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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About this Book

Print Excerpt

"I'm so sorry you felt uncomfortable." I'm still using the Voice. "Thank you so much for being so understanding, sir. It's very kind of you."

Finally, he nods at the flight attendant. "It's okay."

She scurries away, obviously relieved.

I want to slap him across the face. I want to say: How dare you judge my father? What gives you that right? Instead, I draw from years of lessons and hold out my hand, smiling. "I'm Allie, by the way."

"Larry," he says, shaking my hand in return. He gestures toward my dad, though still not looking at him. "You're obviously a very well-brought-up young lady. I didn't realize you were together." He clears his throat, seeming embarrassed. "Sorry for the misunderstanding. But you know what they say: If you see something, gotta say something. Never can be too careful."

Now he's smiling, too. I've convinced him we're safe.

Human, like him.

"Good" Muslims.

I spend five minutes forcing myself to chat with him until I'm sure we're out of harm's way. He's an insurance analyst based in Dallas, returning from a business trip. I remind him of his daughter. She's a redhead like me. Twenty-three. Graduated from SMU last year.

I smile, working to look interested and make him feel comfortable.

Once the flight takes off, I politely make excuses and pull out my iPhone, finally feeling safe enough to relax and read a new novel I've downloaded. The guy nods off somewhere over Alabama, and it's only once he's asleep that my father gets up to use the bathroom, kissing me on top of my head before walking into the back.

My mom leans across the aisle. "I'm sorry, honey," she whispers.

"It's okay."

The rest of the flight passes without incident. When we land, the guy takes a phone call as soon as we're on the ground, loudly talking as we deplane. He doesn't make eye contact with my father, disappearing into the crowd at DFW.

Look, I did what I had to. If you break open your moral piggy bank and spend a little, you'll buy a lot of goodwill in return.

I've paid frequently over the years—turning the other cheek, smiling at offenders, pretending I don't mind, laughing.

Do you feel comfortable? How can I help? Here, that ignorance must be superheavy—let me carry that burden for you.

Thing is, my emotional piggy bank is running out of change. Soon, I might not have anything left.

* * *

In Aunt Bila's sedan, as my family gossips about the usual drama, my parents don't mention a thing. I sit in the back next to my mom, staring out the window.

What would have happened to my dad if I hadn't been there?

Would it have escalated? Would the police have been called? Would they have kicked him off the plane?

Or worse: Could he have been arrested? Just for being Muslim?

Nobody's getting arrested just for being Muslim.

I don't think.

Maybe I'm being way too dramatic. Dad's always told me to keep the Muslim thing on the DL, because people get weird when they hear the M-word. It's a safety issue.

Honestly? It's a convenience issue, too.

Sometimes it's better if people don't know.

For me, hiding is easy: reddish-blond hair, pale skin, hazel eyes. It doesn't matter that I look textbook Circassian, like a lot of light-skinned Muslims from the Caucasus region. (Hey, they don't call it Caucasian for nothing.) I don't trigger people's radar. People have an image in their head when they hear the word Muslim, and I just don't fit.

But Dad doesn't have that luxury. When people meet him, they take one look and decide he's clearly From Somewhere Else—no matter how much he tries to blend in and deflects by saying "From Texas" when people ask that annoying "Where are you from?" question. Assimilate, try to shed the accent, it doesn't matter. Once people mark him as different, they treat him that way, too.

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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