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First Comes Marriage: My Not-So-Typical American Love Story

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A candid, heartfelt love story set in contemporary California that challenges the idea of what it means to be American, liberated, and in love. When Huda meets Hadi, the boy she will ultimately marry, she is six years old. Both are the American-born children of Iraqi immigrants, who grew up on opposite ends of California. Hadi considers Huda his childhood sweetheart, the first and only girl he's ever loved, but Huda needs proof that she is more than just the girl Hadi's mother has chosen for her son. She wants what many other American girls have—the entertainment culture's almost singular tale of chance meetings, defying the odds, and falling in love. She wants stolen kisses, romantic dates, and a surprise proposal. As long as she has a grand love story, Huda believes no one will question if her marriage has been arranged. But when Huda and Hadi's conservative Muslim families forbid them to go out alone before their wedding, Huda must navigate her way through the despair of unmet expectations and dashed happily-ever-after ideals. Eventually she comes to understand the toll of straddling two cultures in a marriage and the importance of reconciling what you dreamed of with the life you eventually live. Tender, honest and irresistibly compelling, First Comes Marriage is the first Muslim-American memoir dedicated to the themes of love and sexuality. Huda and Hadi's story brilliantly circles around a series of firsts, chronicling two virgins moving through their first everything: first hand holding, first kiss, and first sexual encounter. First Comes Marriage is an almost unbearably humanizing tale that tucks into our hearts and lingers in our imagination, while also challenging long-standing taboos within the Muslim community and the romantic stereotypes we unknowingly carry within us that sabotage some of our best chances for finding true love.

304 pages, Kindle Edition

First published November 13, 2018

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About the author

Huda Al-Marashi

1 book50 followers
Huda Al-Marashi is the Iraqi-American author of First Comes Marriage: My Not-So-Typical American Love Story. Excerpts from this memoir have also been anthologized in Love Inshallah: The Secret Love Lives of Muslim American Women, Becoming: What Makes a Woman, and Beyond Belief: The Secret Lives of Women and Extreme Religion.

Her other writing has appeared in the Washington Post, the LA Times, al Jazeera, VIDA Review, Refinery 29, the Rumpus, the Offing and elsewhere. She is the recipient of a Cuyahoga County Creative Workforce Fellowship and an Aspen Summer Words Emerging Writer Fellowship.

Huda currently resides in California with her husband and three children. Visit her at www.hudaalmarashi.com.

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5 stars
173 (19%)
4 stars
313 (36%)
3 stars
287 (33%)
2 stars
78 (8%)
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18 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 170 reviews
97 reviews11 followers
December 4, 2018
I'm not Muslim, but I grew up in a pretty conservative Orthodox Jewish community and there are SO many cultural similarities. The constant threat hanging over your head since your early teens that if you don't behave exactly the way they want, you won't get married or will only be offered low-quality men; the double standards for girls and boys; the attempt to marry girls off as soon as legally possible; the hypocrisy of preaching modesty in dress because our religion doesn't focus on superficial physical things but you better be a size 2; the pressure to cover your hair; resulting sexual dysfunction from years of telling girls not to think about boys; being encouraged to be intelligent, capable, and a critical thinker but criticized if you're not doing it in the way the community wants... it goes on and on. This book dredged up a lot of feelings. It was a very painful read. I understood exactly where Huda was coming from. If you're looking for a glimpse into a mindset that is extremely foreign to the "typical" American, then definitely give this a read.
Profile Image for Louise.
1,648 reviews290 followers
February 22, 2019
Huda Al-Marashi’s memoir of her engagement, marriage and early married life shows how the pressures of religion, customs and family brought from a patriarchal homeland by immigrating parents bear down on their American offspring.

Marriage was a feature of her childhood play. Her mother and her religion spoke of its importance. A high academic achiever in high school, she easily absorbed the courtship rules for girls. Marriage was a given, an ideal. Without it her life was doomed. If a girl waited too long, she might never marry. The book shows how this plays out.

