Friday, April 19, 2013


As salaam alaikum,

For some reason in my late 20s...or, let me be real, like, now...I've become a voracious reader. I don't know what spurred the change. I went from coming home after a long day at the hospital and wanting nothing more than watching a couple of episodes of Daily Show or Colbert report or whatever random show that I follow on the internet, and then I'd go to sleep blissfully unaware of the world around me.

I think sometime between fourth year and the start of residency, I started reading more.

From the likes of The Atlantic and The New Yorker to just plain news stories. From sites like AltMuslimah to CurlyNikki. From my favorite bloggers to articles about my favorite authors. From best-sellers and their books status post successful TED talks to books I heard about years ago and am just now getting to.

I'm currently reading three or four books at a time right now...slowly because my current schedule affords me about three hours between work and sleep to eat, bathe, catch up with family, friends and SO...and read.

But in addition to those three or four books (and another that's pre-ordered for my Kindle, just waiting for me to tear into it), I have several tabs open with articles and stories I want to read that I will get to, insha'Allah, just given enough time.

Just like I was "a girl too late" at 19 when I fell in love with MTQ, I'm a sudden voracious reader. And I never have been, perhaps paradoxically.

I've heard all my life that good writers must, as a rule and perhaps by second nature, read a ton. Like, really, read everything they get their hands on...and like it. My mother is a great writer and she was a voracious reader until the stresses of being Sandwich Generation caught up with her and both have simmered into almost nothing. But she was my inspiration. I wanted to be like her.

I was an early reader and by age group a strong reader but I was not the strongest reader. My mother read aloud with me and helped me with some of the things I struggled with. I would often miss words that were critical to comprehension of the sentence, sometimes because I was rushing. I specifically remember thinking it was a big deal to be able to read several sentences, maybe even a paragraph, without mistakenly mispronouncing a word or stumbling in the sentence. In fact, I don't think this was a skill I truly obtained until after college, after poor and informal speech training. I remember feeling such satisfaction at being able to read without "messing up."

And I'm one of those people who, for years, read aloud in my head. I did so in both English and Spanish. Somewhere between medical school and now, I no longer do that. It's so weird that I hardly remember what it was like to read aloud in my head. I think I still do sometimes, especially when I'm the one who's writing. But I think years of being a medical student and frantically more-than-skimming articles in a short time where I was expected to know the answer in a detailed enough way but get this information in a limited time did the trick, and shifted into my pleasure reading as well.

But on top of all of these things...I don't know, I never got the pleasure of reading that my mother described. She talked about hiding herself in her 12-person, 2 bedroom household and reading anything and everything she could get her hands on. Because of my mother, I read The Secret Garden and A Wrinkle in Time. On my own, as a 10-year-old, I read Roots. I read the Jurrasic Park trilogy with much gusto after having seen the movies, opining that the books were better, but by the time I was 12, I was writing maybe three or four stories at a time, and reading mainly what was required for school.

I didn't rush home to read my latest find from the library or get excited about books that I wanted to read next. I got very excited about characters I wanted to come to life, stories I wanted to put on paper, scenes that I laughed about in my head for days that were even greater than...once I got them on paper.

But a good writer must read a lot, or at least sufficiently to be a good writer.

I didn't want all of those story ideas and characters to go to crap because I was a bad writer because I didn't read enough.

And honestly, that's what drove me to read from high school until I'd say the end of medical school. I never really read something because it was was more because I should. That classic that we didn't get to in my high school Humanities course? Must read. That new book by that black author that has crossover appeal? Must read. Things Fall Apart. Not only have you not been to Nigeria ever but it took you how long to read that?

And so on.

So it surprises me to be quite satisfied with not starting a new writing project and having three books that I want to read, a little heavier on the non-fiction than the fiction.

What happened?

I'm changing.

That's right, I'm changing. I'm becoming no longer the person I used to be. I think it's called growth.

I'm expanding. My world has been branching out and tending toward entropy and I'm all spread out now. I'm no longer running to catch up with should and I finally am. When you're no longer chasing should and just are, you have more time to observe the world around you. I'm more curious. I'm more inquisitive. I'm more wanting to understand things that I left behind because I didn't have time to learn about it, was on to the next thing, no one asked so I didn't reveal that I didn't know.

That's happening to me in medicine. I'm going back and reading and understanding things I've only marginally understood for too long, in part because I realize that I'll need to know it at critical points when no one will be there to explain it. It's also because of actual interest, knowing that I'll face similar situations someday and being more confident in my own mental reserves.

