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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 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. There are approximately six million Muslims living in the United States and over one billion around the world. While the events of 9/11 certainly engaged Americans with the religion of Islam, many enduring stereotypes continue to belittle the Muslim American experience; this often leads to a monolithic interpretation of Islam. Such a treatment is especially inappropriate when reflecting on the Muslim American identity, which is by far one of the most culturally, ethnically, and socially diverse of any in the Islamic world. Women of the Muslim community in America could be described as both patriots and practitioners (of faith). Their experiences call for a body of literature that reflects how they celebrate and live Islam in distinctive ways. In the wake of the current rising tide of Islamophobia (see Time Magazine, Aug. 30, 2010), I Speak for Myself is a must read for Americans seeking understanding of Islam from young women who were all born in the USA.


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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 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. There are approximately six million Muslims living in the United States and over one billion around the world. While the events of 9/11 certainly engaged Americans with the religion of Islam, many enduring stereotypes continue to belittle the Muslim American experience; this often leads to a monolithic interpretation of Islam. Such a treatment is especially inappropriate when reflecting on the Muslim American identity, which is by far one of the most culturally, ethnically, and socially diverse of any in the Islamic world. Women of the Muslim community in America could be described as both patriots and practitioners (of faith). Their experiences call for a body of literature that reflects how they celebrate and live Islam in distinctive ways. In the wake of the current rising tide of Islamophobia (see Time Magazine, Aug. 30, 2010), I Speak for Myself is a must read for Americans seeking understanding of Islam from young women who were all born in the USA.

30 review for I Speak for Myself: American Women on Being Muslim

  1. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    I feel like this is a really important book, and I am glad that I read it. This is a collection of 40 essays written by American women who are Muslim and under the age of 40. The editors did an excellent job of selecting a wide diversity of women who are inspiring and courageous yet not so far removed from the everyday life of you and me. Many of these women are my contemporaries, and I vacillated between feeling camaraderie and awe... and jealousy for the impressive accomplishments that these e I feel like this is a really important book, and I am glad that I read it. This is a collection of 40 essays written by American women who are Muslim and under the age of 40. The editors did an excellent job of selecting a wide diversity of women who are inspiring and courageous yet not so far removed from the everyday life of you and me. Many of these women are my contemporaries, and I vacillated between feeling camaraderie and awe... and jealousy for the impressive accomplishments that these extremely well-educated and high-achieving women have done. The only glaring gap in diversity was that there were no women who had converted to Islam. There was at least one daughter of converts, but no one who decided to make the leap herself. I am giving this book 4 stars, because there were 3 or 4 essays that really made me think, "Yes! Here is the heart of the issue!" Also, I respect and support the concept of this book and the importance of sharing the lives of a particular demographic in this country that has been depicted unfairly and inaccurately. So, on the one hand, I really support this book. On the other hand, however, I was pretty disappointed with the writing quality. I felt like many of the writers resorted to over-worn cliches, and so many of the essays sounded the same that it is hard to distinguish many of them. The essays were excellently edited.... so, what's wrong with that? Nothing. Except that I felt like I was reading well-polished college application essays. My favorite essays strayed from the typical college app essay trajectory of "I didn't realize I was different until this moment at which point I had a big realization and then life got harder but now I am better for it and in the process have discovered who I am." My favorite essays opened the door into the gray areas of identity, and they also told a story, rather than painting an overview of a life. To be specific, Rabea Chaudhry's essay "Truth is Not Always Self-Evident" made me think "YES!" with every paragraph that she wrote about her process of unraveling the judgment that she had used to keep her heart and her mind closed. Do I recommend this book? Absolutely. It is not the end product, but it is the beginning of many, many discussions. This is a book that I might keep on my shelf in my office just to act as a point of connection and conversation starter with my students. It's the kind of book that makes me think about publishing my own compilation of essays.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer Jacobs

