An article in the NY Times today about how the Orlando killings are again snatching away a sense of normality for Muslim teens during Ramadan, a time that should be reflective and celebratory.
Last year, during Ramadan, I spent a lot of time wandering the streets of Queens and Brooklyn for my new novel Watched. And what I was so struck by–and what is lost in these polarizing times where Islam is equated with frightening headlines–is the way in which Islam, observance, is part of the fabric of life, a rhythm for one’s days. I watched families hurry to pick up last groceries, stroll and linger on streets before and after prayers, crowd around tables under the pale wash of florescent restaurant light for the Iftar, the evening meal. Little children cupped in father’s arms; a man and his wife, their robes blazing white in the dark, rushed off a bus, across a busy avenue. By one tiny mosque, where the women prayed, jammed next to one another in a narrow basement, prayers voiced in through speakers, little children set off tiny bang-snaps outside, annoying the adults who also forgave them. It was such a New York, a Brooklyn scene: how many children have been doing that for generations on borough pavements?
Take a look at the beautiful slide show that captures some of this.
On Kara Walker’s A Subtlety is a marvelous, yet maddening installation at the old Domino Sugar Factory. Here’s why:
When I stepped inside the vast Domino Sugar Factory for the opening of Kara Walker’s installation, A Subtlety, I nearly wept. For over a century, the iconic Domino Sugar Factory, which shut its doors a decade ago, has loomed on the Brooklyn waterfront, an enigmatic, forgotten carapace. Now, with Walker’s sculpture, it is not just the doors of the factory that have reopened–we have also flung open our shared history of sugar. It is a history I know well, for my own family traveled from northern India as indentured workers to work the sugar plantations in the Caribbean. My great-grandfather gave away his share of land in Uttar Pradesh to his two older brothers and set off to seek a new life in British Guiana, which rivaled Jamaica and Cuba as one of the largest sugar producers in the world. Continue reading
Nowadays I write when the saws aren’t whining downstairs or one of my boys isn’t tumbling into my study, complaining about his odious brother. Seriously, right now—living through a kitchen renovation during the summer, my prime writing time—has been a huge challenge. It’s discombobulated my otherwise pretty disciplined rhythm, which I established in graduate school years ago. At that time, I felt so guilty about leaving a ‘real’ job, and living on the tiny scholarship, I felt I had to be at it, every morning. I lived in a tiny studio, worked at the kitchen table and listened to the family next door in a gorgeous Victorian back down their driveway every morning, going off to the ‘real world’. I remember feeling terribly deprived, sure I would never have such a life, and yet pure, Spartan.