A barukh she'amar for Shavuot morning
The next best time: B'ha'alotkha 5784

Recommending these blues

9780593448786I just finished Hijab Butch Blues by the pseudonymous Lamya H, and it's honestly dazzling. Hijab Butch Blues is a queer coming-of-age memoir interwoven with global immigrant story interwoven with verses from the Qur'an and rich, meditative midrash thereupon.

The word midrash is the language of my tradition. I don't know whether to call these passages contemporary queer tafsir? Whatever one calls it, the way Lamya's writing gives voice to Qur'anic figures' interior lives -- and the way those lives illuminate theirs -- moves me deeply.

Here is an excerpt from the book. (It's not one of the midrashic passages, but it's powerful.) There's also an excerpt, and an audio sample, at Penguin Random House. 

It's probably thirty years since I read Leslie Feinberg's Stone Butch Blues.  Our language around gender has evolved a lot since then, though I remember how the book and its author blew my mind when I heard Feinberg speak at my alma mater back then.

Lamya H's title is a respectful tip of the hat to their literary ancestor... though honestly I don't think it matters whether or not you know Feinberg's work. The stories Lamya H tells are stunning, searing, poignant, both funny and heartbreaking. They stand on their own.

In their holy wrestle with their traditions and texts and cultures, I recognize something akin to my own feminist journey of coming home into a mature relationship with my own texts and traditions and roots. I know it's a fallacy to imagine that I know the author, after reading their words, but I feel like I do; or at least I feel like I could. If you read memoir, if you are interested in queer Muslim voices of color, if you thrill to contemporary retellings that get deep inside Scriptural stories, I commend this book to you.

I'm keenly aware this year that some pro-Palestinian voices don't want readers who weep for Israelis as well as for Palestinians. I don't know where Lamya H falls on that. That said, at the end of the e-book there's an interview with Roxane Gay where Lamya speaks about being in community. They talk about connecting with people whose politics are different from theirs, and about kindness. I hope that they might be glad that their work speaks to me. I know I'm glad to encounter their voice in the world.