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Threading My Prayer Rug
Cover of Threading My Prayer Rug
Threading My Prayer Rug
One Woman's Journey from Pakistani Muslim to American Muslim
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This acclaimed memoir of Islamic faith, marriage, and motherhood in America is "a culturally rich and rewarding personal chronicle" (Kirkus).
Threading My Prayer Rug is the captivating tale of a woman's pursuit to define an American Muslim identity for herself. With warmth and wisdom, Sabeeha Rehman recounts a multifaceted journey: from Pakistan to the United States; from arranged marriage to lasting love match; from liberal to conservative to American Muslim; and from an immigrant who intends to return to her native country to an American citizen, business executive, grandmother, and tireless advocate for interfaith understanding.
Beginning with a moving and disarmingly funny account of her arranged marriage, Sabeeha undercuts Muslim stereotypes and offers a refreshing view of American life. She also recounts her experience of doing interfaith work with Imam Feisal A. Rauf, the driving force behind the Muslim community center near Ground Zero, when the backlash began. In a new preface, she discusses American Islam in the time of Trump.
SHORTLISTED FOR THE WILLIAM SAROYAN INTERNATIONAL PRIZE
BOOKLIST TOP TEN RELIGION AND SPIRITUALITY BOOK
ONE OF BOOKLIST'S TOP TEN DIVERSE NONFICTION BOOKS
This acclaimed memoir of Islamic faith, marriage, and motherhood in America is "a culturally rich and rewarding personal chronicle" (Kirkus).
Threading My Prayer Rug is the captivating tale of a woman's pursuit to define an American Muslim identity for herself. With warmth and wisdom, Sabeeha Rehman recounts a multifaceted journey: from Pakistan to the United States; from arranged marriage to lasting love match; from liberal to conservative to American Muslim; and from an immigrant who intends to return to her native country to an American citizen, business executive, grandmother, and tireless advocate for interfaith understanding.
Beginning with a moving and disarmingly funny account of her arranged marriage, Sabeeha undercuts Muslim stereotypes and offers a refreshing view of American life. She also recounts her experience of doing interfaith work with Imam Feisal A. Rauf, the driving force behind the Muslim community center near Ground Zero, when the backlash began. In a new preface, she discusses American Islam in the time of Trump.
SHORTLISTED FOR THE WILLIAM SAROYAN INTERNATIONAL PRIZE
BOOKLIST TOP TEN RELIGION AND SPIRITUALITY BOOK
ONE OF BOOKLIST'S TOP TEN DIVERSE NONFICTION BOOKS
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About the Author-
  • Sabeeha Rehman is an author, blogger, and speaker on the American Muslim experience. Her memoir Threading My Prayer Rug: One Woman's Journey from Pakistani Muslim to American Muslim, was shortlisted for the 2018 William Saroyan International Prize for Writing, named one of Booklist's Top Ten Religious and Spirituality Books of 2016 and Top Ten Diverse Nonfiction Books of 2017, awarded honorable mention in the 2017 San Francisco Book Festival Awards, Spiritual Category, and chosen as a 2019 United Methodist Women's Reading Program Selection. Excerpts from her memoir were featured in the Wall Street Journal, Salon.com, and Tiferet. Since the publication of her memoir, she has given more than 250 talks in nearly a hundred cities, at houses of worship, academic institutions, libraries, and community organizations, including the Chautauqua Institution, where her lectures have been sold out. Sabeeha has given talks on the art of memoir writing at academic institutions including Hunter College, New York. She is an op-ed contributor to the Houses of Worship column of the Wall Street Journal and New York Daily News. She lives with her husband in New York City.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    May 9, 2016
    Rehman’s spirited debut memoir illuminates the challenges of living an authentically Muslim life in America. In 1971, her arranged marriage to Khalid, a doctor, took her from her native Pakistan to New York. She humorously relates her confusion on first encountering junk mail, central heating, and bountiful American supermarkets, contrasting her new life with milestones from her early years in England and Pakistan. The Rehmans largely “put religion on hold” until their sons were born, which gave them the impetus to form a Muslim community. They helped start a local Muslim community center, raised funds for a new mosque, fasted for Ramadan, and completed the hajj. As an administrator at an interfaith hospital, Rehman came into contact with multiple religions and participated in cross-cultural feasts and presentations. Throughout, she is keen to draw distinctions between what she sees as essential to Islam and what is cultural and possibly outmoded—particularly rituals that run counter to women’s rights. The answer to extremism, she believes, is education and dialogue: “Get to be known and love thy neighbor.” With sparkling anecdotes about everything from the “Christmas-ization of Eid” to engineering her son’s marriage, Rehman lends a light heart and an open mind to the process of becoming a multicultural “hybrid.”

