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Fifteen years ago, Krista Bremer would not have been able to imagine her life today: married to a Libyan-born Muslim, raising two children with Arabic names in the American South. Nor could she have imagined the prejudice she would encounter or the profound ways her marriage would change her perception of the world.
But on a running trail in North Carolina, she met Ismail. He was passionate and sincere—and he loved adventure as much as she did. From acquaintances to lovers to a couple facing an unexpected pregnancy, this is the story of two people—a middle-class American raised in California and a Muslim raised by illiterate parents in an impoverished Libyan fishing village—who made a commitment to each other without forsaking their own identities.
It is the story of a bicultural marriage—and aren’t all marriages bicultural? In any marriage, we might discover that our mate is foreign to us, with very different language, memories, and assumptions about home and family. How we respond to difference shapes our world.
Profoundly moving and often funny, this meditation on tolerance explores what it means to open our hearts to another culture and to embrace our own. It is Krista Bremer’s unexpected struggle to reach beyond herself, her accidental Jihad.
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A woman’s unexpected struggle to open her heart and grow beyond herself. This is Krista Bremer’s accidental jihad.
Fifteen years ago, she was a surfer from a secular middle-class family who dreamed of a comfortable American life of adventure, romance, and opportunity. Then, on a running trail in North Carolina, she met Ismail. Kind, sincere, and passionate, Ismail came from another world: one of eight children, he’d been raised in an impoverished fishing village in Libya. When Krista later realized she was carrying his child—and she and Ismail made the decision to become a family—she embarked on a journey she never could have imagined.
Arriving in Libya to meet her relatives, Krista is engulfed by a tribe of extended family for whom faith informs every act, big or small. She discovers both overwhelming hospitality and unimaginable oppression as she spends her days within a circle of Muslim women who challenge her notions of femininity, freedom, and what it means to be family.
In this unlikely love story, we see a marriage of opposites, watching Krista and Ismail negotiate unforeseen differences at every turn: when their daughter decides to don a head scarf; during Ismail’s monthlong fast of Ramadan; as Krista attempts to explain Christmas trees and Valentine’s Day gifts. In any marriage, we might discover that our mate is foreign to us, with vastly different memories and assumptions about home,family, and the world. Krista learns to embrace the differences, both intellectually and emotionally, and on the way finds the meaning of true intimacy.
Fascinating, profoundly moving, and enlightening, My Accidental Jihad explores what it means to open one’s mind to another culture—and just as important, to open one’s heart.
ji·had also je·had (j-häd)
1. Islam An individual’s striving for spiritual and intellectual growth.
“Lucid, heartfelt, and profoundly humane, My Accidental Jihad navigates the boundaries of religion and politics to arrive at the universal experience of love.” ―G. Willow Wilson, author of Alif the Unseen
“Told with rare honesty, My Accidental Jihad is the story of Krista Bremer’s lifelong quest for insight and understanding, a search that leads her out of the Pacific surf to journalism school in North Carolina and through the complex challenges and unexpected joys of a cross-cultural marriage and family. This book is a powerfully personal account of the courage and hard work necessary to open one’s heart and keep it that way.” ―Maggie Shipstead, author of Seating Arrangements
“My Accidental Jihad is one of the most captivating and moving memoirs I’ve read in years. The story Krista Bremer tells--one of radical foreignness between a married couple--could be a metaphor for all committed relationships.” ―Haven Kimmel, author of A Girl Named Zippy
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