Wednesday, July 7, 2010

When Fact Becomes Fiction

As salaam alaikum,

So yes, I will be jocking myself again...this entry is going to be all about A Rose Much Desired.

After editing my cousin's manuscript for a while today, I turned my attention back to RMD...and I've gotten to this one particularly flagrant chapter, and I had to stop for the day.

Why is it flagrant? It is flagrant that I took this event in my life and formed a good part of my plot around it. The high school sequence with the character Desirée is actually the one that is most based off of my life, but this summer of 2004 stuff that I wrote here is life with the names changed.

The thing is, the events kind of are changed, the names changed, some of the circumstance, conversations are different...but the thoughts that I give the character are my own, my thoughts nearly verbatim at the time. It is an incredibly vulnerable feeling like I didn't realize before to put actual real feelings that really happened at some point into a character, even if the rest of the time, the character is not you. I guess this feels more personal than the high school sequence, where the characters are really, really based on actual people.

I guess in this story, there are areas where the actual fiction is really thin...which would make any reader wonder, what is the point of the rest of the manuscript? Is this what the author wishes would happen (no, by the way)? What is fiction and what is not?

If the person that Mo was based on (heh) ever read this, I think at some point he'd recognize that it was him. I'm actually kind of nervous about that and hope that he'll be so busy being a resident that he won't have time to pick up a book written by a former classmate (this is assuming I ever get published). Because if he reads it, man...he'll totally take it the wrong way.

The reason why I'm doing major edits with RMD right now is because I wrote most of the text in 2007 with a slightly different agenda and ulterior motives. I was a little hurt at the time and righteously indignant about the fact that, even in a religion that professed multiculturalism and supported it in the Qur'an and Sunnah, folks were still being racist...

Or, to be less beat-around-the-bushy about it, I was miffed that I was dismissed, passed up, whatever, because I was black, and sometimes I wrote that anger into the story and took it out on some of my characters.

Well, a lot can happen in three years, and with a cooler head and a different motivation, I'm finishing the story.

The thing that feels naked about it all is that...if the man who Mo is based off of ever reads this...figures out it's's not only mortification I'm talking, at him realizing kind of what I felt for him at the time that I liked him, since he knows that I liked him at this time. It would this what she wanted to happen between us, as the protagonists story lives out...

Haha, I'm being very cryptic because I don't want to give the story away.

But no, this is where fiction takes over. The main plot of RMD, through the "Agent" narration, Mo's perspective, is completely fiction, as is the "Muslimah" narration the voice of Nisreen the Muslimah, is completely fiction as well. The problem is, "Desirée" is very personal, because while Mo is that one guy and Nisreen is more of a composite, Des is me...haha, which may or may not be alarming with the first chapter of the story.

I based that narration completely off of my high school experience and first year of college. In all the fiction writing (none of which is published, lest you wonder) I've done in my life, I've never written a character that has been so personal as Desirée is to me, nearly autobiographical.

I didn't have two friends, Ameerah and Divya, to accompany me though high school. Ameerah and Divya are my best friend Ayesha split in two. Des's primary high school love interest, Zachary, is actually this guy Aaron. Zachary is named after this guy that I liked at a conference who watched me fall asleep this one time, and I didn't know what that meant. I should look him up on facebook to see if he married the girl he was dating at the time. Anyway, I named Zachary after him, gave him a lisp instead of Aaron's stutter, and viola.

But once I get to Des in college, I mean, I change a few chemistry becomes biochemistry, structured study group becomes recitation, but she's essentially me for that whole story line.

...I think I'll keep it that way.

What I don't want to happen is this guy to read it if it gets published. It'd be easy for him not to, maybe. He can't read it because it's not meant to be for him. It's for me. It's my catharsis, it's my putting a story that is never told into words. It's not supposed to be a letter to him.

I wrote my letter to him five years ago telling him that I liked him. It was an email at a point where I knew we would never see each other again. And that's all I said, "I used to like you." I prefaced it with saying that I was very prideful and I hadn't wanted to admit to it, all of this stuff. That's all I wanted him to know then, that's all I want him to know now. Him reading this story and discovering anything else about me is exactly what I don't want to happen. the point where I wonder if I should even continue this project at all. The point is not to talk about him, it's to talk about the struggles of identifying as an African American Muslimah, it's telling a little bit of the story of that in a way that I think is creative and thought provoking, if I may jock myself. I still want to tell that story, but the character based on him, Mo, is at the crux. Removing him would kill the story...

So, I'm back to editing, because I wrote this story at a time before he was engaged and before he was married. The whole thing would have been more clever if he hadn't actually gotten engaged to one of the characters in the story, or, at least, the woman she was based off of...

Because of that, I've sat on this story now for three about constrangimento...


  1. salaam sis, i missed the post where you said you had a new blog, noticed it a couple weeks ago, but haven't exactly had time to keep up (it's hard to remember since it's not fed to me on xanga!) anyway i'm glad you're still blogging. interesting commentary on your story. "he watched me fall asleep one time, i didn't know what it meant." that happened to me one time. i didn't know he did (was obviously not in a private place alone or anything!) until he told me later, how he wanted to talk to me but let me sleep because i looked tired, but kept looking. it can seem creepy, but actually i found it very very sweet. he told me all that, along with telling me about his feelings. which i hadn't realized could run so deep. sigh, i'm utterly clueless when it comes to guys and how to deal with them, even if their attention is positive. anywayz that was a semi irrelevant tangent. but i liked your post. stay in touch i'll try to visit here more often :) okay i'm signing this anon just because but you know me, the username starts with an S and ends with an A and im pretty sure my online writing style gives me away ;) not to mention my reference to the dilemma i've been discussing pretty often, salaams!

  2. Salaam, sis!

    "im pretty sure my online writing style gives me away" That you are right! At first I was like, man, there's no name signed on this, then a couple of sentences in, I knew exactly who you were!

    It's funny how we have similar experiences sometimes, with these menfolk, haha! I was 17 when my "watch you sleep" thing happened.

    I will still be dropping by your xanga, I still read occasionally, but it was just that the actual xanga site that was beginning to disgust me...the featured posts were getting really inane and, as my mother would say, "booty stupid," and's a lot tamer here.

    But we'll keep in touch, for sure. My account still exists and I'll keep my posts up for a while, so you'll see my icons around. :)

    ws, ~Chinyere