At age 18, when a proposal came from her parents’ best friends family (yes- the suitor is also a teenager) she considered the situation as she knew it. She must be coy. If she responded too quickly, she could lose her reputation. Her mother consulted god by prayers and the answer was that this would have a good outcome. When the families got together a few times a year, there were stolen glances but talking to him was out of the question. While she knew little of Hadi’s personality, she said yes.

Did Huda really have a choice? She wavered after acceptance and explains the pressure not to back out.

She wants a storybook wedding. Her $3,000 dress proves her in-laws love for her, but the ring is puny. Hadi doesn't follow the wedding script of her dreams. He stands (at the front), he doesn’t say the words she wants to hear, he won’t dance, he is shy with the guests and a lot else. (He seemed to be an accessory to the whole thing from the start.) I felt embarrassed for her for putting all this selfishness into print, but, she was only 20. Hers may be a common reaction for brides who realize that a big production wedding is empty without love. (How can she love him? She doesn't know him.)

The honeymoon and the first years of marriage are also brutally described. I wonder how Hadi feels about having this put out for the public and how in later years, how future children might view it; nevertheless, it has value as a case study of this expatriate sub-culture.

The parents of these two young people are successful professionals. Certainly they work with Americans and have some glimmer that their customs do not fit the world their children live in. For Huda, they carried on the authoritarian system in which they were raised, but at the end of the book there are some signs that they are changing and life may have more options for their younger offspring.
Profile Image for Zainab Bint Younus.
205 reviews243 followers
January 28, 2022
Huda al-Marashi's memoir about growing up as an Iraqi American girl, dreaming of romance even as she knew with a fair bit of certainty that she was going to marry a family friend's son, is a beautifully written story that I highly recommend.

I liked the book from the get-go: her firmness in valuing her family, faith, and cultural background, without any of the snide "I must abandon my faith and family to follow my heart!" nonsense that has become too familiar in many Muslamic memoirs these days.

Huda shows us what it was like to internalize both American ideas of "true love" and Iraqi Muslim values about marriage, from her younger years all the way into her adolescence, her college engagement, and her early marriage.

More importantly, she examines the consequences of those ideas: her unrealistic expectations of her fiancee and then husband, the frustrations created by not recognizing the value of what she had, and her raw glimpses of insight into the true nature of love.

I particularly appreciated her thoughtfulness in not villainizing anyone during the course of her story: not her parents, not Hadi (her husband), not even the gossipy aunties whose presence was always a hazy threat. Huda gives them - and shows readers how to have - respect, tenderness, and compassion throughout the entire messy, personal ordeal.

Honestly, this is perhaps one of the best Muslim memoirs I've ever read!
Profile Image for ↠Ameerah↞.
206 reviews141 followers
April 27, 2020
This could have been a 4⭐ but the author was...something. I'm fasting so I'm going to be nice and not say any more right now. 😂
Profile Image for Jeanette.
3,275 reviews559 followers
April 17, 2019
Interesting culture and religious clash memoir for an arranged Huda's "eyes" marriage.

The first 60% was a 4 star by my rating for depicting reality of her life cores and also for my reading enjoyment factors. Her type A personality energy and flamboyance in most everything she does in her earliest years, and her parental relationship stories- all of it was fun and easy read. Prose average and also at the same time brutally honest, IMHO. I give her a whole star for that aspect alone. Oh you can see the valedictorian push and angst to "suffer" a B plus instead of a A. Not just in school, but in dozens of other familial self-placements. A stickler for the rules too is saying it lightly.

But the portion of the book that fell after the marriage and especially after the move to Mexico for her husband's medical schooling? Let's just say that the brutal honesty never wavered.

Her concepts of what she wants are set into her own cognition as a list to "adulthood" that falls quite similar to the courses you need to complete a degree path. Or a mechanical or physical project (like sewing or furniture construction) for which you need to do "steps" set into a lengthy "directions" list. But when the project is completed?

