My Accidental Jihad by Krista Bremer

jihadKrista, a middle-class American, writes about her marriage to Ismail, an immigrant who grew up in an impoverished family in Libya.  Their happy marriage is sometimes a struggle, as each tries to bridge the cultural gap.  She cannot fully understand his devotion to fasting during Ramadan, and each year he again makes the attempt to comprehend American Christmas customs.  When, shortly after their marriage, he impulsively took her into a jewelry store to buy her a diamond ring, the romantic moment was spoiled for her when he haggled over the price as he would in a Libyan bazaar.  Personal boundaries are foreign to him; for example, he’ll reach out to touch neighbors’ children, not noticing their parents’ nervousness.  Sometimes, despite her love for him, she has felt that they, unlike many married couples, are not a matched pair.

Several chapters tell about their trip to Libya to visit his large family.  Krista, while challenged by the language and cultural differences, found his family loving and welcoming.

Most of the book has a North Carolina setting; after Krista came to UNC to earn a master’s in journalism, she and Ismail met, married, and settled down in Chapel Hill.

Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild, and Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, are among those praising this fascinating, thought-provoking true love story, a great read for anyone living in our diverse society.

(Helen Snow, retired from Information Services)

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