Excerpt from All-American Muslim Girl by Nadine Jolie Courtney, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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All-American Muslim Girl

by Nadine Jolie Courtney

All-American Muslim Girl by Nadine Jolie Courtney X
All-American Muslim Girl by Nadine Jolie Courtney
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  • First Published:
    Nov 2019, 432 pages

    Feb 2021, 432 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Catherine M Andronik
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Print Excerpt


We've passed through security and we're boarding the plane when the breaking news alert hits my cell phone: There's been a shooting.

Alerts like this trigger the same thought process, every single time. First: horror for the victims of the crime. But second: anxiety. Was a Muslim involved? Please, God, don't let there have been a Muslim involved.

The TV monitors in the boarding area are tuned to a show my father hates: Jack Henderson's nightly The Jack Attack, a cable news juggernaut. My heart tightens as images of the shooting flash next to Jack's face. I can't hear what he's saying, but I'm sure it's his usual bombast: immigrants, Muslims, borders, walls.

Next to the TVs, the beige walls are decorated with white lights and Christmas wreaths, a feeble attempt to bring seasonal cheer to the T gates.

Once safely on the plane, I poke my mother; my father is across the aisle from me, with a white man wearing khakis and a blazer in the adjacent window seat.

"Mom. Look," I say.

My mother puts down her iPad and takes the phone from me. "Oh no," she whispers. "That's devastating."

We lock eyes, and I know she's having the same thoughts: Please not a Muslim. Please not a Muslim.

Not that facts matter. Chances are good we'll bear the blame one way or another.

She turns on her seat-back TV, switching it to cable news. A red chyron blazes on the bottom of the screen: Attacker still at large. I hand the phone across the aisle to my dad. He stares at the screen for several seconds, sadness and frustration etched across his face. Silly Dad, the guy I've been teasing all morning, has disappeared. He's Serious Dad now.

As passengers continue boarding the plane, people around us frown at their phones. I study their faces carefully for the reactions. Dismay. Disbelief. Fear. Anger.

The man sitting next to Dad turns on his TV and lets out a sound of disgust. He glances sidelong at my father. Maybe it's my imagination, but I sense suspicion. My pulse quickens. He switches from cable news to sports.

"I bet it was a Muslim." A male voice behind us. Young.

"You think?" A female voice. Quiet.

"An attack like that? Most definitely. Screw those people."

"God, it's scary. You just never know."

"They're all the same. They shouldn't be here."

"Coulda been Syrian. Refugee, probably."

"I work with a Muslim. This chick Rabab. She doesn't pray and do all that crap. We went out for drinks last month."

"Yeah, for sure. There's plenty of good Muslims. I'm not talking about them."

Though their voices are low, muttering, they bore into my skull. I picture my grandmother in Dallas: my teta sitting in my aunt Bila's cheerful purple room, watching Amr Diab music videos and reading gossip magazines spilling dirt on Arab Idol judges. I wish I could show the passengers behind me what a Syrian Muslim in America looks like. Ask them if she is something to fear.

Of course I can't, and even if I could, I'd chicken out. Dad's said it forever: Harsh words equal short-term satisfaction. They always backfire. Best to take the high road.

My dad's phone rings, and he pulls it out of his pocket. "Kefic, ya Mama?… Mabsoot, mabsoot … Hamdullah … Enha a'al tayaara … Inshallah, inshallah," he says quietly. "Ya habibti … yalla, ma'asalaama." He's going through the motions with Teta, a routine ten-second phone call: How are you? I'm good. We made it on the plane safely, thank God. I'll let you know when we've landed, God willing. Love you. Okay, gotta go.

But the man next to him is now glaring at my father. My dad keeps his head down, his gaze neutral.

Things have become so charged, so ugly. He shouldn't have taken the call.

The man stands up abruptly. "Excuse me." He steps over Dad.

Excerpted from All-American Muslim Girl by Nadine Jolie Courtney. Copyright © 2019 by Nadine Jolie Courtney. Excerpted by permission of Farrar, Straus & Giroux. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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