Memories of Grandad & rice pudding (with a mango twist)


We’re going away for the weekend to what has been dubbed the wedding of the century. My parents are in some way responsible for the union, and now, after three successful matches under their belt, they’re convinced they’re experts on love.

Their attempts to play cupid with their own daughter, however, have been slow and unsuccessful – and a little annoying. Whilst bachelor X may be good enough for person Y’s daughter, he’ll require a great deal more vetting, a strenuous grilling, and a very thorough (read: invasive) background check, before he’s approved for me. And that’s just Stage 1.
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36 Flavours of Self Loathing

Eds. Note: Key is taking July off to get married, mA! We pray for deep blessings, contentment & joy in her union, and are re-posting her very first column with us from April 2014.

Key Ballah

Key Ballah

36 Flavours of Self Loathing

1. In 2nd grade a boy called me fat, there hasn’t been a day since then, when I loved my body
2. At 18 I found myself locked in a restaurant freezer with a boss who was trying to use his
hands to convince me that sex with him was part of the job.
3. There were nights after you left, when I filled my bed with everything that you touched,
hoping to fill it with something familiar.
4. The moon warned me not to come see you that night, it hung low trying to touch me. When I
left you, it asked me how could I hate myself so much.
5. When you didn’t call I had to delete every memory of you I had, but you still
lingered in the cracks of my walls.
6. Someone once told me that my body was a war zone. The day that I finally
understood what that meant, I was bleeding from my forearms trying to recreate the crucifixion.
7. West Indian women are known for having children but being too strong to have men.
I’ve never understood the fear some people have of women who expect as opposed to women who hope.
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Southern Comforts

Eds. Note: We’re celebrating the stories and perspectives of Muslim youth this month! Tune in on Twitter to join the #MYRising conversations and check out our sister sites Muslimah MontageComing of Faith and Muslim ARC for more #MYRising features.

I left my home in Atlanta in 2005 to complete my bachelor’s degree in Chicago, and to prove that I could live on my own and support myself.

Four years later, in the autumn of 2008, I retreated to Augusta, Georgia. I had graduated college without any job prospects, yearning for home, healing and family. My mother had a career at the local army installation as a social worker and was a happy, independent woman, mother, and grandmother. She was a success.

Augusta was a tired old Southern town compared to my youth in Atlanta and years as a college student in Chicago. I battled bouts of depression and boredom in my mother’s new home. I needed a connection to this new place and my mother’s life.

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Dying before Death

I hate writing about death. It brings up unpleasant family memories.

Mother died at the age of 62 in 1982 from a series of brain infarctions, which is like Alzheimer’s, only accelerated.

Dad died in 1994 at the age of 75 from pancreatic cancer. By the time he was diagnosed, it was so advanced the doctors sent him home after surgically opening him up. He died a couple of weeks later.

These were huge personal losses. But I could comfort myself with knowing that I still had my sister, Debbie. Debbie and I were not close, but whenever we met for lunch or a special occasion, the conversation would always move to our parents and what bratty kids we’d been.

Swapping childhood stories with her was the most fun I ever had with anyone.

She died at the age of 48 in the spring of 1999 from congestive heart failure. When I finished being mad at her for taking a radical position early in life to never ever go to a doctor, things started closing in. I began to realize how alone I was. I was the sole surviving member of my family!
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I went down to the river to pray

Ed. note: This post won a Brass Crescent Award for being the ‘single most original and important post in the Islamosphere’ in 2012.


O sisters let’s go down,
Let’s go down, come on down.
O sisters let’s go down,
Down in the river to pray.

– Alison Krause, Down to the River to Pray

It’s hard for me to admit that light and darkness, love and rage, need and pain are entangled in my relationship with my mother. Every Mother’s Day, we go for brunch and pretend that love is pure and simple, that we’ve never been wounded or made each other miserable, that our hearts aren’t fists covered in each other’s blood.

I gave my mother an advance copy of my book on Muslim women’s search for love about a month before the release date. Although she knew the love story I was going to share, and had been a strong supporter of the book over the five years it took from conception to publication, after she read it in print, she disowned me.

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