Do Me Twice: Some thoughts

If there’s one thing you can say about me, it’s that I’m a voracious and quick reader.  I started Do Me Twice on my bus ride home and finished it before 7:30 pm.  However, I’m not much on writing formal reviews.  Although I loved to read as a child and teenager, I really didn’t like english class all that much.  I didn’t see the need to disect a book for it’s themes or write papers on character devlopment.  But, as an adult, I can see the importance of at least being able to write a decent review of a book, especially when one wants to recommend or not recommend it to others.  As such, here’s my review of Do Me Twice.  I can’t promise that it will be pretty prose, but inshaAllah I’ll improve as I write more.

My overall impression with the book was disappointment.  I picked it up becasue I had enjoyed the author’s first book Little X: Growing up in the Nation of Islam.  I hadn’t been dazzled by the prose, but the story was interesting and compelling – Little X provided a window into the world of NOI before and during the transition to mainstream Islam.

This sequel left a lot to be desired.   The beginning is rife with graphic depictions of sex.  Did we really need to know all about how her boyfriend did her up against a wall, among other places?  I dunno, maybe I’m a prude, but it made me quite uncomfortable, especially since I was reading it on the bus.

The back of the book proclaims:

Who are African-American Muslims? What do they stand for and why? How far-reaching are their lifestyle choices? With the global focus on terrorism and interest in the Islamic state, readers are hungry for answers that aren’t influenced by government spin or newscast ratings. They will find those answers here.

I didn’t find any answers. In fact, I’ve gotten more profound insights into the blackamerican muslim community, warts and all, from reading Tariq Nelson’s blog.

I see the book more as one woman’s rejection of a tumultous, ever changing religious upbringing.  At one point in the book, the author writes about how she had believed in three gods – NOI, the transition out of NOI and finally “sunna” islam.  Her family’s approach to Islam, especially following the death of Elijah Muhammad, seems haphazard.  The author expresses a distain for all things arab, as her mother especially struggles to put together how to practice mainstream Islam, which seems to her to be heavily saturated by seeking to become arab – especially in eating on the floor with their hands.  Her father is addicted to pot and his stint in jail, leaving the author, her mother and her 9 siblings to fend for thmselves, deeply and negatively effects the author’s worldview.   The author is angry at her mother for having so many children, and for being a stay at home mom, as her family struggles to get by on her father’s meager income.

The author finally outright rejects Islam after marrying her muslim boyfriend, a ghetto superstar with a rapsheet a mile long.  In her attempt to halal-ify their booty calls, she ends up in a disasterous, abusive marriage to a man who seems to think Islam is only about about saying akh to other brothers and making your wife obey you.  Alhamdulilah, she gets out after he ends up in jail, but while doing so, she rejects not only Islam but everything “traditional.;” ie women should work and not stay home with the kids ever, one should feel free to have sex outside of marriage, heck, marriage is overrated. 

The author also appears to be angry with God.  One of the most devestating events that eventually leaders her away from Islam is when her uncle, a devout muslim, withers away with MS throughout the book, and eventually dies.  She is angry that all her family’s salat, fasting and religiousity didn’t save him.  Her family attempts to explain that this is a test, but she won’t have any of it.   She seems to blame this on Allah (swt) and on islam, but in reality, it’s a struggle people of all faiths endure.  Practicing Islam (or any faith) doesn’t guarentee you a free pass through life, immune from hardships.

When I finished the book, I wasn’t angry with the author, as I often am after reading stories by ex muslims.  Instead, I contemplated how Islam was presented to her, how it was lived around her, and what she resented in her muslim upbringing.  I can’t help but wonder if her family’s situation had been different, if they had implimented islam in a different, more cohesive manner, that she might have come away thinking differently.  If she had a strong muslim community to support her, not one that was constantly battling with crime and drugs.  If if if…  Her experiences remind me of this post of Tariq’s – although her parents weren’t strangers, her family certainly did seem disfunctional.

I know my approach to islam has been heavily geared towards finding strong female role models within the faith.  The author’s only role model is her mother, who insists that the only way to be a good muslimah is to stay at home and have a ton of kids.  Her parents discourage her from attending college, and chide her for not helping out around the house while studying and working. 

If that had been my introduction to Islam, I may have rejected it as well.  Instead, I came to Islam on my own, while in college.  My husband encourages me to think about going to grad or law school, and he supports me in my exploration to deepen my faith (except for the sufism bit, lol).  I don’t see submission to God as something confining, pointless and stupid, as I have explored the faith, and concluded that our acts of worship and the restrictions places on the muslimeen are reasonable and well thought out.

It does make me wonder how we present islam to our children, and how I’ll raise my children.  Thank God I have a few years before I have to get serious about that, inshaAllah.

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