    I loved this book! This is a comprehensive volume which encompasses a wide spectrum of Muslim American women and their lives. Due to terrorism in the name of this religion,Islamophobia has become a major problem and is a legitimate concern all over the world.I never support any Islamist causes like Gaza/Palestine or Kashmir,but stigmatization of 1.6 billion people who follow Islam is atrocious and should be called out! Women bore the maximum brunt of this.Many who claim to 'free' Muslim women from I loved this book! This is a comprehensive volume which encompasses a wide spectrum of Muslim American women and their lives. Due to terrorism in the name of this religion,Islamophobia has become a major problem and is a legitimate concern all over the world.I never support any Islamist causes like Gaza/Palestine or Kashmir,but stigmatization of 1.6 billion people who follow Islam is atrocious and should be called out! Women bore the maximum brunt of this.Many who claim to 'free' Muslim women from misogyny and forced Hijab etc end up actally harming the same women and this book opens eyes to their lives behind the veils. The book narrates lives of 45 Muslim American women,how they adjust their lives between America and Islam,outer world and inner circle/home,between modernity and conservatism/traditions of Islam.The articles/chapters in this book are about 8-10 pages long each and encompass a wide range of opinions about their lives.I found the 1 chapter about a girl who wears a Hijab in her Basketball matches very funny (In a nice way!) my anthropology class topper girl is from Saudi Arabia who wears Hijab too and is as sharp as I have ever seen!!Yes,it can b forced on many women but stigmatizing and women for wearing it is counterproductive!Detrimental to same women! I also liked the narration of Indian/Pakistani American women in the book,my school friend is an Indian Muslim girl too so I can tell how real this book is! Muslim communities everywhere and esp in the US/West are insulated.This book gives a window in their world and makes a good insightful reading! Xenophobia and stereotyping is horrible and books like this help breaking them.I recommend this book :-) 5 stars!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Anisa Ali

    As a fellow American Muslim woman, I had been wanting to read this book for quite some time. I'm glad I finally did, as I can very easily relate to many of the personal anecdotes given by the numerous contributors. As the title suggests, each woman describes a little bit about what it meant for her to be a Muslim woman raised in the US. Each account is unique and meaningful in its own way, although I could see how it may seem a little redundant to readers who may not be able to personally relate As a fellow American Muslim woman, I had been wanting to read this book for quite some time. I'm glad I finally did, as I can very easily relate to many of the personal anecdotes given by the numerous contributors. As the title suggests, each woman describes a little bit about what it meant for her to be a Muslim woman raised in the US. Each account is unique and meaningful in its own way, although I could see how it may seem a little redundant to readers who may not be able to personally relate to the contributors' experiences. At times I did find it a little cheesy to keep hearing about the identity crises that many of the contributors describe they dealt with growing up (or are still dealing with), but I think that may be because I can relate so well to having an identity crisis and am often uncomfortable talking about it. It is really difficult to articulate what it feels like to have to balance different parts of yourself to make sure you feel complete, and I appreciate how the contributors to this book describe experiences that can speak to that struggle. As I read each piece, it seemed that many of the women described how they often felt like an outsider as they were growing up. I can understand because I often felt (and continue to feel) the same. After reading this book though, it's obvious that there are so many others that have been in the same boat--it's only a matter of having the opportunity to share your thoughts that you realize how many others have similar experiences.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Chris Aylott

    The first of two books collecting short essays about being Muslim; the second one is about men and I ended up reading that first. As a result, one of the things that stood out to me were the differences in subject and style. The women's essays feel more personal, more focused on the practice of faith and the women's individual relationships with God. The men seemed more concerned with social issues and and the more communal aspects of Islam. That wasn't always the case, of course, but it did see The first of two books collecting short essays about being Muslim; the second one is about men and I ended up reading that first. As a result, one of the things that stood out to me were the differences in subject and style. The women's essays feel more personal, more focused on the practice of faith and the women's individual relationships with God. The men seemed more concerned with social issues and and the more communal aspects of Islam. That wasn't always the case, of course, but it did seem to be a trend. A few of the writers came from home environments best characterized as "creepy," but everyone seems to have found approaches to faith that let them be the people they want to be. As with the other book, though, these are the stories of highly-educated, successful professionals. I'm still curious how the other demographic half lives.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Katrina

    This book offers a nice array of voices, from liberal to conservative Muslims. Maybe even some progressives, though at least one author who seemed progressive explicitly disavowed that label (as well as the label "feminist"). I especially liked the few pieces that did discuss feminism, especially one by a woman I would have assumed to be conservative had I met her on the street. The best of the essays were those that don't explicitly tackle identity issues, because that topic got redundant after This book offers a nice array of voices, from liberal to conservative Muslims. Maybe even some progressives, though at least one author who seemed progressive explicitly disavowed that label (as well as the label "feminist"). I especially liked the few pieces that did discuss feminism, especially one by a woman I would have assumed to be conservative had I met her on the street. The best of the essays were those that don't explicitly tackle identity issues, because that topic got redundant after a while. (Despite the differences among these women, there is a repetitive theme of "it took me a while to realize it, but I can be Muslim, and [insert parents' nationality] and American". There were at least two African American women who were raised Muslim, but the rest were all children of immigrants; some more variety would have been nice. Not a single convert was included. Not only does the absence of convert voices speak volumes about our exclusion in Muslim communities, it also made the book more monolithic than it could have been.