Others call her whiny. Oh there's that too, I guess. But her biggest flaw is that she gives it "out" far more than she takes it in- all the negative rejections and criticisms of personality habits, learning styles, vocal expressions etc. between her and her spouse. Huda was just checking things off a list to adulthood in getting married. Just a guess, but coming from a culture with this similar virgin honor dynamic paranoia-you have to begin to understand (for the hook up culture cognition it is nearly impossible to perceive this maybe) but daily mobility, freedom to accesses, all kinds of other issues like travel and jobs are tied to those "allowances" of location reality. So I think she is also typical. Absolutely in the majority of women who are 1st or even 2nd generation; they will follow the arrange or strict chaperone only path. I know at least 2 myself.

The last 40% of the book was just about a 3 star at its best. Personally, I couldn't understand why she didn't make much more of an effort enjoying Mexico with a more open mind instead of using it as unlimited time for husband analysis and critique and resenting over all. She seemed busy enough but extremely selfish in her treatments to him. As if now that she had that item checked off the list, why didn't he just leave her alone.

Did you notice that throughout this entire book I don't think she mentioned money for all these trips and schools (clothes, wedding) or living expenses. Maybe twice before marriage re outings or some aspect of what to spend for "pocket" money. And afterwards that she fully assumes that tuitions and every major living expense and cost is being covered by the father or husband. Only once does she mention the rental change as a kind of after thought.

In my mind, independence only occurs under any life plan for any coming of age or marriage or adulthood vocation when a person, man OR woman, is able to sustain ONESELF economically. All parents of every religion or culture do no favor to children that are never taught this personal responsibility through practice. At the end she still is truly looking for the next grad school where she can perform as the big star. Huda thinks she knows what she wants? Not really. But the economics aspects of patriarchal systems for female "growing" up are worse than the sexual, IMHO. They don't teach cause and effect to any individual onus, apart from the gender roles themselves.

At the end, I found myself almost not liking Huda. Looking at her Mother and other familial examples, why does she think cooking or home efforts or any decently done housework is "beneath" her? She clearly does and is insulted at those suggested options or learning some enjoyments for skills and attentions.
Profile Image for Katie.
2,667 reviews144 followers
June 11, 2019
This is one of those books that's hampered by its title. First DOESN'T come marriage; first comes the story of the author's childhood. Which is interesting, but not what I expected when I picked up the book.

And I'm not convinced it's a love story either. She seems to come to appreciate her husband, but I'm not sure she ends up liking him. Also in the acknowledgements, she says "This book has made him [her husband] privy to thoughts no spouse should ever have to see let alone share with the world" and yeah? She's pretty brutal.

Also, it just kind of . . . ends? I wanted to know more about what happens next.
Profile Image for Sabrina.
16 reviews
March 2, 2019
Unfortunately alot of this book is about immature expectations of marriage and whinning about not having it your way. On the positive side I appreciate the facr he finally grows up at the end and sees all the blessings she really has and always had. I wish there had been more positivity but this is her memoir.
Profile Image for Allison Anderson Armstrong.
402 reviews10 followers
January 31, 2019
Some words I came across in other people's reviews of this book are "witty, interesting, sweet, poignant, and honest," and all of them perfectly describe this book. It was nothing overly-dramatic (probably because it was real life) or metaphorical, but I loved the author's clear simplistic way of telling her story while seasoning her "not so typical" romance with her sense of humor. I did feel pretty bad for her husband and felt like my "romance story" with my husband had a few similarities - me wishing for the ultra romantic things that probably if Seth had done (and sometimes he even did do them) I wouldn't have appreciated because I'm just a cautious, conservative, awkward soul who had no idea how to feel about her new adult relationship. Her conservative Muslim, background reminded me so much of my upbringing, though it seems like hers include even more "do's and don'ts" than my "brand of Christianity" did! I love the realness of her story and that in the end she stuck it out and pointed the finger at herself for once. I expected a bit more new resolution and dramatic emotional changes in the end, but I guess she was staying in keeping with the rest of her story and kept it simple, unadorned, and real. I hope she's living her dream now. And that she meets Jesus :) That will make the end of her story the best.
Profile Image for Basma.
664 reviews2 followers
May 5, 2019
This is the story of Huda Al-Marashi's marriage. Who she married, how and why she got married, her expectations, her family's influence and culture and her decision to push through and try to fix things. I am impressed that she decided to open herself fully because she comes off as very unlikable and naive. And it's hard to blame her as the first part of the book she is actually a kid who is acting her age and is trying to juggle understand her Muslim and Arab identity while also being around so much of what is American and different.

