“The Wrong End of the Table” is Right What I Needed
Everyone should read this book! I laughed, commiserated, felt shocked, and ultimately learned a ton from my fantasy book bestie, Ayser Salman.
Three years old and unfamiliar with english, Salman moved from Iraq to Ohio, stumbling into an array of shocking experiences. Later, she spent a couple of years in Saudi Arabia, where she swapped her western lifestyle for…pretty much the opposite of a western lifestyle. Then back to Kentucky she went, where navigating teen life under the watchful eyes of Iraqi-raised parents made her more at odds with American norms than ever. Finally, she graduated from college and moved to L.A., pursuing a career in film editing while unraveling the mysteries of relationship seeking.
Eventually and thankfully, she met someone who convinced her to take an assortment of essays she had written, and create a memoire of sorts.
What follows are some parts of the book that gave me pause.
“There is a saying in the Quran that my mother always recites to me in Arabic. It translates to ‘And maybe you hate something that is good for you, and maybe you love something that is bad for you.’
“I…began looking for the silver lining in seemingly negative events. There wasn’t always one — sometimes bad things just happen — but whenever there was, I was glad I’d looked.”
Some Muslim Fun Facts
Did you know there are 5 pillars that make up the foundation of Islam? I didn’t, so here they are:
- Declaration of faith
- Prayer 5 times a day (This one I did know, thanks to research for my book, “The Shape of Us.”)
- Fasting the month of Ramadan
- Pilgramage to Mecca once in one’s lifetime
Something else I didn’t know: “Most Muslim women don’t wear the hijab (head scarf) and can often be spotted in jeans or even (GASP!) shorts and tank tops!”
Also this: “Muslims believe in Jesus Christ…With Islam, you’re just adding another guy to the mix, the prophet Muhammed.”
Trump Was A Catalyst
I was THRILLED to read that Salman had the same thought I had about Trump’s election and the non stop spewing of hateful drivel that followed. “Trump is a catalyst for change…many of us are angry about this explicit and implicit hate rhetoric — and that we are doing something about it, on a larger scale than I’ve seen in my lifetime…it’s a major silver lining.”
I’ve said the same thing about the Me Too movement that followed on the heels of Trump’s election, but the motivations for change pushed even deeper — with surges in donations to organizations fighting Trump’s policies, millions of participants in the Women’s Marches, Black Lives Matter protests, etc. I wonder how long we would have stayed complacent on such issues under a less abrasive political leader.
I loved the buzz words Salman and her friends coined for men Ayser dated.
Boardroom: a guy who carries on ad nauseum about work.
Fuzzy empanada: a guy who is great on paper, but not so in real life.
Nosegay: a guy who has unfortunate attributes that make him an unsuitable partner (bad breath, for example).
“Growing up without modern Muslim role models to emulate, I struggled to find a balance between living a lifestyle authentic to me and staying true to the teachings off my faith.”
Her frank discussion of moving toward and away from ritualistic religious practices I believe would resonate with many faith-based people.
“I still continue to have my chats with God; it’s just that the platform has evolved, becoming more spiritual and less ritualistic.”
I’m not sure how I found this book, but I am grateful to have read it. It’s unlike other books I’ve read and ticks all the boxes: great writing, humorous and uplifting, with bonus points for illuminating another culture for me I otherwise would not have understood as well. (Also, the footnotes Salman overuses, which apparently turns off some people, brought me immense pleasure and giggles!)
Read this book!