You may have noticed that I've been tailoring my reading recently to counter some of the damaging narratives that have dominated the news cycle. It's become increasingly important to me to read books that shed light on and celebrate the lives of people of color in this beautiful, heterogeneous country of immigrants in which we live.
I decided to pick up Laughing All the Way to the Mosque in direct response to a recent event in my hometown. Here's the brief rundown: a bigoted jerk found out that the owner of a restaurant he had been frequenting is a practicing Muslim, and the bigoted jerk posted a poorly worded, grammatically suspect tirade on Facebook about how he wouldn't continue to patronize the restaurant now that he knew it was owned and operated by a person of the Islamic faith.
Because we live in a world of light and hope, a bunch of people in my fair city immediately called bullshit on the bigoted jerk, and hastily organized a social media campaign to encourage people to patronize the restaurant in support of the owner and to send the message that we have no truck with religious intolerance in these parts.
And wouldn't you know it, the itty-bitty restaurant's business has spiked in the days since the ignominious Facebook post. When I went to pick up our takeout on the appointed day of support, the front of the house had more staff on hand than I'd ever seen, and later, I read, there was a line out the door. Because no matter the xenophobic garbage that some people insist on spewing, we live in a world where love has the final say. I believe this to the soles of my feet. I do. (I have to, or I'd have to retire permanently to my bedchamber like a 19th century consumptive duchess and hide under the covers for the rest of my life.)
Here's the local news story about the unintended fallout (and utter failure) of the bigoted jerk's social media rant.
All of this to say, I am sick to death of how Muslims have been portrayed as people to fear, and I want to promote a book that illustrates that they are just people. And Zarqa Nawaz is just the person for the job.
First of all, she's flippin' hilarious. Her stories of making a career as a television writer while simultaneously raising a family of four children would be, I'm sure, relatable to any modern mom. (Don't even get me started on the time when, as a nursing mom, she forgot to pack breast pads and ended up stuffing her bra with toilet paper.) Secondly, she makes her faith approachable. There's no way you could read her memoir and come away with anything like fear towards people of her faith. She's too warm and genuine and personable for that.
So stick it to the bigots and read Nawaz's book today. Because nothing tastes better than religious freedom!