Two foiled car bombs and a flaming car rammed into an airport terminal. Hundred could have been killed this weekend. It is frightening that it didn’t take police work to foil these attacks. Instead, they were botched only because of the grace of God. I wish someone could have swayed the people from these impotent tactics. I wish someone could have channeled the angry men and women’s energy to do something productive with their lives. They imagine that they are doing something for a greater cause. If only our leaders found a way to speak to their malcontent, but they do little to better the lives of the poor and suffering. If only they lived for others, rather tha

The events in London seems like an incredible stroke of luck (or rather what we Muslims call Qadr). Unforunately, terrorists are more successful in Iraq. While we think about all the lives that have been saved, we should be reminded that the most vulnerable people are the Muslim civilians living and residing in the Muslim world.

The African Novel

I remember Sheikh Yassir saying that when you love something, you want everyone to see what you love. Here is something I love, and its a relatively new love. It’s the African novel. I have read a few over the years, beginning with my first African history course at Santa Clara. But over the past few months, I have realized how much the writings speak to me.

Ali A. Mazrui and others mention seven conflicts as themes: the clash between Africa’s past and present, between tradition and modernity, between indigenous and foreign, between individualism and community, between socialism and capitalism, between development and self-reliance and between Africanity and humanity.

African novels speak to me, not because my experiences are the same. But they speak to me because of what the common struggles we share as human beings. We are able to speak because those commonalities manifest themselves in different ways. I find part of myself as fragmented reflections in the characters and their struggles. Also I find a part of something outside of myself that, in turn, defines me.

Years ago I had aspirations of becoming a writer. In my novel writing class my instructor asked each student why they wanted to write. My answer was, “To tell the stories that haven’t been told.” When I decided to become a professional historian, I forgot about that creative drive. But underlying everything that I’ve done since 1998 was to tell untold stories of real people. I realize that some people tell amazing stories, but sometimes they are not within our ear shot. Other times, dissonance of our instant message, text message, reality tv noise drowns out those stories. Often we are not willing to hear stories about people who do not live like us, who we do not believe think like us, and therefore we assume we cannot understand their experiences. Other times those stories challenge our basic assumptions. I’ve always seen books as windows to other worlds, as a way to broaden my own. But novels are not just a window, they allow me to reflect upon my own experiences and see myself in a different light. Find yourself in a book, walk in some one else’s shoes, imagine who you are and who you could be. I hope you pick up a book from the canon of African literature. Here is a sampling of some of my favorite novels:

Devil on the Cross by Ngugi wa Thiong’o Kenya
Ambiguous Adventure by Cheikh Hamidou Kane Senegal
Shehu Umar by Abubakar Tafawa Balewa Nigeria
Nervous Conditionsby Tsitsi Dangarembga Rodesia
The Fortunes of Wangrin by Amadou Hampate Ba Mali
Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe Nigeria

African Literature and Writers on the Internet

Moving Forward without Seeing the Path

An graduate life is full of contigencies and unknowns. The insecurities that are part and parcel of graduate life exacerbate my feelings of dislocation. A huge part of me longs for something stable and permanent outside of my ephemeral relationships with people and communities. Sometimes the only thing that seems constant with me is that I’m working on this goal. Even when my hopes are frustrated, I’m working on this goal. Even when I’m taking a break, I enjoy myself because that helps me get through so that I can work on this goal. Through the years, the goal has shifted. But I have been moving forward trying to make a meaningful life and eventually find my place.

A few months ago nothing seemed to come together as I had hoped. Even though I felt paralyzed with fear, I had to commit to diving right in. I don’t know how everything is going to work out. I have worked hard to do what I can. I have asked for help and guidance. I will continue to work, do everything thing that I can do. Friends counseled me to wait patiently because they were sure everything would fall into place. Even with fear and trembling, I step forward without seeing the path.

8 Random Facts

TAG I’m it! tagged me, so I was obliged to write out 8 random facts about me. I decided to tag this interesting bunch from my list on my blogroll. Some have already performed this blog ritual. It won’t hurt my feelings if they don’t comply:

 Umm Adam , No Snow Heremuslimahwarrior , peacefulmuslimah , kalital ,  Abdur Rahman’s Corner, akramsrazor , mommamu

Now to the random facts about me.