  6. 4 out of 5

    lisa

    Bookshelves and airwaves are full of voices that describe Islam as a monolithic religion, and Muslims as a homogenous body. This could not be further from the truth. Muslims are an extremely diverse worldwide religious group, and in the U.S. that diversity is especially pronounced. When we overlook diversity, we render invisible our fellow humans. With the book I Speak for Myself: American women on being Muslim, White Cloud Press highlights and lifts up the voices of individual, diverse Muslim w Bookshelves and airwaves are full of voices that describe Islam as a monolithic religion, and Muslims as a homogenous body. This could not be further from the truth. Muslims are an extremely diverse worldwide religious group, and in the U.S. that diversity is especially pronounced. When we overlook diversity, we render invisible our fellow humans. With the book I Speak for Myself: American women on being Muslim, White Cloud Press highlights and lifts up the voices of individual, diverse Muslim women. The essay collection is invaluable for furthering public understanding about the diversity of Muslims in the U.S. Editors Maria M. Ebrahimji and Zahra T. Suratwala have done a superb job, selecting writings from forty women under the age of 40. Please read my complete review, originally published on light to read by .

  7. 4 out of 5

    Alison

    If I could do half stars, I'd probably give this 3.5. 3 seems kind of low, but 4 just felt too high. The thing is, overall I liked reading the words of all these amazing, smart, interesting women and learning about all the various paths they've walked as American Muslims. But I really feel like the editors overshot a bit, and that the book as a whole would have greatly benefited from fewer essays of longer length. Most of the pieces are quite short and read more like blog posts, which is fine, b If I could do half stars, I'd probably give this 3.5. 3 seems kind of low, but 4 just felt too high. The thing is, overall I liked reading the words of all these amazing, smart, interesting women and learning about all the various paths they've walked as American Muslims. But I really feel like the editors overshot a bit, and that the book as a whole would have greatly benefited from fewer essays of longer length. Most of the pieces are quite short and read more like blog posts, which is fine, but makes it hard to really absorb the authors as separate people. Some of the pieces also just needed some fine-tuning, technically, and some also didn't seem to have much of a focus, to be almost more like a chat between friends without a specific topic in mind. Some of the essays were very strong though, and so overall I'd say this book was good - not great, but not bad.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Kay Mcgriff

    I first learned of this book when one of the contributors spoke to the youth Sunday School class I teach. She shared with us what it is like to grow up Muslim in America and answered questions from our teens. After hearing her speak, I wanted to know more and downloaded the book to my Kindle. Forty American women tell their stories in brief essays. Many of them share similar themes: being caught between two cultures, learning to claim their faith as their own, deciding whether or not to express t I first learned of this book when one of the contributors spoke to the youth Sunday School class I teach. She shared with us what it is like to grow up Muslim in America and answered questions from our teens. After hearing her speak, I wanted to know more and downloaded the book to my Kindle. Forty American women tell their stories in brief essays. Many of them share similar themes: being caught between two cultures, learning to claim their faith as their own, deciding whether or not to express their faith by wearing the hijab, striving to achieve their dreams on their own terms. Each of these women is impressive and has much to contribute beyond these essays--and these essays are an important contribution. They reveal the diversity that is found within Islam and reach out to make connections with people of different faiths.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Arsala

    Definitely a quick and easy read with quite a few interesting stories about very accomplished Muslim women (seriously, I felt like I needed to find a cure for cancer or something after reading some the introduction blurbs for the various authors). However, some of the stories did seem to focus on the same theme of "identity/culture crisis" and of being caught "between two worlds." I got a little tired of reading about that theme since it seemed to pop up multiple times in a lot of the stories. O Definitely a quick and easy read with quite a few interesting stories about very accomplished Muslim women (seriously, I felt like I needed to find a cure for cancer or something after reading some the introduction blurbs for the various authors). However, some of the stories did seem to focus on the same theme of "identity/culture crisis" and of being caught "between two worlds." I got a little tired of reading about that theme since it seemed to pop up multiple times in a lot of the stories. Overall though, this is a good look into the lives of Muslim women who, contrary to popular biases, are not oppressed, suppressed or repressed. These women are strong, opinionated and driven to succeed.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Meg