We get to see her as she ages to her early 20's but that naivety does not leave and you see her becoming angrier and trying to blame things on people around her. She's a young person trying to figure things out and at the same time juggling a marriage and living with someone and all that comes with it. Sometimes, the pressure of being in an Arab household can be too much to juggle when all of this is happening at the same time and you're just a confused 20 year old. However, even though her family tries to subliminally inject her with ideas of how things should be, or how it was like for them and in their Iraqi culture..etc, her parents still gave her space to breathe and her father gave her so many openings yet she still felt she couldn't take it. (This warrants a longer discussion.) But that's something a lot of us can understand if you're coming from a similar background. The huge amount of weight that was on her shoulder caused her to become anxious and to have an anxiety attack and one point.

This story tries to show that there is another side of arranged marriages that not a lot of people talk about and what that entails to some people. Key word here is "some". Whether it's something you like or approve of or not, there is a major difference between forced and arranged marriage and I find myself still getting asked this question and no matter what answer you give, not everyone is able to wrap their heads around it.

I kept feeling like we're missing a huge side of the conversation because we don't get to hear from the husband, and yeah it's her memoir and her memories but I'm so curious to know what it was like. She was quite harsh with him.

As with a lot of memoirs I feel one can discuss so much about its story, writing style and the choice of showing certain memories/parts of stories over others. That's pretty much the jist of it and trying to go through everything will leave me with a tremendously long review because I do have a lot to say.

[Around the world pick for Iraq.]
Profile Image for Ilhamreads.
14 reviews75 followers
October 30, 2019
First Comes Marriage is Huda Al-Marashi’s debut autobiohraphical memoir tracing her experiences of marriage and love as a Muslim, Shia and Iraqi-American young woman. It follows young Huda and her love story with Hadi, whom she meets in a pretty traditional way and is expected to marry - and she wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Marashi narrates her young adult years, giving the reader an inside look into what goes on in the mind of a pretty conservative young woman. To be honest, for me the best quality of this book is how unapologetically Muslim Marashi is, even as a teenager.
No dreams of ‘liberation’ or breaking free from tradition here, she embraces and loves tradition, and she doesn’t feel the need to justify her choices. The book feels like a real safe space for Muslim readers, it definitely doesn’t feel like it was written for a white gaze.
The book is also a very timely positive representation of Shi’a Muslims. It taught me a lot, especially about controversial practices such as temporary marriage and the beatings during the mourning of muharram.
The book is refreshingly honest, even when it comes to embarrassing aspects of life. The young woman in the book might be a bit obsessed with marriage and ‘what people think’, but then again it’s the very object of the book. The book is a light and fun read, the writing is clear and not fussy.
Profile Image for Shannon Davis.
43 reviews
November 11, 2019
Awful. Author was very whiny, immature, and selfish. It was hard to like her and so it was hard to like the book. Only reason I gave this two stars is because I enjoyed learning more about Muslim culture.
Profile Image for Kathleen Helms.
67 reviews1 follower
August 29, 2019
I really enjoyed this true story about an Iraqi first generation American (Californian) woman named Huda. I've worked with a few Indian people who have had arranged marriages, and have often wondered about that. A couple of them have left work for two weeks, gone back to India to get married, and then been back at work before you knew it. They seemingly had their whole lives changed in the blink of an eye. Little did I know they may have known the person they married since they were six years old. This book helped me to understand why there are arranged marriages, and it made me laugh about the similarities between myself (first generation) and Huda.

