Title: I Speak for Myself: American Women on Being Muslim
Editors: Maria Ebrahimji and Zahra Suratwala
Publication Year: 2011
Source: Review copy from the publisher
From the cover:
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.
Most of the contributors to this collection were new to me, which turned out to be a great thing. I love being exposed to new voices! And the writers showcased in I Speak for Myself are definitely worthy of the attention.
This book is made up of numerous stories – mostly in personal essay/narrative format – about what it means to be an American-born Muslim woman. And while there were some common threads, each woman’s story was unique and revealed very distinct parts of their lives and of their identities. Even when I found myself disagreeing with an author (which only happened a few times), I still respected her point of view and took her piece as an exploration of who she is as a person, both in her daily life and in her faith, as someone with her own beliefs and values that should be respected even if I don’t share them.
I think that this is probably one of the most interesting books of this type that I’ve read so far. My only real criticism would be that there was a very hetero-normative, get-married-and-have-a-family slant to most of the essays, though it wasn’t always blatant. More so, I think it was just the way that the chips fell with the specific women who contributed to the book. And often, the more radical voices – including those of queer Muslims – are ignored in these types of works. It didn’t make me enjoy I Speak for Myself any less, but it would have enjoyed it even more if it had included this (even further) marginalized voices.
Definitely read this book if you’re interested in learning more about the struggle for Muslim-American identity in today’s young women, or even just if you’re interested in personal narratives of women in general. It was a great read!
You can find other posts in the series by clicking on the image to the right, or by taking a look at the schedule of posts and reviews.