Nadine Jolie Courtney is the author of the new novel All-American Muslim Girl. The YA book is about a sixteen-year-old girl’s rite-of-passage as she explores her Islamic faith, and encounters such things as first love and xenophobia. Publishers Weekly says of the book, “Courtney examines matters of subtle and blatant Islamophobia, privilege and erasure, and questions of faith and identity with a sensitivity born of experience and respect.”
In this op-ed for CNN, Ms. Courtney writes about how the Muslim Ban affected someone like her, a “mixed-raced Muslim: green eyes, blonde hair, fair skin…. the basic girl-next-door,” and how that “watershed moment” moved her to write “All American Muslim Girl.” Here are some more snippets from her column:
— … the day Trump instituted the travel ban and Americans from all walks of life fought back against it was doubly profound, it’s the day I stopped hiding. It’s the day I re-opened the word document on my computer and started writing the personal story I’d been too afraid to explore for 10 years. It’s the day I officially began writing my novel “All-American Muslim Girl” — about Islamophobia, white privilege, identity and erasure.
— Because of my appearance, the Islamophobia I’ve experienced over the years is very different from that of my Muslim cousins, aunts and friends… I’ve never had somebody yell “Allahu akbar!” at me in the hallway at school. All of these things have happened to people I love. Unlike them, I almost never feel in danger because of my religion… Instead, I’m subject to microaggressions: people’s jaws dropping when they find out I’m Muslim. Incredulous comments like, “You? But you look so American!” — as if Muslims can’t be Americans, too.
— Years of hiding has produced a tension between the two sides of myself: the side who “came out” after the Muslim ban and started enthusiastically, publicly claiming my “Muslimness”…and the side that had built a life where people were completely unaware of my religion, my heritage, and family, and the fact that, yes, I do actually pray every day. Yes, in Arabic.
— My novel debunks myths about Islam by gently educating people — through the eyes of a young white-passing 16-year-old who is exploring her family’s religion herself for the first time — but it was important to me not to “justify” the religion for Western eyes.