Huda says (p. 35): Huda's high school American classmate says to her, "You can’t control who you’re going to fall in love with.”
“I wished Rachel could step into my world for just one moment and see the glaring contradiction in her reasoning. American culture extolled autonomy and personal power, but it accepted and even embraced complete helplessness when it came to love.” (p. 35) I'd never thought about that before.
So true! Many Americans spend hours trying to get our children to soccer practice or dance class or special tutoring but we spend so little time helping them find a mate. We leave that up to chance.

Huda ends up marrying a man who eventually becomes a doctor. A Stanford grad herself, she gives up going to graduate school by following her husband to whatever school will let her husband into medical school. She resents him because of this but later realizes she finds what really makes her happy, and it's not becoming a historian that Stanford has prepared her for.

All in all, this is a great coming of age story that gave me a new perspective. I look forward to any other stories Huda Al-Marashi publishes, and would love to meet her someday.

Some other notes:
p. 132
“I thought all children of immigrants reversed the parent-child relationship to some degree.”
"In our household, my siblings and I navigated our educational careers entirely in our own.
... by filling in our parents of our progress on a need-to-know basis.”
I totally relate to this.

p. 137
“There was no greater Iraqi population to compare myself to, no sense of popular culture. Our Iraqi was the one that lived on in our parents’ memories, frozen at the moment of their 1970s departure, immune to time.”
Yes! I totally relate to this! The difference is that her hijab or her skin sets her apart from American Caucasians.

p. 147
Reminds me of the Irish. We say we don’t want tea but we keep refusing and refusing so as not to be a bother:
“... we refuse things we are offered to be polite, and we never ask for what we want w/o apologizing for it profusely.”

p. 169
I have sometimes felt like this: “I could not bring in anything more than average scores on standardized tests. To me, this proved that I was an academic imposter who had duped her teachers through hard work.”

p. 222
I like how she describes her husband: “Inman Ali used to say, ‘Speak only when your words are more beautiful than silence.’”
Profile Image for Emily.
235 reviews7 followers
July 18, 2019
Full disclosure: I know the author personally, as her husband was the best man at our wedding. He was roommates with my husband in college and they played hockey and went out for late night tacos together for years before marrying their respective spouses. Huda and he flew to Chicago from their temporary home in Mexico to be with us, and drove us from the reception to our hotel. Their kindnesses to us continued through the years as they hosted us and our children at their homes in New York City and later near Cleveland, Ohio when we were passing through. So I began this book with excitement and pride that our friend was an author. I was further delighted to find the book so entirely approachable, and to realize that our stories were more similar than different. The experience of being raised in a religious family, the expectations of a young marriage, and the deferring to your husband's career are all similarities in our stories. I was especially impressed with Huda's openness to sharing some of her thoughts that for many are never spoken, that remain deep dark secrets. Her bravery in sharing her naivete and personal flaws is endearing. I enjoy the book as a personal narrative of Huda's coming of age, as well as her commentary on the experience of love and romance straddling the two cultures of her Muslim faith and American residence. I really hope she continues the story through when her children are born and what the experience of raising kids is like for she and her husband and their Muslim peers in America.
Profile Image for Sakina (aforestofbooks).
380 reviews123 followers
April 23, 2022
It's been a while since I have written a proper review and I feel very rusty (and exhausted because fasting + lack of sleep), so I'm just going to start by including the caption from my instagram post:

Over the last 4-5 years I’ve been so fortunate to read books written by Muslim authors featuring Muslim characters. It’s something I didn’t grow up with, and being able to experience this now has been very special. That being said, the rep is predominately Sunni Islam. I’ve yet to read a book with a main character who is Shia (besides Once Upon An Eid, but that short story is by the same author shown here). I’ve forgotten what it feels like to really relate to a character. Being Shia isn’t the same as being Sunni, even if a lot of things are similar. There are key differences tied to our faith, our experiences, our history, our traditions and cultures, and seeing that reflected in this memoir brought me to tears. Seeing names like Imam Ali, and Imam Husayn, and Fatima az-Zahra, and seeing Karbala and Ashura mentioned and described in a book was very moving. I’ve never seen myself in a book as much as I’ve seen myself in this one. And while there are parts of this memoir that are different and not what I expected, it’s been incredible reading this during Ramadan. For people who are thinking about picking this up, I’d say to go in with an open mind without prejudice. Some things discussed in this book are seen as bidah by a lot of the Muslim community, so as a Shia it’s hard for me to share something so close to my heart not knowing if people will accuse me of not being “Muslim” enough or being a “heretic."

