Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A New York Jewish girl becomes an Islamist - New York Times

Deborah Baker is a serious biographer specializing in crazy enough writers. His study of the poet Laura Riding, who survived a suicide attempt in 1929, in his 14 household-to-three years with Robert Graves and his wife, was finalist Pulitzer. Then came "A Blue Hand, his portrait of Beats in India, few of them are in robust mental health. Yet, even these have nothing on Maryam Jameelah, New York Jewish convert to Islam, which - as a disciple of world famous more than fundamentalist of Pakistan - a career to condemn West in dozens of books and pamphlets.

Maryam Jameelah in 1962.

Baker makes us not only cares about this disturbed the woman and her prose harassing, she managed to compose a fascinating book on one of the more curious encounters East-West. It proves once again how a marginal cases can be an informative way in the vast and much disputed subjects, namely the meeting of the West and East and the role of women in Orthodox Islam.

Sexual secrets? Suspense? Drama? Reversals? They are all here. With them come compromise on a part of the Baker as a biographer. In a "Note on the methodology", she explains that she presented "rewritten and greatly condensed letters" by Jameelah which are "recreated" from their original versions. It calls the book "a tale" which is basically "a work of non-fiction."

Whatever it is called, it is a thread carefully in New York. Records that are its Foundation are in the section archives and manuscripts to the main branch of the New York public library. When I visited recently, I found nine grey boxes of letters, fiction, controversial, memoirs, drawings, paintings, photographs and videos of this document, the life of Jameelah, born: Margaret Marcus in 1934 in New Rochelle, N.Y.

Most of the letters in the Archives are the parents of Jameelah. Assimilated liberal Jews, they raised him and his sister in the County of Westchester Larchmont village, "a rich suburb of mock Tudor houses." His mother went to Smith, and his father worked in the Affairs of her family tie. Jameelah did not start speaking until the age of 4 years, but when she did, her mother, was in complete sentences. At 10, she was Arab drawing based on photographs in National Geographic magazines in the library of the school and planning to live in Palestine or in Egypt as a painter. At age 15, while his friends were listening to Frank Sinatra, it purchased records by the Egyptian singer Umm Kulthum on the Brooklyn Atlantic Avenue. After the abandonment of the University of New York, she spent years reading Muslim texts in the Eastern division of the public library. At 27, she converted to Islam, with the help of an imam in Brooklyn, and the following year, in 1962, on a freighter for Pakistan, never to return to the United States.

Until she left, she donated a unpublished novel and drawings accompanying to the Eastern division, where she had spent so much time. Lahore, where she resides still, Jameelah continued to send documents to the library through 2005. In the days that I spent Baker used when reading files, I was transported to a version now lost Lahore, but also in New York of the Jameelah. Contrast home affectionate letters clearly with his tendentious books, many of which are fixtures in madrassas all over the world.

Jameelah parents were dumfounded by its zigzagging fixations and flirt - first with photographs of the Holocaust, and Palestinian suffering, then a Zionist Youth Group and, finally, fundamentalist Islam. While his classmates fell happily "boys, dates, dances, parties, clothing and film stars", Jameelah declined, refusing to date or form friendships.

In-depth psychoanalysis does not help to stay in college or get a job. Finally, in 1957, at age 23, she has voluntarily checked in psychiatric hospitals for about two years. The work of the Baker on beats makes it particularly awake the shortcomings of Psychiatry of the time. "Margaret Marcus was not the only transposed the asylum of the 1950s." Artists, poets, homosexuals, Communists and the unfortunate housewives joined him. »

Lorraine Adams is the author of "Port" and "room and the President." She is now writing a novel set in Pakistan.

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