Dear Reader

Huda Al-Marashi ’98penned a new book telling the story of her marriage putting culture and family—Muslim Americans—front and center.

Dear Reader
The narrow confines of American love stories fail most of us: Huda Al-Marashi explores that space, and that friction. / Image courtesy Getty Images

It is a truth generally acknowledged that a story about balancing cultural expectations, marriage, and finding yourself must be Jane Austen. The Washington Post agrees, saying First Comes Marriage by Huda Al-Marashi ’98 is the coming-of-age memoir Austen would have written as a modern Muslim American. And, more than that, it puts Muslim Americans at the center.

Why did you want to tell the story of your marriage?

I was motivated to contribute a more nuanced representation of a Muslim family. … When I thought about, “What do I want to say?” I realized I’d been holding back from this relationship story, because it felt like the more personal, the more difficult story to tell. … I hear from so many readers of conservative traditions— not just Muslims, but Catholics and others—and they say, “This is my story.” I always want to ask, “Which parts?” But itis their story of marriage from first touch, first everything.

A story with two cultures to please?

Absolutely. … My entire 20s, any time I told somebody I was married, the first question they would ask me is, “Was it arranged?” It would just make my stomach turn because I couldn’t think of a good way to answer that question. If I said yes, it conjured up stereotypes. If I said no, people assumed that we had had this relationship that I didn’t have. Of course, adult me is saying, OK, there was nothing wrong with the real story. It just goes against this very narrow definition of love that doesn’t allow room, even for Westerners, to have stories outside of the rom-com narrative.

How did the SCU Muslim Student Association influence your ideas of marriage?

We were more concerned with being successful by both cultures’ standards. We were very concerned about not being Muslim enough. We were trying really hard to make our parents proud, and to not allow our parents to feel that they have somehow failed as parents by us losing our way.

So The Washington Post’s Jane Austen comparison goes beyond lovely writing. Conflicts like “What’s best for my family? For me?” are front and center.

My character puts herself in my mom’s brain, my spouse’s brain, my future mother-in-law’s brain … I’ve tried to work in that little decision-making thread throughout the book, because marriage is also a decision, and that’s something we don’t talk about a lot in this culture, that even if you’re swept up in romance ultimately you have to choose, ultimately you made the decision to commit.

Huda Al-Marashi comes to campus for a reading of First Comes Marriage at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 7 in the St. Clare Room.
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