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On Girlhood and Novel Writing
My Conversation with Aisha Abdel Gawad
Greetings from my house! It’s August 2, 2023, and I am now officially a 29-year old. I am working from home today in order to take my cat Lucille to the vet on account of her roommate scratched her eye in an especially heated fight.
Last weekend, I had the absolute honor of hosting a book talk at Pocket Books Shop in Lancaster with Aisha Abdel Gawad, who recently released her debut novel Between Two Moons. This novel deals heavily with issues of faith, family, girlhood, womanhood, incarceration, surveillance, and coming of age.
The lovely owners of Pocket Books reached out to me over instagram to offer me the gig, and I couldn’t jump fast enough. My relationship with my phone has grown more and more toxic in the past few months, and it was a welcome requirement to have to read a book on a deadline. On the train, at home alone while Jordan was at band, and killing time in waiting rooms, I was so happy to step into the world of Amira and Lina, the twin 17-year-old girls whose perspective we are invited to adopt in the novel.
My conversation with Aisha opened with the best surprise in the world – her English teacher came to surprise her all the way from Virginia! I said to a friend in the moment – if Yankee Candle can find a way to manufacture the scent of “author realizing their English teacher came to their book talk,” they would make a gazillion dollars.
But more importantly, this novel fit in well with the ongoing understanding of the Summer of Girlhood. From Barbie to the Taylor Swift tour (I am a John Mayer girlie, but I get it) and beyond, this summer’s media is especially interested in the nostalgia and growing pains of the transition from girlhood to womanhood.
Aisha’s conversation with me and the folks who joined us at Pocket Books meandered through lots of topics, with a real gravity towards the idea of gender as a practice, and the setting of that practice expanding to include the home, community centers, night clubs, mosques, and more.
To hear Aisha describe her book almost as a study in a young woman learning and practicing gender rang true to me – to come of age is to discover the enormity of the world and its gendered expectations of you. It’s to feel around for and throw yourself against the boundaries of what feels good, what others will allow, and what you want to demonstrate about yourself.
We discussed her decision to handle massive, brutal topics that hurt the hands to hold through the eyes of a 17-year-old, who often finds herself putting her puppy love of a handsome boy ahead of the omnipresent, overlapping concerns of surveillance and incarceration and heat and a disintegrating family unit.
We discussed aging faith leaders, borrowing from her own young adulthood for her book, and how becoming a mother herself informed the way she treated her characters. And we discussed hope, responsibility, and representation.
You can listen to our talk in full here! The audio is a little fuzzy, and upon listening to it back, I realized my word of the night was “interesting,” which I apologize for.
Some final notes
If you want to purchase the book, it’s for sale at Pocket Books!
All the photos in this email are courtesy of Brian Nguyen. He is available for hire! Hit him up on the gram here.
Friend-of-the-caucus John Spurlock is raising money for MusiCorps, a music program to deliver private instrument tutoring to low-income children. Kick in if you can.
Until next time!