Monday, September 26, 2011
Bestest. Ramadan. Ever. by Medeia Sharif
Today I am pleased to bring you a review of Bestest. Ramadan. Ever. written by fellow blogger Medeia Sharif. Here’s the short review: loved it.
Now for the long one:
Where does the love come from? I haven’t read much YA outside the popular Potter/Twilight/Hunger Games books. In fact I was slogging through the fourth mega-long saga of Game of Thrones when Bestest. Ramadan. Ever. showed up in the mail. I decided to put the medieval brick aside for some juicy teen angst with a culture clash twist.
BRE introduces us to Almira Abdul, a fifteen-year-old Muslim/American determined to participate in the month-long fasting ritual in which participating Muslims refrain from eating, drinking, smoking and sex during the daylight hours. (Wikipedia) There is a hilarious scene in which the Abdul family sits down for dinner, anxiously awaiting the sun to set so they can dive headfirst into their dinners with all the grace of a hotdog-eating contestants.
It’s been over twenty years since I was in high school, but things haven’t changed much if Almira is based on today’s teen. This girl agonizes over a muffin top tummy, dreams of her first kiss, and is continuously embarrassed by a mom who lives in exercise clothes. Okay, who stole my old diary?! Man, oh man, can I identify.
After many ups and downs including driving lessons with an accident-prone grandpa to whom all Americans are either ‘infidels’ or ‘prostitutes’, getting her wisdom teeth pulled right before a group date with her secret crush, and other adventures, I started to worry about Almira. This girl was completely consumed by her own friendships and somewhat-crazed family relations. Would she ever have a thought outside of her own life?
Why, yes. Toward the end of the Ramadan season something lovely happens. Almira embraces (part of) her religion and realizes how fasting has taught her to wait in a world of instant gratification. Going without food or water while the sun shines makes her think of those who suffer without food or clean drinking water on a daily basis.
Almira’s thoughts on fasting remind me of a chapter from Stephen King’s The Stand in which four characters set out on a hike from Boulder to Las Vegas with virtually no supplies. The character Glen Bateman says, “The casting away of things is symbolic, you know. Remove all sustenance except what (can be) gleaned along the way. It’s an emptying-out process and also a diminishing of the ego. Your selves, gentlemen—they are turning into a window-glass. Or better yet, empty tumblers.”
I've been feeling a little empty too. Bestest. Ramadan. Ever. arrived at a serendipitous time in my own life. I’ve adopted a water guzzling, low salt/low sugar diet (to avoid future kidney stones), which—at times—has felt like a fast. Having read about a character that succeeds with the daunting task of Ramadan put me in the right frame of mind to tackle my own dietary challenge.
Congratulations, Medeia! I can’t wait to read the next. I should also expand my YA reading list and/or review other blogger books. I know Diane over at Spunk on a Stick has a collection called Circle of Friends. Any other suggestions?