Sincerely, Reem Faruqi

Getting Real | May 6, 2021

Dear Reader,

 

Picture  this.  I’m  small  and  brown,  and  I  have  a  crooked  nose  and  fuzzy caterpillar eyebrows that hug when I frown. I’m thirteen years old. In Karachi, Pakistan, I have a loud voice and friends that I can count on my fingers. I fit in and I have a pretty ordinary life.

But when my family moves to Peachtree City, Georgia, I stand out in ways that I don’t want to. At school, my floral kurtas (the ones my grandmother stitched for me) don’t exactly make me popular, and I’m too shy to show my Muslim identity by wearing a hijab. I can’t count friends on any fingers, and I don’t understand the American voice in the drive-through at McDonald’s. The water tastes different, the air smells different, and the birds sound different— quieter. So I became like one of those birds—quieter.

I wish I hadn’t.

There were quite a few situations where I should have found my voice, the one I used to have. For example, when I was walking with my elderly uncle—I remember the texture of his voice, soft with British undertones, and the confident strides of his walk. But I also remember when our neighbor looked straight at me and asked if my uncle spoke English. I only smiled. I didn’t disclose that he had shelves of English books and probably spoke it better than she did. I didn’t know yet that in this country I could speak up, that I didn’t need to be nice to everyone. Back home, I was used to speaking up. But in a new land, I didn’t know how to.

Two years later, I will feel confident enough to wear an aquamarine hijab that shimmers like the sea. Fifteen years later, I will take my memories of these situations, stitch them together, and write about them. And I will thread the most important thing through them—my voice.

Nurah’s voice is the one I wish I had.

Spoiler  alert:  In  one  chapter,  Nurah’s  teacher  tells  her “Welcome to my memory.” Reader, I can’t wait for you to welcome Nurah to yours.

I wrote Unsettled for anyone who’s ever felt different, for anyone who’s ever been afraid to speak up.

I’m not anymore.

Sincerely,

Reem Faruqi

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