Two years ago, the book Love, InshAllah came out. It was one of a kind, narratives of American Muslim women and their stories of love and intimacy. I liked the book, mostly because it really made me reflect and I couldn’t shake it for while. There aren’t too many books that do that.
Now, editors Ayesha Mattu and Nura Maznavi have released another book of narratives of love and intimacy, this time from American Muslim men. Called
Salaam, Love: American Muslim Men on Love, Sex, and Intimacy, the book contains 22 narratives from American Muslim Men on well, y’know.
I was looking forward to it, reading the daily updates on the Love, InshAllah blog with short interviews with all of the contributors with excerpts of their chronicles.
A few days before the release of the book, news website Salon.com posted one of the stories in its entirety, a story that I happened to be really curious about.*
People can do what they want, I’m not accountable for their actions as these people have nothing to do with me but man oh man, all I could think about while reading this story was that this guy needed a swift kick in the nards. He writes as though he bears to responsibility for his own actions of cheating on his wife, which is ridiculous and unfair to everyone else in the narrative. And jeez, of all the names to use when picking fake names for everyone in your story, you had to choose “Bushra” for the name of the “other woman,” the one you blame for your complete lack of propriety? *facepalm* I’m not quite sure what Islam had to do with the choices he made but it doesn’t matter if he was a Muslim, Christian, Jew, atheist, or somewhere in the middle – his actions were incredibly messed up.
So yes, I went into Salaam, Love with a feeling that I hadn’t experienced with Love, InshAllah. I wasn’t sure anymore if I really want to read about a bunch of dudes and their inability to express their feelings and act appropriately. And as I started reading, I could feel my inner Holden Caulfied emerge and had to suppress the urge at times to turn to the stranger sitting next to me on my BART commute, where I was do the bulk of my reading, to rant about how a particular writer seemed like a phony.
However, I understood that it’s near impossible to connect with each and every story in an anthology so with each new chapter, I shed whatever issues I had with the previous writer and gave each new one a fresh start. Then, I began to get a greater meaning from the narratives. I’m not saying I missed the meaning in the ones I didn’t connect with – I even went back and finished up one I skipped half way through because I couldn’t deal with one guy and still didn’t really care for it – but there is some really good material here.
These men are all trying to reconcile their faith, culture, and race when it comes to love, intimacy, and expectations as a partner. Sometimes, while dealing with their own inner turmoil, such as depression and anxiety. Other times, mortality, theirs or of their spouses, became tests. I could tell that some of these writers are really delving deep to explore what it is they felt at the time and I appreciated it. More than appreciated – benefited from it.
Maybe some of these men are just as shallow as you figured they would be. Others will surprise you. This book is worth checking out for those latter essays. I would tell you all which ones were my favorite but it could be worth discovering on your own which of these voices speak to you.
*You can search for the story on your own if you like. I didn’t feel like posting it here.