Wednesday, September 22, 2010

C'mon...You Know You Want to Read It

My litany of excuses for not blogging, that is. I was supposed to follow up on my last post and everything. I fully intended to for a few days there, too. Then I got busy. It's not as though I haven't been blogging--after all, I've put up close to twenty posts over the past two weeks on the Cybils blog, and I did manage a post or two over at the YA blog recently. I did some other webmastering duties at other sites. And I even worked on a couple of major (to me) web design projects--namely a new personal/professional site and a Latte Rebellion site to accompany/pimp my book.

Speaking of the book, that's been keeping me busy, too...I got an advance review copy of it at the end of last month, which got me excited, just in time to receive my next (and final) round of edits. Not long after I finished those edits, I got a phone call from a member of the publicity staff at my publisher, and had a discussion about things like going to ALA and doing a book launch and contacting media and other stuff that left me flabbergasted yet excited. I talked to a couple of friends here in town, who have teacherly and librarianly connections, about talking to classes or holding a library reading when the book is launched in January.  Today I got my galley proofs, and my next task is to review them and e-mail my publisher with any changes. It's a whirlwind that comes in gusts--lots of stuff at once, alternating with periods of waiting.

Oh, and I've been doing lots of writing, mainly articles interspersed with a little work on another fiction project. So lately it's seemed like every spare second has been taken up, because of course there's other stuff happening in my life besides work. Nothing particularly notable, except Rob's return to teaching classes after being on sabbatical for a year. That's been a smack upside the head for both of us. So if I seem to be a bit dry and dull at the moment...I guess I am.

I did have two odd conversations today, though. One was remarkable because it's highly possible the exchange consisted entirely of lies, and the one person I could guarantee was lying, was me. Packing up my car after shopping at Trader Joe's:

Random Large Dude: (paraphrased) Excuse me, I was wondering if you could help out, I can give you my address, my phone number and everything, but me and my family are trying to get to Vallejo.

Me: What, like on the train or...?

RLD: No, we've got a car, but it's (broken down/ran out of gas/something I can't remember).

Me: I'm sorry, I don't have any cash on me.

Now, that latter was, sadly, a lie. I didn't have any cash I wanted to GIVE him. I only had a twenty. And pennies, which would be rude. But I still felt bad. And then, as I got in my car and drove away, I told myself, he could well have been pulling a scam and just lying about the family, about Vallejo, about the car, about everything. He looked normal enough, if startlingly obese, but who knows? All I know is, he could have been lying. I was definitely lying. And that felt weird.

***

The other strange conversation I had was with my sister-in-law. I think she's in New York this week, visiting friends, but I wasn't thinking about that when she called earlier today. I picked up my cell phone.

Me:  Hello?

Sis-in-Law: Hey, It's [REDACTED].

Me: Hey, how's it going?

SIL: Good! Listen, what do we push, D or F? We're here!

Me: ...[long silence]...Wha?

SIL: What button do we push, D or F?

Me: Um...what do you mean?

SIL: What? I'm outside!

Me: Outside MY house? Right now? [I look out the front window. Nobody's there.]

SIL: Yeah, we're coming up the front stairs and don't know if we should push D or F.

Me: ...Uh...you do realize you're talking to Sarah, your sister-in-law?

SIL: Oh no! Oh! How funny. Gotta go.

This struck me as highly comical afterward because I had been so INCREDIBLY confused by what she was saying to me. It didn't make any sense to me whatsoever until she started saying she was outside the house, and referred to front stairs, which I don't have. Only then did it occur to me that she was probably talking about apartment buzzers and thought she was talking to someone else.

It was very surreal, but also funny.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

About that Fasting Thing...

Especially if we've known each other since my childhood, you'll know that me deciding to observe even one single day of Ramadan is a highly unusual occurrence. You'll probably remember that I did not always get along well with my dad while I was growing up. I fasted a few times (not really by choice) when I was nine or ten, and was frustrated by the fact that I didn't have much say in the matter.

I was also confused about it. When I was small, when my parents were still married, neither was particularly religious. Oh, we observed holidays from two sets of religions, and pork was not a part of our diet, but that was about the extent of it. I have clear memories of me, my mom AND my dad gathered around the piano, singing while my mom played Christmas carols, just as I have clear memories of my mom exasperated at the insane amounts of traditionally butchered halal goat stored in our freezer after the observance of Eid. Me? I liked extra holidays. I was a materialistic little 1980s child, and more holidays meant more presents. (Incidentally, my dad's not in the picture above...I assume he was the photographer. It's my aunt, uncle, cousins, mom and grandfather.)

So when my father remarried—I was about nine—and started to become a more observant Muslim, that change reached into my life as well—when it was his visitation weekend, I went (reluctantly) to Sunday school and mosque. And on a couple of occasions, yes, I did observe the fast. But as soon as I was old enough to really assert my opinion, I refused to do it any more. I stopped going to Islamic Sunday school, avoided going to mosque as much as possible. By the time I was twelve, I was able to choose when I wanted to visit my dad, and although the frequency of visits didn't decrease by much, I was able to avoid having religion forced on me by anyone.

I'm still not a religious person. Neither is Rob. I generally feel like it's one of those cocktail party, polite company no-no subjects, along with politics. As for tomorrow's fast, we're not doing it for religious reasons. I'm not doing it to make my dad happy, although he is pleased we're making this small attempt. (I'm not sure how pleased he would be at our less-than-strict implementation. We're not going to adhere to the letter of every rule. More on that tomorrow.)

Why ARE we doing it? I guess it's complicated. I'm not doing it to connect with my dad, though it might help me do that a little. If I'm being honest, it has very little to do with that. What got me thinking about it was actually Rob's cousin Patrick. Patrick posted a Facebook update about how he's fasted a few times in the past to express support, kinship and solidarity with Muslim friends. And seeing him say that was very freeing for me. I had this realization that I don't need to let my own conflicted feelings about my relationship with my dad get in the way of me making a connection with my heritage, even if it's a tiny one, just for one day.

And I've felt really strongly about that heritage lately, with Muslims apparently being personae non grata in certain circles and Islam being denounced left and right. Like in the days after 9/11, yet again I'm afraid for my Muslim family members here in the U.S. I may not observe Islam, but I don't want anything to happen to my family and I want them to be able to practice their faith with dignity and respect. There's so much misunderstanding and disinformation circulating right now, which I suspect stems primarily from the fact that a lot of people don't KNOW, or haven't bothered to get to know, any actual practicing Muslims.

I'm not going to go off on a rant about that, though it would be easy to do. I'm just going to conclude by saying that this is going to be a very interesting experience for both Rob and myself. I'm hoping that it reminds me a little of where I come from, connects me with that a little more, even if my usual M.O. is to forge my own path, something that isn't likely to change. And maybe others will be encouraged by what I've decided to do—or at least take my words to heart—and open themselves up to their Muslim friends and neighbors a little more. I'm going to sound like a hippie here, but mutual understanding means we as Americans truly can be a "we" as opposed to an "us" and a "them."