Similarly, on the outside, in my everyday life, I've have allowed myself to be long enough to want to know more about everything. And while I blame some of my lack of reading for being born in front of a television, essentially, and half of my childhood memories being television shows, and half of my story ideas being inspired by television and movies...I find myself seeking information. Non-fiction...I wanted to learn more about The Great Migration, more about the female sexual experience, more about resilience training for physicians. More about education for kiddos with special needs and not leaving these kids behind. More about discipline and children in the 21st century. More about the origins of Islamic Jurisprudence. More about writing novels.

I find myself searching for stories. Not because I should, but because...sometimes there's no better way to learn about and identify with love than reading a fiction piece. Learn what it means for someone else to be a black women though their fiction. Learn about aspirations and predilections...through fiction.

The more I've lived, I think, and the more I allow myself to live now instead of chasing should, my interests expand beyond should and the more I seek. The more I read.

Because while documentaries I argue are still ideal for the likes of music genres, record labels and recording artists, there's so much more that can be said about slavery and non-existent reconstruction, about race in Latin America...than can fit into a documentary. In that case, I don't need a soundtrack. I'm there with a book.

...granted, the writer in me rarely lets me read a book for more than 10 pages before I'm compelled to write a 10 page reflection of my own about one sentence, sometimes one word that's said. When I was a college student, this would happen all the time. I got the reading done, always, but...I've always been a slower reader...

And maybe I still read slow. But I'm no longer concerned that I should read fast.

And here I am.

...I'm also rereading RMD and enjoying it. Insha'Allah, I'm going to edit it one more time and send it of these days.


  1. Dear Invisible Muslimah,
    I stumbled upon your blog while I was researching "Boston Muslims, Marathon Bombings", one link lead to another and here I was. I find your post very interesting and I too, as a Muslimah, share your concerns and fears about what this means for the Muslim community in Boston and elsewhere. I was also surprised to read that you are a first year resident. I feel like I was lead to this blog for a reason. I am a second year medical student, preparing to write the usmle in June. After successful completion of step 1, I am scheduled to do my third year's core rotations in Boston. I'm scared, I'm terrified. I'd like to believe that most people are educated enough to understand that these psychos don't represent all Muslims but at the same time, I can't help but feel like we're going to be blamed as always. I know for a fact that there's going to be a lot of hatred and animosity against Muslims, especially in Boston. I'm currently not in Boston, I am actually Canadian, and while sitting at Starbucks yesterday, doing uworld questions, two old ladies passed by me and mumbled "disgusting people". I tried not to think of it too much and focused on my qbank when again, I heard one of them say "I don't even know why we open our doors to Muslims when all they do is terrorize our people and land". Before I even knew it, tears were streaming down my face. She couldn't see them, no one could as I was facing the window. I felt so humiliated, I wanted to say something back to her but I was way too emotional that I worried I was going to sound very angry and irrational. I packed my books and my laptop and left the cafe. Although I was not physically in any "imminent danger", I still felt like I was psychologically abused. I didn't "come" here to kill. How dare she even say that. I grew up here, much like any other Canadian citizen. I was so insulted, I am still shaken as I write this comment.
    I guess the reason why I commented on this article is because I really want to hear your opinion as a professional Muslim female. I understand you do not wear the headscarf (I do), but do you feel like having a visible stimga such as the headscarf would put me in psychological and physical danger? I love my religion a lot, but I am terrified as I happen to be a very sensitive person. I don't want to end up dropping out of medical school because of some remarks/actions committed by ignorant people. Do you think I'm exaggerating? What has your experience been like since the bombing? Do you know any Muslim women that cover? How are they being treated?
    I look forward to hearing back from you sis, and thank you for your time, I know how valuable it must be!

    1. Salaam, sis,

      I'm so sorry to hear that you had that experience! Some people are too ignorant for their own good, may God have mercy on them, and it sounds like those women were in that party.

      I am not currently a hijabi but have been a hijabi. I was not a hijabi in Boston but Boston was a city where I met more women in hijab than anywhere else I've lived (currently reside in Seattle, but from Michigan originally). One of my classmates wore hijab, the only Muslimah in our class who did, and she thrived. We had a pretty close-knit Muslim group that kept us all grounded. The community is also growing through the ISBCC, the Islamic Society of Boston's Community Center. The ISBCC is working hard in the face of the bombings to condemn them and reach out the community, hold vigils, express condolences. I think the first couple of weeks in Boston may be rough, but I think that thereafter the city will heal and things will improve.

      I recommend, as you prepare to make your move out to Boston, that you try to get in contact with someone at the ISBCC: You can perhaps get in contact with some sisters who live there and get their perspective as to the climate and start building bonds that will be important as you do third year clerkships out there, which is challenging in itself without having to worry about combating ignorance and hatred.

      Insha'Allah you do well on your boards and find your third year experience educational and rewarding!

  2. Thank you for getting back to me! I'll definitely consider your suggestion!

    Thanks again :)