A Good Country: My Life in Twelve Towns and the Ongoing Battle for a White America

Circa 1977 a the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia (Image subject to copyright)

Exciting news! The book I’ve been writing, researching and breathing for the past four years is finally on it’s way. Due out by Random House in February, 2022, the book is memoir braided with little known chapters in American history.

As Trump launched his campaign in 2015, Muslim families like mine were already grieving the execution-style murders of three beautiful, bright young students in North Carolina, followed by a year of unprecedented attacks on American Muslims. When the San Bernardino shooter was identified as Muslim in late 2015, and Trump used that as an opportunity to scapegoat us all, calling for a ‘complete and total shutdown’ of Muslims entering the US, we were stunned. As a mom of two young, sweet children, and a long time social justice lawyer, I considered everything I had witnessed and experienced having lived, worked, studied and worshipped all over the country. And then I dug deeper, exploring the color lines that had shaped my life in each of those places. I wanted to know how they had gotten there and in whose blood they were drawn. This book is a truer picture of the ‘good country’ my parents had chosen for its promise, and my painful realization that I could not choose it for my own children.

This website will soon be updated with more information about the book and an option to pre-order. Thanks so much for visiting.

My Body

I had an ectopic pregnancy in 2009. It was a pregnancy I wanted desperately. When the pain started, I tried to tough it out, thinking I could manage a miscarriage at home.

When the bleeding and the pain continued to worsen, I was triaged to the head of the line at the ER and immediately administered methotrexate, a cancer drug meant to break up the cells rapidly multiplying in my fallopian tube. Without the methotrexate, my fallopian tube would have burst and I could have died as a result. Despite what some idiot legislators think, ectopic pregnancies are not viable and can not be “moved into the uterus.” I am super glad that methotrexate stopped those cells multiplying; and am still shocked that no follow up care or support was offered. Instead, I painfully passed a bloody mass later in the week in a bathroom stall at work. I worked for the rest of the day because I was out of leave time and no one talks about miscarriage, forget ectopic pregnancies. The hormonal cascade of lost pregnancy was nearly unbearable; no one prepared me for it.

Then, I had two lovely babies, one born at 31 weeks and the other born at 35 weeks. Both required extensive and expensive oversight and treatment in the NICU for weeks or months. Without excellent insurance, without a supportive family, without a loving partner who had a stable job, I would never have been able to care for those two beautiful babies who are now rambunctious kiddos. Preemies require endless months of living in that newborn phase of no sleep, constant feeding, pumping and nursing where possible, extra monitoring, extra hospital and doctor visits, and plenty of skin to skin time. After my second baby was born early for reasons still undiscernible, I knew I could not risk another pregnancy.

We have a society with devastatingly inadequate health access, no right to paid parental leave, no adequate or affordable child care, and no in-home taxpayer funded maternal support or newborn care. Our public education system is crumbling, we have a school shooting crisis and we treat/pay teachers terribly. We have not created any of the infrastructure that would suggest we care at all about the lives of children, or their mothers.

Women are, without question, the only people in a position to make decisions about their bodies, their health, their ability to carry a pregnancy to term, and their ability to handle the risks and responsibilities of childbirth and raising children. This is especially true because in our broken society, we place nearly the entire burden of caring for pregnancies and for children in the hands of mothers, and we spend very little (almost nothing compared to other industrial countries) to support them.

As for people out there who feel like they need to save children, they can start by busting kids out of immigration internment camps, then they can demand legislation to create national health care, affordable and high-quality child care, robust paid parental leave, taxpayer funded in-home newborn and maternal support. Then they can reform labor and delivery practices so they are humane and make breastfeeding support widespread. When those are established, they can get to work on better housing and food subsidies, gun control and a robust public education system.

What We Have Now

North Americans and Europeans have created entire countries full of climate refugees and entire countries full of refugees from brutal colonial violence in South and Central America and the Middle East. We maintain the colonization and suppression of vast underclasses of Black Americans and First Nations people (and also often “immigrants,” by which we mean brown people). The only sound response, the only ethical response, is to open borders to those whose suffering we have, ourselves, created. And to engage in reconciliation and reparations to the internally colonized, including large transfers of land and power. The pressure and the brutality will not stop at our borders as climate crisis and late capitalism make it harder to sustain a middle class, and the first to suffer are always those who are already vulnerable. It would be a mistake to think it will end there. It’s not so complicated. This is not charity. This is our last best chance of us saving ourselves, or really anything about our societies worth saving.

Arguments about viability and limited resources are just code for “me first” in a moment of diminishing resources.

We are a lot like our leaders, in the end, I think: hoping to hang on to our own wealth and our own comfort, whatever we have of it, even if it is just routine and stability, jobs and homes and grocery stores and plastic bags for as long as we possibly can. I don’t blame us; the alternative is unpredictable and terrifying. I say we because it’s absolutely me, too. I can’t figure out just how to live a life of future sustainability in the present, or how to effect change in a system that operates at levels of money and power to which I have no access. I don’t even know how to set expectations and give encouragement to my children given the uncertainty that lies ahead. But I do know that we will all do terrible things, and fail to do the right things, so long as we remain most concerned about maintaining what we have.