Pretty much everything I said here^ is how I felt even after I finished reading this memoir. It's a really nice feeling being represented in a book, and I hope one day we'll be able to see more contemporary books with Shia main characters where our differences and beliefs and ways of worshipping aren't hidden/not spoken about, but embraced and accepted.

With this being a memoir, the one thing that shocked me were some of the things described and discussed. I kept remembering that these are experiences the author has gone through, and having grown up in an environment where a lot of these topics are taboo, it was a bit uncomfortable to see it so clearly written and described. But at the same time, I think it was important because these are things many of us may have thought/worried about, and seeing someone else's experiences, especially when they are also Muslim, can be really helpful. It proves that not talking about things like sex can actually be detrimental to a relationship, especially in our cases where we're not just more aware, but also see romance/sex/relationships everywhere we go. I will add this one spoiler though that I was not expecting and did make me feel a bit yikes and unsure how to really feel

The one thing I will say is that our main character (aka the author) is very much a romantic at heart. And for anyone reading this review who knows me, knows I'm the complete opposite. I think the hardest part for me was seeing her get annoyed at Hadi for not doing romantic things the "American-way" and how she wanted a quintessential "American" engagement/wedding/marriage with the proposals and extravagant dinner dates and the gifts, but with it also being Islamic and halal. Btw I do not think these are unrealistic dreams, but honestly quite relatable for a lot of people. However, my experiences differ probably because of the way I was raised–I knew these dreams would never be reality, whereas Huda allowed herself to dream and hope, which is a beautiful thing, but also led to a lot more difficulties down the road with her relationship with Hadi. As someone who is clearly very unromantic, I found myself rolling my eyes sometimes at the expectations Huda had for Hadi. But, I also understood that she was young and immature and still growing and learning, and honestly, this book solidified that getting married young isn't always a good thing. We need the space to grow and experience life and understand ourselves and what we want better. And I think we also need to experience a little of reality so that it's easier to accept others who don't live up to our dreams and high expectations.

I am not Arab or Iraqi, but I grew up going to a mosque with a lot of Iraqis and Lebanese. So the customs described for Ashura and engagements/weddings are things I was familiar with. Despite the differences in culture (me being Pakistani and Huda being Iraqi), I will say this: DO ALL OF OUR PARENTS GO TO SOME SECRET PARENTING SCHOOL WE DON'T KNOW ABOUT CAUSE HOW DO THEY ALL SAY THE EXACT SAME PHRASES BUT IN DIFFERENT LANGUAGES.

Every. Single. Thing. From all the pressure Huda feels to be this good girl who never speaks to boys, never thinks about sex, never dates, to the comments she hears about other girls in her community who are choosing to pursue further education rather than get married...and the classic: "School will always be there, but the time for marriage won't." It felt like I was reading about my own life. I love how Huda thinks because her thoughts and ways she's conceptualizing and figuring out her future mimic me in early university. The whole: I need to study something that is smart and looks good, that way when I quit working and become a stay-at-home mom like I'm supposed to, people won't think I'm staying at home just because I'm not smart/driven enough, but that I'm making this huge sacrifice for my kids' sakes. THIS WAS ME. How she also didn't choose careers like doctor or dentist because the amount of schooling didn't make sense if she was going to have to settle down and have kids eventually. It was just really nice to see someone else going through the same, very confusing thought-process, where you're trying to balance what you want with what is expected from your family and community. Because as we all know, the community loves to talk and gossip.

