Zahra Noorbakhsh was 14 when her Iranian immigrant mother discovered that Zahra was defying the family ban on mingling with boys: one was among her four friends heading to the movies together.
So the sex education talk that in a different life, back in the holy city of Qom, would have waited for her bridal night was instead delivered in the parking lot of a mall in Danville, Calif.
“Zahra, you have a hole,” her mother started. “For the rest of your life, men will want to put their penis in your hole. It doesn’t matter who you are, what you look like, who is your ‘friend.’ ”
Young Zahra staggered from the car thinking: “I have a what?! A hole? Where? Was that what I had missed in sex ed the one day I had the flu?”
That exchange is recounted in a new anthology of essays about flirting, dating and sex published on Tuesday under the title “Love, InshAllah: The Secret Love Lives of American Muslim Women.”
The two editors, Ayesha Mattu and Nura Maznavi, sought to create a book that dispelled the stereotype of Muslim women as mute and oppressed. They gathered 24 portraits of private lives that expose a group in some cases kept literally veiled, yet that also illustrate that American Muslim women grapple with universal issues.
“Inshallah,” the Arabic word for “God willing,” was included in the title because “it captures the idea that everybody is searching for love,” Ms. Maznavi said.
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