  • Kirkus

    May 15, 2016
    A heartfelt memoir plumbs the multilayered experience of being Muslim in America. With a steady infusion of verve and personality, Rehman immerses readers in the traditions of a Middle Eastern culture in which prearranged adolescent marriages (including her own) are not uncommon. In 1971, the author, the accommodating daughter of a lieutenant colonel, arrived in the United States as a 20-year-old Pakistani, planning only to remain in America for two years while her charming, charismatic husband, Khalid, finished his medical residency. Rehman appropriately counters lavish descriptions of gilded pre-wedding rituals and the pageantry of the matrimonial ceremony with discussions of the culture clash as her new life in New York City began. Her tendency to inject plucky, italicized interior asides, however, has the uneven narrative effect of being both whimsical and interruptive. Self-indulgences aside, the author writes candidly about feeling insulted when American women questioned the validity of her predestined marriage or the culture-contradictory ideas of nursing homes for elderly family members. Holidays and childbirth proved more complicated and further loosened Rehman's grip on her religion, and later, she faced the challenge of incorporating Islamic religion into the lives of her Americanized children. Though she stringently resisted her own Americanization, 44 years later, Rehman remains a content citizen with a career in hospital administration, years dedicated to women's equality, and an executive position at an Islamic multifaith organization, which, the author rivetingly details, faced an anti-Islamic backlash for their participation in the construction of a Muslim mosque blocks from the 9/11 site in downtown Manhattan. In her closing remarks, the author reflects on the contemporary shift taking place within her culture, her hopes for continued cultural pluralism in America, and the need for safe community spaces for immigrants "where we can be wholly Muslim and wholly American." Rehman's memoir offers a deeper understanding and appreciation for Muslim lifestyles while imparting a message of unity and international fellowship. A culturally rich and rewarding personal chronicle of ethnic faith and intermingled tradition.

    COPYRIGHT(2016) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Library Journal

    June 15, 2016

    This candid memoir follows Rehman's journey from the time she had a hurried, arranged marriage in Pakistan through her years exploring a new life with her husband in the United States. From Rehman's first days adjusting to the novelty of electric heating to her faux pas of wearing bridal jewelry in a seedier area of New York, her story is permeated with hilarious personal experiences and asides as she adapts to the country she will soon call home. Rehman lends a strong and compelling voice to moderate Muslims, and her discussion of her faith and the areas she believes need modernization illustrate the different opinions within the Muslim community. The only part of the book that feels off is the prolog, which strikes a note of defensiveness that seems out of character with Rehman's usual confident voice and seems to indicate mistakenly that the work is about her oppression as a Muslim. VERDICT With well-placed humor, Rehman writes an entertaining and honest story of one woman's journey to fuse the cultures of her past and present to create her own experience.--Stacy Shaw, Orange, CA

    Copyright 2016 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Booklist

    Starred review from June 1, 2016
    The immigrant's dilemma of retaining one's identity while assimilating into American society is always a fascinating story. In this autobiography, readers experience Rehman's transformation from a young woman in Pakistan to a Pakistani American in New York. In the process we see how she navigates American society, retains her identity and passes it on to her children and community, accepts becoming an American, modifies some of her traditions while manufacturing new ones, and enriches her own life and the lives of those around herthus weaving her contribution into the fabric of America, and enriching the American tapestry. The narrative is conversational, as stories blend into one another. The nuances of immigrant life show readers the various shades of assimilation and self-identityall at the same time, and in various degrees, depending on one's values. Rehman's personal journey is her own, but speaks broadly to all immigrant journeys in contemporary America. With so much discussion about Muslim immigrants in the national conversation, it's good to have a story with this unique perspective.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2016, American Library Association.)

