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

I lean forward in my cramped seat, watching him walk up the aisle to the galley. He talks to the flight attendant, who looks our way. He seems agitated, his arms gesticulating.

Her face hardens.

"Dad," I say.

Before I can say more, the flight attendant is standing in front of my father. "Sir. Is there a problem?"

My father looks up at her, blinking several times. "No, ma'am. No problem."

"We've had complaints about you," she says.

"Complaints?" I say. The venom in my voice surprises me. "Or just one, from that guy?" I nod toward the man still standing in the galley.

"Allie," my father says, voice low. He shakes his head, almost imperceptibly.

The flight attendant appraises me, her brow knitted. I can't tell if she's irritated or confused. She turns back to my father. "Passengers have expressed concern. They said you were speaking Arabic and they heard the word 'Allah' repeatedly."

"'Allah' is a really common word in Arabic, ma'am," I say. "It's in, like, every other phrase."

"Allie, please," my father says.

Normally I would shut up. I'd be obedient and just listen to my dad, like always.

Today is not that day.

"He was talking to my grandmother, ma'am. She doesn't speak English. We're flying to Dallas for a family reunion. We live here, in Atlanta. Actually, just north of Atlanta—in Providence. You know Providence, right?" A gentle Southern twang creeps into my voice, even though I've lived in Georgia for barely six months.

She looks back and forth between the two of us.

My dad opens his mouth again. "Ma'am, there must have been a misunderst—"

"I'm his daughter," I say, putting on my best For the Adults voice. Dad doesn't get these people like I do. Thank God I dressed nicely and wore makeup for the flight. "I'm a student at Providence High School outside Atlanta. So we've just celebrated Christmas, and now we're spending New Year's Eve with the rest of our family. For a reunion." I repeat, my tone upbeat and friendly. I pull out my phone, Googling my father's name. "See? Here's my dad on the Emory website. He's an American history professor there. He has a PhD from the University of North Texas." I click around on my phone, pulling up another entry. "Oh, so this is an article about my dad in the LA Times a few years ago. He wrote a book when he was an assistant professor at UCLA, and it got great reviews. Here's another one, when he was an associate professor at Northwestern." I put my hand gently on my mother's arm. She tucks her blond hair behind an ear, looking concerned. "This is my mom, Elizabeth. She's a psychologist affiliated with Grady Memorial. We're American. We're all American."

This is so not me, speaking up, but I have to. It's my dad.

Listing my parents' résumés seems to mollify the flight attendant, but Dad's seatmate is still in the galley. His arms are crossed against his chest, his eyes sweeping over my father accusingly. I can practically hear his inner monologue: The daughter and the wife don't look Muslim. But the dad …

I stand up slowly. No sudden motions.

"Here, Daddy," I say, pulling gently on his arm. "Why don't we switch seats? You can sit next to Mommy." I never call her Mommy.

Wordlessly, he stands up and slides into my seat.

"Please, sir," I call to the man who has accused my father, gesturing palm up toward his empty seat. "After you."

He walks back down the aisle, frowning and avoiding eye contact.

"So sorry for the confusion, sir. My grandma is so silly," I say, smiling as I sit next to him. Smiling is key. It confuses them. Anger … indignation … that's a luxury we don't have. "I've been trying to get her to learn English for years. She should learn! But you know how it is, right? Can't teach an old dog new tricks."

He blinks, looking back at me. His dubious expression softens.

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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