You are What you Eat

I love candy, deserts, sweet, and even sweet and savory foods. I have coffee or tea with my sugar. My ideal tea is Moroccan tea because it reflects my affinity for syrupy sweet drinks. Secretly, I only enjoy weddings for the cake. I love wedding cakes and light airy icing. My favorite slice of cake is the corner, which maximizes the icing. When I was a kid, I used to bring icing with me for lunch. So, really I enjoy cake with my icing. I love white cake with buttercream or whipped cream icing. My favorite bakery is Wilson’s Bakery near Santa Clara University. That was the bakery where my mother bought my birthday party cakes. I love Lava cakes from wholefoods with Vanilla icecream and fresh rasberries. Cheesecake ranks up there on my list too. My big  brother used to bribe me not to tell on him.  Some summers, I had 5 dollars a day to spend on candy and icecream. I’d eat whatchamacallits, twix, It’s It icecream, strawberry shortcakes, Red Vines, Snickers, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, and when Caramellos came out I lost my mind. But the only time I got cavities was the year I stopped eating candy.

I dream 

I have vivid dreams and sometimes they seem so real. for me, the dreamworld is fantastic and frightening. When I am in the dream there are times it feels like reality. But when my dreams are especially frightening, I sometimes have the realization that I can wake myself up and change that reality.  I have night terrors only when I’m alone, but not when I have sleepovers. Since I was a little girl, I have had recurring  nightmares with zombies. I think I’ve had every scenario with zombies chasing me in theatres, in my house, creeping in my backyard, me fighting zombies, loved ones abandoning me to zombies, even one time I was finally bitten by the zombie. I’ve had to stop watching zombie movies. Call it irrational, but I can only do laundry in the day time because our washing machine and dryer are on the side of the house. It is a blind alley when you open the door, making it a perfect scene for a really bad horror movie. I have good dreams too. Years ago, my dream world took me to some other place. My experience was that I saw the truth of this world through a grass blade, millions upon  millions of grass blades. I woke up feeling that time had been  suspended and that I had expanded but was returning to finite state.


I love naps. Naps are sunnah. Since California has so many Spanish influences, we should legally reinstate the siesta. Naps are delicious, I enjoy the world suspended between reality and dreams. I love the feeling of relaxing until I slip away. In order to sleep I have to have my head under the covers. I have to cover my head in the train or plane.  When I meditate–which is rare–I often fall asleep. That is because I like to meditate under the covers. I love 1 hour naps, but two hours is even better.


I have always enjoyed reading, well until grad school. But I was not so much into reading other people’s poetry, as much as reading novels, autobiographies, and grand historical narratives. I  miss reading for the enjoyment of it. I miss the interactive nature of reading, how it pushes your imagination. Every movie adaptation has been a dissapointment. Well, except Lord of the Rings. I could never get into hairy foot Hobbits and pale elves until I saw the first film. Then after reading it, I felt let down by the movie. I can read a book in an 8 hour sitting. It is one reason why I don’t read much anymore. It is hard to let it go. After I finish an amazing story, I often go into mourning. Those characters that I fell in love with have passed on, that world the book created has fallen into oblivion,  the story is no more. I can only resurrect them in my imagination. 

Wishful thinking

I obsessively check my email in hopes that I find some good news like I won a million dollars or the man of my dreams loves me and wants to marry me. Of course, when I get notices from my Nigerian friends that I won a million dollars, I do not believe them. And I would be dissapointed if I got a proposal via email. I’d probably think he’s a stalker and be freaked out. I check my snail mail much in the same way. I love packages, good news, and checks. All too often, it is bills and predatory lenders. But each day I wake up and religiously check my email. Each day after I get off of work or at 4, I check my mail box. I can always hope, can’t I?


