A heartfelt memoir plumbs the multilayered experience of being Muslim in America.
With a steady infusion of verve and personality, Rehman immerses readers in the traditions of a Middle Eastern culture in which prearranged adolescent marriages (including her own) are not uncommon. In 1971, the author, the accommodating daughter of a lieutenant colonel, arrived in the United States as a 20-year-old Pakistani, planning only to remain in America for two years while her charming, charismatic husband, Khalid, finished his medical residency. Rehman appropriately counters lavish descriptions of gilded pre-wedding rituals and the pageantry of the matrimonial ceremony with discussions of the culture clash as her new life in New York City began. Her tendency to inject plucky, italicized interior asides, however, has the uneven narrative effect of being both whimsical and interruptive. Self-indulgences aside, the author writes candidly about feeling insulted when American women questioned the validity of her predestined marriage or the culture-contradictory ideas of nursing homes for elderly family members. Holidays and childbirth proved more complicated and further loosened Rehman’s grip on her religion, and later, she faced the challenge of incorporating Islamic religion into the lives of her Americanized children. Though she stringently resisted her own Americanization, 44 years later, Rehman remains a content citizen with a career in hospital administration, years dedicated to women’s equality, and an executive position at an Islamic multifaith organization, which, the author rivetingly details, faced an anti-Islamic backlash for their participation in the construction of a Muslim mosque blocks from the 9/11 site in downtown Manhattan. In her closing remarks, the author reflects on the contemporary shift taking place within her culture, her hopes for continued cultural pluralism in America, and the need for safe community spaces for immigrants “where we can be wholly Muslim and wholly American.” Rehman's memoir offers a deeper understanding and appreciation for Muslim lifestyles while imparting a message of unity and international fellowship.
A culturally rich and rewarding personal chronicle of ethnic faith and intermingled tradition.