#FaithfullyFeminist: Badass Muslim Women

Faithfully Feminist: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Feminists on Why We Stay is a new anthology from the I Speak For Myself series where Jewish, Christian, and Muslim women discuss the various ways they remain faithful to their spiritual traditions as feminists (or, in some cases, create new space for feminists within their faith). The essay collection is edited by Gina Messina-Dysert, Amy Levin, and Jennifer Zobair and features forty-five perspectives from the three faiths. In this episode of Loveinshallah’s author interview podcast, Deonna Kelli Sayed speaks with three Muslim contributors on feminism, motherhood, marriage, and spiritual identity.

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Written in the Stars: Author Interview with Aisha Saeed

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In Love, Inshallah, Aisha Saeed eloquently introduced readers to her traditional, Pakistani match-made love story. When she met her future husband, Aisha already knew that she wanted to write about a story different than her own – a fictional account of Naila, a young Pakistani-American girl, who is forced into marriage.

Aisha fully explores Naila’s journey in her first young-adult novel, Written in the Stars, released in March 2015 from Penguin Nancy Paulsen books.  Publishers Weekly says the book “…movingly conveys the intense cultural pressure that motivates Naila’s parents and the heartbreaking betrayal Naila feels as she is deprived of her rights, cut off from the outside world, and threatened with shame and death.”

Deonna Kelli Sayed speaks with Aisha about how she met her husband, the initial trepidation dealing with an often cliched subject matter, and her involvement with We Need Diverse Books.  Listen to the interview after the jump!
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Love Letter to Single Sisters

Deonna Kelli

Deonna Kelli

Dear Single Sisters,

Lately, I’ve run into a lot of fabulous, beautiful single women who can’t find someone brave enough to show up for them.

I am one of those women, just like you. We are beautiful, growing in our solitude, and looking for someone fearless and strong enough to rock our world.

Life gets hard over here in the land of no-rocking, so let me tell you something about prayer and loneliness.

I’ve been on my knees. Many times, in fact, with a prayer rug and loneliness spread beneath me. And while bending down on that rug, I’ve wailed something awful. I’ve screamed until I tasted blood in the back of my throat, and blood and salty tears is the most pitiful, foulest drink to swallow. It tastes like decaying flesh. It is death.

Sometimes, it tastes like being born again.

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Chasing Joy

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I came across an essay called, “Joy,” from writer Zadie Smith. This was a timely find as I woke up to 2015 with this motto: chase joy! Smith starts the essay highlighting the differences between pleasure and joy, which I agree requires necessary distinction. She suggests that pleasure is comprised of small things. I’ve spent the past two years chasing various sorts of pleasures, some as banal as a good cup of coffee. Other pleasures I’ve sought are better suited for a different sort of essay.

Pleasure come as little morsels: a bite of something delicious, a moment of sexual fulfillment, that feeling when your child says something brilliant. Joy, however, seems organic and somewhat elusive. As Smith writes, “The thing no one ever tells you about joy is that it has very little real pleasure in it. And yet if it hadn’t happened at all, at least once, how would we live?”

But live we must do, and my attempt at chasing joy is partly about being present in the fullness of my life. There is a predicament, however: at times, my life feels quite empty and so devoid of joy that I fear it might be hard to recognize upon arrival.

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Rebels By Accident

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Deonna Kelli Sayed interviews writer Patricia Dunn, author of the YA novel, Rebels by Accident,  in this episode of Love, Inshallah’s author interview podcast.

(Track listing: “Ala Warag il Ful” and “Drum Solo” by Zikrayat. Music in this podcast is found at Free Music Archive: Middle East.)

Sixteen year old Egyptian-American Mariam just wants the normal teenage American high school experiences. After she is busted at a party with her best friend, Deanna — a party the police break up — Mariam’s parents decide to send her to Egypt to spend time with her grandmother, Sittu. Mariam arrives days before the Arab Spring and finds her grandmother to be far more of a delight than she expected (Sittu is a political blogger and Facebook aficionado). Mariam returns to her roots and unearths family secrets, discovers romance, and finally realizes the power of her voice.

Huffington Post hails the work as the next best YA novel, and Rebels by Accident is long-listed for the 2015 Teen Choice Book Awards. Voting ends February 2nd, and you don’t have to be a teen to vote! Cast your ballot here.

Rebels by Accident is an excellent resource for the classroom. Visit the book’s link for Common Core State Standards.

Patricia Dunn’s website includes her comings and goings. Be sure to follow her on Twitter.

Read more by Pat on our site, here!


Weighty Ghosts

Deonna Kelli

Deonna Kelli

Back when people called me Her Excellency, I routinely attended gatherings at the home of Bahrain’s First Lady. Cardamom-flavored coffee appeared in demitasse cups. The servers, always women dressed in traditional robes, poured the golden elixir from a gently sloped carafe called a dullah. The women returned at regular intervals with refills until you shook the cup to signify that you wanted no more.

My marriage felt like a fragile container that held the riches of the world, and one that I tilted over when I no longer tasted myself in the swallow.

I asked my husband to marry me while driving on 16th Street in Washington, DC. We had met months earlier in New York City because of landmines; he was an international expert in the removal of bombs buried within the earth. I was twenty-seven years old and lonely in ways that felt flawed and unlovable. This man arrived well-pedigreed with international accolades and a collection of five small children from his first marriage. I felt that he represented my only chance at love, and I am blessed that he turned out to be kind.

Twelve years later, I asked him via email to let me leave.

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An Accidental Jihad

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Writer Krista Bremer met Ismail fifteen years ago on a North Carolina running trail. A romantic relationship developed through an unexpected pregnancy, eventual marriage, and subsequent spiritual growth. Krista’s recent memoir, My Accidental Jihad, details her jump into the deep space of marriage and an unexpected faith journey.

Deonna Kelli Sayed speaks with Krista and Ismail  — “Ish” for short — about the bicultural nature of all marriages, Krista’s writing process, and her evolving spiritual journey.

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