I’m looking outside the window of this office looking at purple, pink and white blooms of all varieties. I love bouquets and flowering plants. It reminds me of the simple things that we should stop and take notice of. The most beautiful things are natural and even then we have to recognize that it is all ephemeral. I think that is the bittersweet thing about getting a gift of roses. We enjoy them until they whither away and the water stinks. The last time I received flowers was on my graduation. I miss being suprised at work with a bouquet of flowers. I will buy myself and my friends flowers, or blooming plants.  Every woman should have thoughtful reminders of their inherent beauty every now and then.

Sing Like Nobody’s Listening and Dance like Nobody’s Watching

 I love long drives where I can sing at the top of my voice. It doesn’t matter if my voice cracks or if my voice falls flat. I sing like I really mean it, with my heart and soul. In contrast to my weak voice, I have always danced and been involved in choreography. I have written earlier about my breakdancing youth. When I was a little girl, my mother took me to the iceskating rink. I quickly picked up the craft. Unlike the other children, I had a natural awareness of my body in motion, natural balance and grace. I brought the groove into that came from my family’s roller rink days. I was always the only Black girl in the rink, weaving in and out, forwards and backwards,  finding spaces in between the crowds. I’d find spaces for that walz jump, or  that lutz, flip, loop, or salchow (or not). I danced through the crowd, cross overs, spirals, lounges, forward and back. Then I’d fall back into the center and lose myself in the dizziness of the spin. We did not have a lot of money and my brother, who worked as a waiter, used to help out pay for some of my lessons. My coach thought I was talented and fed me dreams of statewide competition, national, and even olympics. A twelve year old doesn’t really know much about class. Ice skating is a rich girl’s sport. But from iceskating, I learned the best performances were those that were done as if nobody was watching. The crowd disappears and your body dialogues with the music. You elaborate on those raw feelings that are expressed. You have to feel it, and yourself. The important thing is to not think about it. I learned Middle Eastern dance and only selectively perform in women centered events like women’s parties, segregated weddings, anniversary celebrations, and on one occassion a celebration for a women’s center. So much of what we see in American belly dancing sub-cultures is all about the gaze and Western women appropriation of the  representations of non-Western women’s sensuality and feminity. When I dance, it is about my appreciation for their  rhythm and melodies. It is a  celebration of my friend’s culture and those moments that they shared with me a part of themselves. And that exchange changed me and influenced me.  In a room full of Arab and North African ladies, dancing as if nobody’s watching in celebration of classic songs and fusions of Raggae and traditional music, I remain conscious of that fine line we walk, whether cultural admirers or cultural vultures.  

I heart

For me, love is wonderful, dreadful, joyful and painful. I give mine away recklessly and lose myself in it. I heart until it hurts. Since I am sensitive, my tender feelings are often subject to hurt. I heart my friends with such openness. Those doors remain open until my heart is betrayed. I heart them until they hurt me intentionally. Even then, I love the humanity in them and only cut myself from them to mitigate the damage.


I woke up this morning happy. I felt full…warm and safe. Then there was a bitter sweet moment as I thought about how my life will change dramatically. I thought about what I’d have to let go. In a few weeks, I will take an intensive course for 6 weeks. Then, two weeks after that I will leave the country for the hustle and bustle of Cairo. My naive dreams of longing will be held in suspension. I can’t pack up those that I care about and bring them with me. No more 40 minute drives to the place where I grew up. I will be thousands of miles from my mom’s the plum, orange, and lemon tress. No long rides along scenic windy highway 280 to San Francisco or 580 to Oakland or Berkeley. I’ll be far from the high tech Martin Luther King Library and shrimp tacos and chicken qesadillas at Iguanas on 3rd street in San Jose. I’ll miss the smells of the ocean. I’ll miss the expanse of the Pacific and driving on bridges that span the Bay. More than anything, I’ll miss the sun streaming in my window filtering through the white comforter that envelops me in a waking dream. The bittersweet moment passed and the joy of being took over. This morning, I laid in bed suspended between the world of dreams and world of conscious action. As I drifted in and out, the lines between those worlds blurred. Wishful…dreaming…feeling…full…feeling…me…like myself again.