Synopses & Reviews
Muslim American women are the subject of endless discussions regarding their role in society, their veils as symbols of oppression or of freedom, their identity, their patriotism, their womanhood. Yet the voices and life experiences of Muslim American women themselves are rarely heard in the loud rhetoric surrounding the question of Muslims in America. Finally, in I Speak for Myself,
40 American women under the age of 40, share their experiences of their lives as Muslim women in America. While their commonality is faith and citizenship, their voices and their messages are very different.
Readers of I Speak for Myself are presented with a kaleidoscope of stories, artfully woven together around the central idea of limitlessness and individuality. A common theme linking these intimate self-portraits will be the way each woman uniquely defies labeling, simply by defining for herself what it means to be American and Muslim and female. Each personal story is a contribution to the larger narrative of life stories and life work of a new generation of Muslim women.
There are approximately six million Muslims living in the United States and over one billion around the world. While the events of 9/11 certainly engaged Americans with the religion of Islam, many enduring stereotypes continue to belittle the Muslim American experience; this often leads to a monolithic interpretation of Islam. Such a treatment is especially inappropriate when reflecting on the Muslim American identity, which is by far one of the most culturally, ethnically, and socially diverse of any in the Islamic world. Women of the Muslim community in America could be described as both patriots and practitioners (of faith). Their experiences call for a body of literature that reflects how they celebrate and live Islam in distinctive ways.
In the wake of the current rising tide of Islamophobia (see Time Magazine, Aug. 30, 2010), I Speak for Myself is a must read for Americans seeking understanding of Islam from young women who were all born in the USA.
"Ebrahimji, a producer at CNN, and Suratwala, a business consultant, assemble short essays by 40 unique American Muslim women in this easy to read book. Between the ages of 20 and 40, the authors share their range and diversity of experiences, from pleasant ones, such as becoming a mother, to ones that reflect stereotypes (such as teen marriage to protect the woman's 'honor'). The diversity of experiences (from single moms to interns striking out on their own for the first time), ethnicity (from African-American to Arab immigrant), and variety of careers and higher education (from an doctor of Afghan-descent, second-guessing herself over the details of an emergency surgery, to a media enthusiast determined to become a television reporter despite her wearing of hijab) are striking for their range. Many women speak of their fathers, who both push their daughters to achieve but also implicitly reinforce a level of patriarchy. Their frustration over the lack of voice in American politics is a recurring theme. Despite some repetition and a lack of a guiding structure, this is a very useful and welcome contribution in an understudied area. (May)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Maria M. Ebrahimji, M.A.
As the Director of Network Booking and Executive Editorial Producer for CNN, Maria Ebrahimji manages a team that is responsible for guest coverage and story planning for all of the networks special events and breaking news programming. She is a member of the South Asian Journalists Association, the Southern Center for International Studies, and serves on the board of the Emory Development Institute. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia.
Zahra T. Suratwala, M.A.
Zahra Suratwala is President/CEO of Zahra Ink, Incorporated, a marketing on a consulting firm that works with a variety of small businesses. She obtained her Masters of Arts degree in English Literature from Loyola University Chicago. Her international perspectives and ability to negotiate her identity as a Muslim American woman comes from have lived live in Bangkok, Thailand and Cairo, Egypt after growing up in the American heartland. She lives today in Chicago, Illinois.