Salaam, friends! It’s time for another author interview for #RamadanReadathon 2020.
As you know, the readathon is themed around the anthology Once Upon An Eid, so I wanted to spotlight as many of its contributors as possible during the month. I’m excited to announce that the next author from the anthology to join me is Huda Al-Marashi!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Huda Al-Marashi is the author of First Comes Marriage: My Not-So-Typical American Love Story, a memoir the Washington Post called “a charming, funny, heartbreaking memoir of faith, family, and the journey to love.”
Her other writing has also appeared in the Washington Post, the LA Times, al Jazeera, the Rumpus, and elsewhere. First Comes Marriage was longlisted for the Chautauqua Prize and a finalist for the Southern California Independent Booksellers’ Award.
You can follow her on Twitter: @HudaAlMarashi.
ABOUT ONCE UPON AN EID
Once Upon An Eid is a collection of short stories that showcases the most brilliant Muslim voices writing today, all about the most joyful holiday of the year: Eid!
Eid: The short, single-syllable word conjures up a variety of feelings and memories for Muslims. Maybe it’s waking up to the sound of frying samosas or the comfort of bean pie, maybe it’s the pleasure of putting on a new outfit for Eid prayers, or maybe it’s the gift-giving and holiday parties to come that day. Whatever it may be, for those who cherish this day of celebration, the emotional responses may be summed up in another short and sweet word: joy. The anthology will also include a poem, graphic-novel chapter, and spot illustrations.
Salaam, Huda! Thank you so much for joining us! To begin with, could you quickly introduce yourself?
HA: Wasalaam, Nadia! Thank you for having me. I write primarily creative non-fiction, and most of my pieces tend to explore some aspect of familial or marital relationships. My first book was a memoir about my engagement and marriage to the son of our closest family friends in which I wanted to normalize how challenging and fraught the newlywed years can be, especially for couples who are experiencing their first relationship and getting married all in one step. And, I’m a mom to three children, ages 17, 14, and 8 who make me wish I could slow down time. I can’t believe I have two teenagers at home when I feel like they were babies only yesterday!
Tell us a little bit about your short story, Not Only An Only, in Once Upon An Eid. Where did the inspiration come from?
HA: This story was inspired by my real life friendship with the only other Muslim in my high school. Just like my character, I had grown used to being the only Muslim girl in school until I met my dear friend, Nadia, who like Hana in the story, also happened to be from a different country and a different sect but who became a sister to me all the same.
I wrote a little bit about that formative friendship in my memoir, and Nadia is still one of my closest friends today. Although we live a distance apart, we talk weekly, and the characters, Aya and Hana, are named after our daughters.
That’s beautiful! For me, the most prominent themes in the story were that of unity and belonging, and that feeling of togetherness is something I particularly love about Eid and Ramadan. What does Eid feel and look like for you?
HA: Growing up, Eid was actually a very lonely time. Like my characters, we lived in a small town without many other Muslims, and before the internet, it was hard to even know what people in other cities were doing even if one wanted to travel for Eid. That was an important experience for me to represent because I think Eid can look and feel very different, depending on where you live, especially in the United States, and I’m happy to say that Eid is not as isolating for my children. We live in a larger city, and we’ve made our own traditions, like a gift exchange with their cousins and a small Eid palm tree we put out every year with ornaments we made together.
That’s great to hear! Your previous book, First Comes Marriage is a memoir about faith, family and love. What did you enjoy most about writing fiction vs. non-fiction? Was there anything you didn’t enjoy or found difficult?
HA: I truly enjoyed writing this piece. There was something freeing about taking the feeling and emotion of a relationship that was based on my life but not being constrained by what actually happened. I love what memoir can offer readers in terms of presenting a relatable, lived experience. However, as a creative writer, that constant struggle to tell a compelling story that is true to actual events and that also does not harm the people you know and love can be quite challenging. This story felt like a fun, much-needed departure from the constraints of memoir.
And finally, what books by Muslim authors do you recommend? And which books are you looking forward to reading soon?
HA: All the authors in this collection make for a wonderful reading list. Almost all of them have other titles which I have enjoyed. I also loved A Place For Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza and Unmarriageable by Soniah Kamal. I am about to start reading, Melody Moezzi’s The Rumi Prescription, and I’m looking forward to picking up Sahar Mustafah’s The Beauty of Your Face.
Thank you so much for joining us, Huda, and for taking the time to answer these questions!
Once Upon An Eid is out now. Order the book at an indie bookstore near you, and don’t forget to add it on Goodreads.
For more books by this author, check out her memoir, First Comes Marriage: My Not-So-Typical American Love Story.