

Comments

  1. says

    I appreciated your review of this book.  I often wonder how my kids will handle things like Ramadan as they get older.  I am grateful for now that they are happy and content being who they are, but I know they will struggle as they become teenagers!  Looking forward to Q&A with the author!

    • says

      Thank you, Amanda! My biggest take-away from reading this is that whether I wanted to admit it or not, even I had my own preconceptions based on lack of exposure and knowledge. Almira's character has been Americanized. I found myself wanting her to "act" more Muslim without even knowing what that really means. Shame on me! … As parents we'll take it as it comes. On my end, I'm prepared for confusion and lots of questions. ; D

  2. says

     Great review Ezzy!  I would love to read this book. I rember having Muslim neighbors and I became really close with one of the daughters.  I learned so much and was so saddened when she moved.  Long story short I remember her celebrating Ramadan and fasting at school etc.
    This sounds like a great book!

    • says

      That sounds like a great experience, Tara. Reading B.R.E. made curious to learn more about Islam so that I can understand it better and squash misinformation when I hear it. I don't want rely on what's reported in the media, either. Thanks for commenting. : )

  3. says

    I will have to add this book to my must-read list. I didn't grow up knowing any Muslims, but my kids have many Muslim friends. They come home talking about how M can only eat turkey bacon, and why J has to swim in a full-body swim suit. They are learning a lot from their new friends and may want to know more! Is this an appropriate book for tweens? or is it more geared towards teenagers? Thank you for this review! I look forward to reading your author interview!

  4. Dania Santana says

    I liked your review and the interview with the author. I love reading and this character is very appealing to me. As an immigrant I want to learn more about other families with foreign background and specially the stories of those who are born here within another culture, because in time it will be my children struggling to find their own identities as Latinos and Americans.

Trackbacks

  1. […] No Comments var fbShare = {url: 'http://www.multiculturalfamilia.com/2011/07/27/interview-with-medeia-sharif-author-of-bestest-ramadan-ever-giveaway/',size: 'large',}stLight.options({publisher:''});emailprintMedeia Sharif is a Kurdish-American author who was born in New York. She currently lives in Miami, where she teaches high school English. She has a master’s degree in psychology and to say she’s a “voracious” reader would be understating it. I believe she’s already read 100 of the 150 books she planned for 2011. “BESTEST. RAMADAN. EVER.” is her first novel.  Read my review of B.R.E. […]