2019: Imagine writing the story of your life and constantly having to footnote it – literally! – because your mother doesn’t approve of the details you reveal and the way you retell certain stories. Next, imagine having to find a way to write about your life in a way that strangers who fear people that look, sound and pray like you will find engaging and endearing. Finally, imagine that you succeed in all of these things because you have a voice and writing style that is at once funny and charming, disarming and delightful.
All of that is true of Ayser Salman’s new book, The Wrong End of the Table: A Mostly Comic Memoir of a Muslim Arab American Woman Just Trying to Fit In. It delivers the goods exactly as promised in the title and I swear – sorry, Mama Salman – I couldn’t put it down. A really good book takes you to a place you’ve never been. For most Americans, that might be the everyday life and times of a Muslim Arab American woman born in Iraq and raised from the age of two in the United States. Ayser Salman was educated in Lexington, Kentucky, and Saudi Arabia – I’m not kidding – and eventually made a career in Hollywood as a film editor, writer and producer for Universal Pictures, Miramax Films, Disney, The Weinstein Company, and FX. And no, Harvey Weinstein never touched her.
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