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Nonfiction

*This post was contributed by my sister-in-law, Cheryl Ainslie-Waldman, who now has a PhD in Nutrition from University of Minnesota, back in 2009. It appeared on a blog Jehanzeb Dar and I co-published called Islam on My Side (now someone else’s blog). I like to repost this every year because the information is important, especially during a summer fast! Cheryl recommends increasing your liquid intake this year as the days are hot and long. Pay attention to that third paragraph for some tips on caffeine and juice intake while fasting.

I’m big on plans and lists. I like to plot out my day the night before. I plan my meals a week at a time. While my house is often a mess or I’m behind on chores, I have my ways of staying comfortably organized. However, for the last two weeks, nothing in life has gone as planned. My “simple procedure” to help ease the misery of repeat infections, excessive bleeding and other menstrual-related pain managed to amplify all of those problems to the point that I have had to

Dear Elaine, You won’t see this, but hello. I miss you on your fasting days with a McMuffin tucked in your bag of supplements because you were going to live forever God-willing-inshallah. Three days without food and you still answered the phones cheerfully and printed every email for the files you had me make sense of one summer nine dollars an hour and copies on the machine in a room with one window sealed shut and no air because it used to be a closet. I miss you, Elaine, your

I was in a conversation the other day in which a friend was mentioned. She is in poor general health, struggling with chronic fatigue and a host of other pain issues. I was speaking with her mother, asking after her and expressing a wish for ease in her life. Her mother said, “I don’t know why she has these problems. Her father and I don’t have any of them.” Okay. I can roll with that. But I know this person fairly well. Enough to love her. And I know she

It took me ten years to work up the courage to write about my childhood. In that time, I explored every field except nonfiction, earning an MFA in Creative Writing (Fiction) with a thesis my husband describes as “stories in which girls don’t act quite the way they should”. Fiction was a safety net-a space where I could address my sexual, physical and emotional fears without honestly admitting to them. During workshops of my short stories, I often felt personally attacked as my writing was critiqued. While my peers were

The Letter No One Wrote My Mother was well shared. It had and continues to have international readership. Several of the people it has reached (with your help, thank you!) have contacted me to say that Fact Seven resonates with them. Fact Seven: I am an almost-abuser. I choose every day not to abuse my child. Becoming a parent is terrifying for any number of reasons. For many of us, those fears center around 1) losing ourselves or 2) our child getting hurt. Fact Seven is a combination of those fears.

It’s a shame that writing about past abuse has the power to hurt people in the present. I did not tell anyone in my family my plans to write about my home experience. The Spire is open to the public, my family reads it, some of their friends, colleagues, etc. Two days after posting The Letter No One Wrote My Mother, I have been told that feelings are hurt, and that relations are now strained. Out of courtesy to others, I shouldn’t write these things. I was also told that

I had reason to search for paper. I went looking for clean, lined sheets. In my room, there stands a bookcase filled from the top down with materials related to my life as a writer. The top shelf holds my collection of self-help books, words of wisdom for growing my creative mind and maturing my writerly process. The middle holds the journals I filled with poetry beginning at age six. Then there are foreign language books–German, Arabic and Spanish, because they stimulate my desire to learn more. To continue growing

If you are a reader of Sheila’s Writes a Memoir, I apologize. I’ve taken her memoir down so that I can begin writing the pieces of my own life. Sheila was a great help to me when I first considered writing about my own abuse. She was a separate person with a parallel experience of abuse and sexualization. I could write her story much more safely than my own. Fiction is a wonderful buffer for the exquisitely painful reality of one’s own truth. I am grateful to those of you

Some stories are harder to write than others. Fiction offers a buffer, a safe distance from reality, even when the story lines are harsh or graphic. Life is visceral. I prefer my pretty fictions. Some stories are harder to hear than others, even though we are human in our curiosity. In our inability to look away. I have a true story. It is my creation. Not my birth, but the components of my life that make me who I am. I have wanted to tell it for years. I wanted

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