My only complaint would be that the ending felt a little abrupt. I didn't feel like the Huda and Hadi's relationship was as resolved as it should have been, but then again, this is a memoir about a real life, so I honestly shouldn't have expected a perfect happily ever after. However, the ending did leave me wanting more of their life together and what was going to happen next.

4/5 stars. A really great read and I'm happy I finally got to it during Ramadan.
Profile Image for Laura.
555 reviews28 followers
February 8, 2019
This is one of the best books about love and marriage that I've ever read. Al-Marashi is so honest in revealing her true priorities and feelings that it's almost painful to read at times. As she dives into a marriage arrange by her Iraqi parents during her first year of college, she is more often than not swept off of her feet - not by her husband-to-be who is a tad lacking in the social skills department - by her own ideas of romance and the lore around love that she has absorbed from her mother, her friends, American culture and Iraqi culture, and, of course, the movies.

I expected this book to be a defense of arranged marriage in Muslim cultures, but the fact that this marriage takes place within a Muslim community of families is almost irrelevant. The cultural and religious context is, of course, central to the story of Al-Marashi's marriage, but the difficulties that she encounters in her new marriage are also fairly universal to any two people trying to build a new relationship against the background of all of their often unrealistic expectations.

This would be a terrific book to read with a book club, and I think it would also be interesting to read it with high school students - maybe even to pair it with Villette.
Profile Image for Andrea.
1,147 reviews15 followers
December 3, 2018
I enjoyed the beginning a lot, and loved getting an inside look into a family and culture that are so different from my own. It became harder for me to relate to the narrator over the course of the book, though. I don't understand the search for the perfect date, the perfect moment, the perfect wedding. It was easier for me to sympathize with Hadi, because I am quiet in similar ways myself. I was so relieved when she began to see her family more as individuals and became more thoughtful about her relationships with her family. I liked that her religion was so important to her. I enjoyed her breezy, direct, honest narrative style, but sometimes the honesty made it hard to read. This narrator went through a lot of inner turmoil, which was a painful ride to go along on. I found it very engaging and hard to put down. Look, I finished it in two days!
Profile Image for Chandra.
440 reviews2 followers
April 28, 2021
I read a few reviews for this book where people disliked the memoirist, or found her to be selfish. As I read the book, it felt more like a realistic depiction of what many young women might find themselves hyper-focusing on, or worrying about in their teens and early twenties. I felt the author was very candid about her experiences, her misconceptions, her flaws, and how she grew and learned. I thought it was refreshing to read about a love that was not rooted in romanticism. Don’t get me wrong, I dig a romantic story, but relationships/marriage can be really hard work (and are at times pretty unromantic) and it’s nice to have that reality normalized. Additionally, I really appreciate the tiny insight into Muslim American culture. If you are a memoir fan I definitely think this is worth the read.
Profile Image for Susan.
163 reviews1 follower
February 11, 2019
I heard the author speak before reading her book and found her to be very engaging. I had mixed feelings on the book itself. Although I expected the challenges in her marriage to be directly caused by the cultural and religious basis of the marriage, the issues seemed to more directly related to the immaturity and overly romanticized expectations of the author when she entered the marriage. While she attributes the expectations to a Western pattern for courtship and marriage, her ideas seem to stem more from an unrealistic Hollywood portrayal of relationships.
65 reviews
November 27, 2019
Definitely rounded up. I was very interested in the subject and learning about an arranged marriage but this was not worth the time. It was like being stuck in a nail salon hearing some else complain about their life and being forced to listen because you just had to get a manicure. All she did was whine about evvvverything! I kept thinking a big revelation was coming but it never did.
DNF at about 90% but counting as complete because I suffered long enough
Profile Image for Tuscany Bernier.
Author 1 book108 followers
January 14, 2019
There were times I laughed out loud from how she would think about her life, and times where I felt so frustrated with her reasonings. In the end, it was honest and the world needs more honest love stories.
34 reviews2 followers
January 17, 2019
Hilarious, adorable, honest account of a coming of age as a third culture Iraqi American girl. Al-Marashi is a brilliant writer -- whose congeniality shines through the a tale of of unrealistic and girlish expectations in a quest for love. Authentic, disarming, and relatable.
Profile Image for Anne.
188 reviews9 followers
January 2, 2020
I wanted to know more about the later years of their marriage and how they actually managed to work things out! Like, we get it, you’re a teen girl, you’re petty, but like tell us how you got over it and how cute your relationship is now please and thank you.
Profile Image for Liz Breazeale.
5 reviews
June 6, 2019
I read this book in three days because I couldn’t put it down. It’s smart, honest, heartfelt, and deeply, deeply engrossing; I could list more positive adjectives, but truly, read this memoir.
Profile Image for Laura.
181 reviews31 followers
November 4, 2020
Beautifully written different kind of love story. ❤
Profile Image for Gina Wilkinson.
Author 3 books442 followers
May 7, 2021
This is a very honest - sometimes painfully honest - account of a first generation Iraqi American woman and her arranged marriage. By 'arranged marriage' I do not refer to the inaccurate stereotype of a young woman forced to marry an ugly old man - but rather she agrees to marry a young man she has known all her life, and comes from the same community. Her family and friends always assumed they would marry, and that they were a good 'match', but she was not pressured to enter the relationship against her will. In fact, the biggest challenge to her happiness is her unrealistic expectations of love and romance. She takes us through the ups and downs of this experience as she confronts the realities of what it takes to make a relationship work.
Profile Image for Ruby.
379 reviews4 followers
December 27, 2018
"A memoirist must make countless trade-offs between what moments to include and exclude, and this very deliberate negotiation creates its own version of the truth."