    Enjoyed this book but wanted more depth. The pieces were all so short that it was hard to remember which piece I was reading (who the narrator was, where she was from, etc.). I can imagine using one of these pieces in an educational context (e.g. to teach people about Islam from the perspective of American Muslim women), but otherwise, because of the brevity, there were only a few pieces that really touched me at a heart level. As a side note, the subtitle would be more accurate if it were "Young Enjoyed this book but wanted more depth. The pieces were all so short that it was hard to remember which piece I was reading (who the narrator was, where she was from, etc.). I can imagine using one of these pieces in an educational context (e.g. to teach people about Islam from the perspective of American Muslim women), but otherwise, because of the brevity, there were only a few pieces that really touched me at a heart level. As a side note, the subtitle would be more accurate if it were "Young American Women on Being Muslim" - almost all the contributors were under 30. I think I might have preferred to have different perspectives as well, to understand generational differences and similarities.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Rawa S.

    I'm not sure if it's because this is the first time I've come across such a book, but I was very much excited while reading it - the forty American Muslim women each inspired me, as they explained their journeys through Islam and the intersections between being American, Muslim, and in most cases, of a Arab or South Asian background. I'd give this book five stars, if the narratives had been slightly longer. It felt as though each one was abrupt in some way, finishing too soon after it started. I r I'm not sure if it's because this is the first time I've come across such a book, but I was very much excited while reading it - the forty American Muslim women each inspired me, as they explained their journeys through Islam and the intersections between being American, Muslim, and in most cases, of a Arab or South Asian background. I'd give this book five stars, if the narratives had been slightly longer. It felt as though each one was abrupt in some way, finishing too soon after it started. I read this book in order for research on a paper examining Arab and Muslim-American femininities and gender roles, and I definitely found exactly what I was looking for.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Shirley Freeman

    I read this inspiring book of essays with a group of non-Muslim women and we found it both enjoyable and educational. All of the writers are young women born in the United States - most born of immigrant parents into the Muslim faith but several converted into the faith. All faced some struggles of identity and fitting in - as all teenagers do. Some decided to wear a hijab, others decided not to. Some are more conservative/liberal than others. All are high-achieving woman doing interesting thing I read this inspiring book of essays with a group of non-Muslim women and we found it both enjoyable and educational. All of the writers are young women born in the United States - most born of immigrant parents into the Muslim faith but several converted into the faith. All faced some struggles of identity and fitting in - as all teenagers do. Some decided to wear a hijab, others decided not to. Some are more conservative/liberal than others. All are high-achieving woman doing interesting things to make the world a better place. All have found their faith to be an important part of who they are and who they are becoming.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Carla

    This book was alright....it got a little redundent though....there were 40 women telling their stories of what it's like to be a Muslim American, but I could boil it down simply: they struggled with their identity, they struggled with whether or not to wear hijab, and they struggeled with their faith. I think it would've been better had it been fewer women and those they had included went into more detail about their lives. This book was alright....it got a little redundent though....there were 40 women telling their stories of what it's like to be a Muslim American, but I could boil it down simply: they struggled with their identity, they struggled with whether or not to wear hijab, and they struggeled with their faith. I think it would've been better had it been fewer women and those they had included went into more detail about their lives.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Johari

    I gave this 4 stars due to it being written by the women themselves. I find the book uneven but the writers were allowed to write about whatever they wanted, some essays are much stronger and coherent than others as a result. All of the essays were interesting and the perspective is one I don't know/hear much about. I gave this 4 stars due to it being written by the women themselves. I find the book uneven but the writers were allowed to write about whatever they wanted, some essays are much stronger and coherent than others as a result. All of the essays were interesting and the perspective is one I don't know/hear much about.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Deni Aria

    This is really a compelling book which I have come to realize about getting real freedom in the freedom and democratic country such as United State is not that too easy for Muslim and Women & Arab, it is really an uphill battle to stand up for the true identity in order to survive. A very thorough collection of the ambassador for Islam in America !

  16. 4 out of 5

    Sandy H

    An excellent collection of essays to help one understand what it means to navigate American culture as a Muslim and as a woman, and navigate Muslim culture as an American and a woman, and navigate womanhood as a Muslim and an American. I thoroughly enjoyed this book--certain phrases and storied experiences will stick with me for a long time.

