On this note, I recently posted a review of "Travels in a Veil" by April Fonti and I have had the privilege of having her respond to my review. I have posted her response below, because discussion is important and because the journey of understanding ourselves involves understanding other people as well.
April's response is humble and insightful and it shows that there is hope for humanity yet when we have people like this who do not wish to cast away others, but instead hopes to understand and embrace differences.
(In the same light I would also like to acknowledge two fellow bloggers who have been constant in their quest of understanding and discussion, Marie and Kim,- May you always be blessed with the ability to understand).
April Fonti's response to my review:
Thank you for taking the time to write such a generous review. It's very heartening to have someone with academic interest and personal engagement, take the time to discuss my book so thoughtfully.
I would like to provide some context and background in response.
Firstly, I would like to address your comments on my harshness of the Muslim women I met. This is the first book I wrote and I believe the harshness may simply be a reflection of my limitations as a writer.
Early drafts of the book treated the women I met with a much, much softer approach. These drafts were written with an ardent and at times myopic defence of Muslim women. But the story was really floundering. The problem is that I was trying so hard to 'present' a positive image that there was no real narrative. There was no journey because I had skipped the ugly truths of my instinctual responses, many of the negative encounters and my subsequent growth in understanding.
Real life is messy and there are multiple narratives I could have chosen from the raw material. In the end, I chose to dramatize my journey from a harsher to a more enlightened understanding. This meant exploring my more negative responses and not holding back. It was a very challenging process.
I chose this narrative because it was one of the many truths of my experience, but also because I felt very obligated about communicating with people coming from a Western ideological perspective and wanted others to experience my journey towards a more open-minded perspective. It might be of interest to know that these drafts were written in immediate aftermath of the September 11 attacks and I felt a real passion to communicate to the hysterical and outrageous conversations going on around this time.
It was a tricky balance and yes, I'm sure it does fail and succeed for different readers.
Finally, I would like to address your uneasiness about the social or political contexts I used to understand the women I met. It felt terribly audacious to write about other people's religious beliefs and I dealt with this by consciously limiting the content to my personal experiences or retreating towards academic perspectives. In retrospect, I probably did shy away from the women's personal beliefs too much. Asking women about their personal beliefs would have been a wonderful and very integral layer to the last stage of the story.
Thank you again,