All American Yemeni Girls: Being Muslim in a Public School

All American Yemeni Girls: Being Muslim in a Public School

All American Yemeni Girls: Being Muslim in a Public School

All American Yemeni Girls: Being Muslim in a Public School

Synopsis

Based on field work among a Yemeni community in southeastern Michigan, this study focuses on the attempts by Yemeni American girls to construct compatible identities as Yemenis, Muslims, Americans, daughters of immigrants, teenagers & high school students.

Excerpt

Okay, in their eyes, it means you be quiet, you listen, you obey and you go
through, you listen to what we say, regardless, because we know what’s best
for you. Okay, in my eyes, it’s not. It’s you take what they say into consider
ation but you also see your own views. You try to—you have to make the
decision on your own. You have to go beyond just what they say, what they’re
demanding and look at it and look at what you want, how do you see it,
how do you feel about it, what is the best outcome for you. Because you know
yourself best…. For me, see, I consider everything in an Islamic point of
view. and being Yemeni, that’s basically, you listen to what they say. Being
Americanized is the fact that you can stand up and say, “No,” you know,
“This is what I want. and this is the reason why I want this.”

In 1998, Saba’s hands and fingers punctuated each thought as she spoke with the slight staccato that is characteristic of English speech influenced by Arabic. Except for her face and hands, Saba’s body was completely covered as she sat across from me, explaining how difficult it is to construct an identity that makes sense in the American and Yemeni Muslim worlds she inhabits. This was not the first of our conversations on this topic, but it was the most emotional. Saba was tired, emotionally stressed to a breaking point, and depressed. Yet she shared her thoughts with me freely as the audio recorder blinked after each pause, recording not only her words but also the strain of her efforts to make sense of her life. As I listened and responded to her comments, I thought of the other Yemeni American girls with whom I had talked. Their families settled in the United States in the early 1970s, and all of them felt the same optimism and desperation Saba expressed; all of them were attempting to reconcile the American lives they experienced at school with the Yemeni lives they knew at home; all of them wanted to succeed at being good students and good daughters and wives; and all of them felt as if they were failing at being both American and Yemeni. They each feared the risk of becoming less than “good Muslim women.”

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