I picked up this book just on the spur of the moment from my local library. I'll admit that the title grabbed me. Not knowing what it was really about, or what to expect, I began to read with half-interest. I was quickly gripped, however, with the honesty and heart from which this woman has told her story. Many of us choose to withold those things we consider too personal, painful, or private for public view, but Asra Nomani pushes this norm aside in her pursuit to share a journey she felt the world needed to hear.
Nomani, a daughter of Indian immigrant parents, grows up in a typical American lifestyle. At a young age, she begins to come aware of some of the tensions between that of her Islamic and American upbringings. As an adult, she becomes pregnant outside of marriage and is suddenly hurled into the heart of these matters as she struggles to find her place in a religion, which at first appears to reject her situation and struggle. Undaunted, Nomani begins a journey with her year-old son to Mecca, the holiest city in Islam. This journey parallels a travel made by both her body and her spirit as she goes physically to the heart of Mecca during the holy pilgrimage of Hajj, and spiritually as she plunges to the very heart of her spiritually, faith, and definition of self. Her honesty is both riveting and inspiring.
The only drawbacks I saw with the book: a lot of name-dropping. As an accomplished journalist and traveler, Nomani has met and built lasting friendships with numerous big names. She doesn't hesitate to sprinkle them all over throughout the book. Also, she digresses, at times, into side and back-stories that don't seem to really be necessary. But this is a biography, of sorts, so both these issues are not that bothersome.
I am forever moved by Nomani's courage and sincerity to seek harmony between all the aspects of herself, her faith, and her American values. By reading this book, you do not need to be a woman or Muslim to be inspired to take on your own journey of self-discovery and clarity. As a Muslim woman myself, I don't agree with all of Nomani's statements and views, but I don't have to. This is her story, not mine, and I applaud her heartful journey to the very soul of herself and her place in Islam and the world. This book is well worth the read for anyone seeking to better understand religion in the modern world, Islam, or women's struggle of self-definition the world-around.