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Thursday, May 8, 2014

Fixing an Islamic lens on lesbian love | Written + Spoken Word | NUVO News | Indianapolis, IN

Fixing an Islamic lens on lesbian love | Written + Spoken Word | NUVO News | Indianapolis, IN

If members of IUPUI's Islamic and LGBTQ communities ever got together for a book club, they couldn't do much better for the first meeting than pre-med student and first-time author Fatima Warsame's new book Loving You Wasn't Enough. Call it a perfect pick to chum the waters of literary critique.
Warsame's book finds its protagonist — a young, Muslim, Somali student named Ebyan — facing a monumental moral dilemma: the realization that she is love with a fellow female Muslim.
Warsame, a young, Muslim, Somali, pre-med student — who, in a recent interview with NUVO, said she is not gay — hopes her book "ignites a discussion among different people."
Her life in Indianapolis has been a celebration of difference ever since her family arrived in Indianapolis from Somalia when Warsame was 5. Her Hoosier neighborhood included Latinos, Catholics, Indian and Hindus.
"In the way I grew up, especially in my early years here, I was very lucky in the people I was around," Warsame said. "That had a lasting effect on who I am."
And, she said, while she and her parents are strict Muslims, who pray several times a day and practice ritual fasting, the family also values intellectual curiosity. Her parents run the Juba Somali Market, 1134 Mickley Ave., near West Washington and I-465.
"They had strong convictions but were intellectually curious," Warsame said. "Had I not had that early on, I don't think I could ever have written this book ... encouraging that intellectual curiosity — that it should exist. ...With a black and white worldview, you'll never hear anything but your own thinking."
Loving You Wasn't Enough will likely find its share of critics in various reading circles. Perhaps some Muslims will be offended by the mere concept of a same-sex relationship. Perhaps some lesbians will find she doesn't write directly enough about such a romance. Warsame knows she can't satisfy everyone. She says she tried to avoid writing with any particular audience in mind; the exercise was more a matter of releasing characters that had been trapped in her head.
The moral conundrum with which she first confronted her main character — a personal desire to pursue a singing career despite a familial obligation to become a doctor — Warsame decided was not an original dilemma. Since she knew of no one who had confronted homosexuality from a Muslim perspective, Warsame began to explore the storyline.
"We tend to put people in categories," she said. "The book has people of different backgrounds who aren't supposed to connect that do connect at the core — they connect and find love. That's what humanity is about. ... The story shows one of the most important things that makes life beautiful — that's love."
And in the case of Ebyan, said Warsame, "she is in love with Noreen, but she is also in love with who she is, her faith, her family ... you want to be kind to all your loves."
So what of one of the likely criticisms, that her proposed romance does not step far enough into lesbian territory?
Warsame responded: "The attraction [between the main characters] was immediate. The aspect of sexual tension was there from the beginning. What is love for them? It was all explained through the soul for them. ...it's not necessary to complete their love. The most important to me was the aspect of love ... not having an agenda.
"Love beyond the physical, a connection that transcends the physical ... making love with eye contact, without even going there. For Ebyan and Noreen, that happened for them each time."
Warsame added that she believes preoccupation with physical love prevents many critics of same-sex relationships from recognizing the transcendent love that glues partners together.
"People don't see the love," she said. "If you ask someone why they're against it, the image goes straight to the sex. It takes away the human and the spiritual."

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