  17. 5 out of 5

    ayesha akhtar

    Basic, introductory level of Muslim American women living normal lives. I found most of the essays to be short, end abruptly, with no point. If there were half the number of essays, and they were longer, I would be more intrigued.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Cristina

    This book was an enjoyable read. These women's stories inspire me to go after my own dreams and pursue my beliefs with all I have. I definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in the Muslim woman's experience. This book was an enjoyable read. These women's stories inspire me to go after my own dreams and pursue my beliefs with all I have. I definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in the Muslim woman's experience.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Neha

    The book was very interesting because it shows Muslim women doing amazing things in America. However after getting one fourth of the way into it I was getting tired of reading "I'm Muslim, I'm awesome and it was hard for me to integrate." A bit repetitive. The book was very interesting because it shows Muslim women doing amazing things in America. However after getting one fourth of the way into it I was getting tired of reading "I'm Muslim, I'm awesome and it was hard for me to integrate." A bit repetitive.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Leo

    Absolutely wonderful! This collection of narratives is compiled of first-hand account of experiences dealing with personal, cultural and societal issues that Muslim women of America deal with. This book was easy to follow, and difficult to put down as soon as started.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Samantha

    Awesome stories of women telling how they connect and reconnect to their Muslim religion as American citizens. I'm not Muslim, but I checked it out because it was part of a Muslim poetry display at my public library and this title stood out to me. Awesome stories of women telling how they connect and reconnect to their Muslim religion as American citizens. I'm not Muslim, but I checked it out because it was part of a Muslim poetry display at my public library and this title stood out to me.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Justin Holiman

    Reading this after “Love, Inshallah,” I could not help but notice the greater sincerity in these stories or perhaps a reduction in editorializing. I felt these narratives were more raw and personal and therefore, more powerful.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Shaheena

    Must read for today's environment Must read for today's environment

  24. 4 out of 5

    Munira

    The book showed the diversity of Muslim women very well but half way through the book I felt the stories were redundant in theme and a became uninteresting.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jahnabi

    Quite possibly one of the best books I've read yet -- Really opened my mind about the diversity of Muslim women in America. Highly recommended. Quite possibly one of the best books I've read yet -- Really opened my mind about the diversity of Muslim women in America. Highly recommended.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Sioban

    Interesting with common themes among our Muslim sisters and with us. It just is a variation on the same themes

  27. 4 out of 5

    Lynne

    Excellent book, representing an impressive array of perspectives and identities. Very enlightening and challenging, as well as inspiring.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Havah Shah

    Really enjoyed this book, bought it because a friend of mine wrote a story in here... Was sad when it was over. Hope a sequel is put out, I would read it

  29. 4 out of 5

    Cynthia (Bingeing On Books)

    I was intrigued by the subject matter of this book and I was very interested in reading it. I did think that a few of the essays were intriguing. The problem is that most of the essays sounded the same. They were all very short, they didn't have very much depth and pretty much all of them talked about their struggle with being Muslim and American. Even though that was an interesting essay topic. after a while, it became repetitive and I felt like skimming a few of the essays. And since there wer I was intrigued by the subject matter of this book and I was very interested in reading it. I did think that a few of the essays were intriguing. The problem is that most of the essays sounded the same. They were all very short, they didn't have very much depth and pretty much all of them talked about their struggle with being Muslim and American. Even though that was an interesting essay topic. after a while, it became repetitive and I felt like skimming a few of the essays. And since there were no essays by people who converted and pretty much all the essays involved either immigrants or children of immigrants, it didn't seem as though there was much diversity among the women in the book. It was an okay read, but I was apathetic about most of the essays.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Carole

    I enjoyed this series of essays by intelligent, accomplished Muslim women in America. I would have preferred the essays to be a bit longer to understand more about their lives and who they are. I felt I learned more about Islam from The Faith Club: A Muslim, a Christian, and a Jew -- Three Women Search for Understanding, perhaps because it was only three women sharing their faith whereas this book has 40 women sharing. I still enjoyed reading about their journeys and learning about their struggl I enjoyed this series of essays by intelligent, accomplished Muslim women in America. I would have preferred the essays to be a bit longer to understand more about their lives and who they are. I felt I learned more about Islam from The Faith Club: A Muslim, a Christian, and a Jew -- Three Women Search for Understanding, perhaps because it was only three women sharing their faith whereas this book has 40 women sharing. I still enjoyed reading about their journeys and learning about their struggle with integrating who they are - Muslim, American, a woman.

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