Habib A. Durrani, Photo credit: Anna Espinola—The Eye at Columbia
Writing beyond words
By Haris A. Durrani
The first creative writing piece I workshopped in undergrad told the story of a Pakistani engineering student who rebuilds her father’s mystical gulab jamun machine and saves Manhattan from a gang of neo-Nazis and their patrons on Wall Street. It was narrated by her friend, an insecure Muslim Iranian Dominican with a crush on Robert Downey, Jr.
“I’m confused,” one of my peers announced. “Is she Latina or Arab?”
“It doesn’t make sense,” another piggybacked. “And this word in the first line? I don’t know Arabic. I don’t wanna have to Google something.”
“You don’t have to know what it means to understand what he’s saying,” my professor countered. With a small smile in my direction, he suggested we consider the possibility that the narrator occupies multiple identities, an example of which was sitting in the room.
Haris A. Durrani (@hdernity) is Co-Founder of The Muslim Protagonist Symposium at Columbia University, where he is an Egleston Scholar. His published fiction, memoirs, and essays explore personal narratives arising at the nexus of law, technology, and disenfranchised identities, particularly in Latino and post-9/11 contexts. He is an Applied Physics Major at Columbia’s School of Engineering and Applied Science and a Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies Minor. This article originally appeared in Alt Muslimah. The writer’s views are his own.