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:
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.