  • Booklist, starred review

    "Rehman's personal journey is her own, but speaks broadly to all immigrant journeys in contemporary America. With so much discussion about immigrants from Muslim in the national conversation, it's good to have a story with this unique perspective."

  • Publishers Weekly "Rehman's spirited debut memoir illuminates the challenges of living an authentically Muslim life in America. . . . With sparkling anecdotes about everything from the 'Christmas-ization of Eid' to engineering her son's marriage, Rehman lends a light heart and an open mind to the process of becoming a multicultural 'hybrid.'"
  • Kirkus "A heartfelt memoir plumbs the multilayered experience of being Muslim in America. With a steady infusion of verve and personality, Rehman immerses readers in the traditions of a Middle Eastern culture. . . . Rehman's memoir offers a deeper understanding and appreciation for Muslim lifestyles while imparting a message of unity and international fellowship. A culturally rich and rewarding personal chronicle of ethnic faith and intermingled tradition."
  • Library Journal “An entertaining and honest story of one woman's journey to fuse the cultures of her past and present to create her own experience . . . Her story is permeated with hilarious personal experiences and asides as she adapts to the country she will soon call home. Rehman lends a strong and compelling voice to moderate Muslims, and her discussion of her faith and the areas she believes need modernization illustrate the different opinions within the Muslim community."
  • Midwest Book Review "The country needs this counterbalancing personal story to correct the pervasive misunderstanding of what Islam is truly about and the contributions to our American democracy that most American Muslims make every day of their lives. Exceptionally well written and consistently compelling read from beginning to end. . . . Somebody donate a copy of Threading My Prayer Rug to every Republican member of Congress, every Republican member of a state legislature, and every Republican governor who advocates for preventing Muslims from settling in their state."
  • Jewish Week “A warm, amusing and, for a Jewish reader, a surprisingly familiar story."
  • Dawn newspaper (Pakistan) "That one masterstroke of penmanship and objective thought is the ultimate grand finale to a lifelong effort of understanding not only other faiths, but also her own."
  • Ranya Tabari Idliby, coauthor of The Faith Club and author of Burqas, Baseball and Apple Pie "Take this journey on Sabeeha's prayer rug, and you will be enchanted as she vividly and beautifully transports you through rich and elaborate threads of a lifetime lived with love, intelligence, and compassion--an inspiration to all."
  • Susan Choi, Pulitzer Prize finalist and author of A Person of Interest and My Education "Funny and frank, acute, and compassionate, this story of an immigrant 'fish out of water' who falls in love with her adopted American home is for all of us, and for all times--but current events also make it the story for this time. As Americans consider who they were, are, and want to be in the future, they could have no better guide than Sabeeha Rehman. I can't imagine our country, or my bookshelf, without her."
  • Jan Goodwin, award-winning author, journalist, and Senior Fellow at Brandeis University's Schuster Institute of Investigative Journalism "With anti-Islamic sentiments on the rise in this country, Threading My Prayer Rug is a refreshing look at what it is really like to be a Muslim in the US today. With humor, charm, and great insight, Sabeeha Rehman recounts how one can be both a devout Muslim and an American wife, mom, grandmother and community activist."
  • Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, founder of Cordoba House, author of What's Right With Islam and Moving the Mountain "Coming to America is seldom associated with discovering one's faith--let alone Islam. Rich in exotic detail, Sabeeha's true-life story is funny, sweet, beautiful, warm, and deeply touching to any reader, who will note how much the heart and soul of a Muslim mother is like that of any other."
  • Sidney Offit, former president of the Authors Guild Foundation and Authors League Fund and author of Memoir of a Bookie's Son "Sabeeha Rehman's prose resonates with intimacy, wisdom, and wit. She achieves a richly textured narrative that introduces readers to the rituals and enduring values of her Muslim faith as she, her husband Khalid and their sons Saqib and Asim integrate into the American melting pot. At the conclusion of her classic text, Ms. Rehman affirms, 'Together we will change the...
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One Woman's Journey from Pakistani Muslim to American Muslim
Sabeeha Rehman
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