"American culture extolled autonomy and personal power, but it accepted and even embraced complete helplessness when it came to love."

"I had no idea that growing up was not so much the process of accruing a career, spouse, home, and child, as it was this particular journey to reconcile what you dreamed of with what you got."

"Marriage was a beginning, but it was also an end."

"Historians handpicked the events we remembered; they penned the stories that lived on in our memories."

"The only thing that struck me as more tragic than all the suffereing humanity had endured was that people rarely remembered it, rarely talked about it, and rarely had any reservations about repeating it."

"The irony of erasing my own individuality to challenge sterotypes was entirely lost on me."

"Iraqis do not value directness. We say things we don't mean so that people will correct us, we refuse things we are offered to be polite, and we never ask for what we want without apologizing for it profusely."

"Mexicans added a mournful streak to their faith that felt so familiar, so Shia. All my life, I had toggled between my school life and home life, feeling too Muslim and Arab in one and too American in the other. But here the dominant culture's rules were not the same ones I'd defined myself against for so long. Here a grandmother had told me to pray, and her devotion had felt like home."
Profile Image for Arsala.
171 reviews4 followers
March 7, 2019
3.5 stars. I’m happy to see more Muslim authors writing about “real life.” However I feel like there’s still some ways to go before I find an engaging and well written book that covers this topic of real life. The only book so far that I felt did a very good job was A Place For Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza. My complaints about this book are similar to the ones I had for Amreekiya by Lena Mahmoud. Just like in that book, the main protagonist, Huda, was really hard to like. I understand that she got married young but she comes across as a spoiled brat with very unrealistic expectations about love and relationships throughout the entire story. There doesn’t seem to be any real growth or character development and the ending is very abrupt and rushed. There’s no closure and the reader is really left hanging wondering about the state of Huda and Hadi’s marriage. I mean, in the last 30 pages Huda is seriously considering divorce and really grieving the lost stages of her young adulthood and then all of a sudden everything is okay and then.... then what? How does she change her mind? What redeems Hadi in her eyes? What makes her decide to stick it out? We don’t know! The book ends!

So as you can see, lots of room for improvement. Still, I’m happy to see another Muslim author out there and I would recommend you give this book a shot (and then let me know what you think!) 😊
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