The Ordinary Chaos of Being Human: Tales from Many Muslim Worlds
Editor: Marguerite Richards
Publisher: Penguin Random House SEA
Genre: Short stories
An anthology revealing the multi-faceted experiences of people living in many Muslim worlds, which both challenges stereotypes and the responsibility to disband them.
Two schoolgirls in Yemen skip class, and wander into a yellow circus tent, empty except for one rusty cage. A Jordanian man spends a maddening summer in his sweaty apartment cursing his loud, ignorant neighbours. A woman in Beirut is heartsick, waiting for her kidnapped parrot to return. A young Bangladeshi-American argues with her father about her choice of boyfriend. A lady discovers the secret about the Pakistani neighbour who had stolen her birthday gifts. And an Iraqi soldier pines for an American journalist obsessed with someone else.
This ambitious collection is a four-year quest to find diverse stories from many Muslim worlds that build bridges between each of us, through intimate, and incredibly human experiences of love, loss, laughter and everything in between.
Firstly, I’d like to thank Frankie, for reaching out to me and the editor, Marguerite Richards for sending this book in exchange for an honest review. When I first heard of this book, I thought to myself, I need to read these stories to understand the vast and various experiences of Muslims living in different places around the world and what’s their take on Islam and how their relationship is with Islam.
When I first started reading this book, I immediately know I’m going to like it, the introduction was written so well. But once that first story started, I realised then that it’s going to be a bumpy journey. I’d say as a collection, some stories I can understand better and somehow relate to it to certain extend whereas some stories feel very much foreign and detached for me. But I don’t hate any of the stories, it’s just that some stories carry more depth and written in such way that I couldn’t grasp as much as the rest.
The Ordinary Chaos of Being Human has definitely been an eye opener. It provides you with so much insight to different kind of people who practice Islam. Some are devout Muslims, while some are still figuring out their relationship with God while the rest are still clueless and haven’t found their path to connect with their faith. I do have a feeling not all Muslims are going to sit well with certain stories in this collection, especially those in my own country, Malaysia, because the practice is different over here. There’s this one story I particularly like because the character, named Sibel lets her son decides his own religion as an individual and did not immediately make him a Muslim as he was born, unlike in Malaysia, every child born in a Muslim family will have Islam as their religion for the rest of their life, no matter they are practicing the values and thoughts in this religion or not.
This compilation makes you see the reality that not all Muslims are whom you expect them to be, because we’re all human beings after all. Faith is something we hold on to, yes, but there’s also so much more than faith: life situations, feelings, etc, so how to differentiate right from wrong? I like this one story calls The Ice Merchant whereby the ice merchant, a Muslim, says, “Whatever that is done, if it is with a good heart, it’s ok.” to the main character when she mentioned that she did memorial services for her brother-in-law, which is not common practice for Muslims in his country. Despite being Muslims, different practices do happen due to one’s background, where they are coming from. It’s the spirit, the values and the intention counts.
This book also highlights on survival. How the Muslims are struggling to live every day without have to worry that their son will get killed, their daughter will be bullied just because they are Muslim, because what their forefathers had done in the past, the constant worry of facing wars and trying to seek help and safety. I’m so glad that the editor decided to take on this project and compile all these stories because they are all important stories and voices that need to be heard by the world.
To my fellow readers, especially Muslims, who have the intention to pick up this book, do understand that you will need to read it with an open mind, be thoughtful and accept that what you have been practicing all this while might be different from the rest of Muslim communities around the globe. You’d say I might not know much, which is true but many Muslim Worlds do exist and this is a fact that we need to accept at some point in our life. Nevertheless, everyone’s opinions are valid regardless what one thinks. Lastly, reading this compilation has been a great experience, it taught me a lot and it surely has helped to broaden my mind.