Creative Nonfiction

A collection of personal essays published in the Marginalia Review of Books, Yale Daily News Magazine, Yale Daily News WEEKEND, and DOWN Magazine

Our Story in Real Time

I begin in September 1999. Within minutes, the expedition has become a tour with one stop too many: a law professor denouncing “measurism,” EgyptAir permitting an FBI investigation, robots joining the Yale soccer team. It is there, near the end of November, that I take a break. My right hand stings from the strain of turning hundreds of pages. The harsh white-hot lights mounted on either side of the door beat down on my hunchbacked form. Involuntarily, I breathe in more oxidized cellulose and lignin, the musty fumes of history seeping through my lung’s canals.

Not So Simple Truths

The genius of Trump’s attacks on Muslims is that they force responses that, though positive, are formulated by the terms he dictates. He is always in control of the conversation. Muslims are terrorists; no, they’re peace-loving. Muslims are unpatriotic; no, they serve in the army. Muslim women are oppressed; no, they’re empowered. For all the electric variety of Trump’s insinuations (and they are always insinuations, too obvious to miss and too subtle to condemn), they all ultimately orbit the same nucleus of xenophobic paranoia. The rebuttals are as shallow as the assertions; the caricature of the “foreign terrorist” is switched out for the caricature of the “pacifist assimilationist.” Both are labels as meaningless as they are crude, and the dichotomy that they construct drains a 1,400-year-old religion, and its followers, of all complexity.

Sight-Seeing

By the third hour, I realized the White was too stingy to yield even a silhouette of a tree. Zahra, however, remained convinced that every next turn would yield an Instagram-worthy shot. I didn’t have an Instagram account, but as a self-styled amateur photographer, I made sure to snap a couple of pictures with the 5-megapixel camera of my iPhone. It captured the most compelling sights of the trip: the beige dashboard, faded jeans, greasy smudges on the passenger door window. Still my sister believed.

Something Profound: The 15th Annual Eid Banquet

Something profound happened last Tuesday, during the Eid banquet. That night, standing before a crowd of over five hundred Muslims, Christians, Jews, agnostics, and atheists under a portrait of George H. W. Bush in the largest dining hall of my secular university, I recited verses from the Quran, the Islamic holy book. Students, professors, and administrators all listened in silence as the words of God reverberated off the hallowed halls of Commons. In that moment, and in every moment of the fol
Close