In-Between Identities: Signs of Islam in Contemporary American Writing


For the writers and artists in In-Between Identities: Signs of Islam in Contemporary American Writing, contemporary Muslim American identity is neither singular nor fixed. Rather than dismiss the tradition in favor of more secular approaches, however, all of the figures here discover in Muhammad’s revelation resources for affirming such uncertainty. For them, the Qur’anic notion of a divine “sign” validates creation, even that creativity born of contrasting if not competing assumptions about identity. To develop this claim, individual chapters in the book discuss Muslim faith in the work of poets Naomi Shihab Nye, Kazim Ali, Tyson Amir and Amir Sulaiman; novelists Mohja Kahf, Rabih Alameddine, and Willow Wilson; illustrator Sandow Birk; playwright Ayad Akhtar; and the online record of the 30 Mosques in 30 Days project.

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John C. Waldmeir, Ph.D. (1991), University of Chicago, is Professor of Religious Studies and Theology at Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa. He has published extensively in the area of Art, Religion, and Culture, including The American Trilogy, 1900-1937: Norris, Dreiser, Dos Passos and the History of Mammon (1995), Poetry, Prose, and Art in American Social Gospel Movement (2002), and Cathedrals of Bone: The Role of the Body in Contemporary Catholic Literature (2009). This is his sixth book.

Introduction—Words Beneath Words

1 Traveling with an American Qur’an: Sandow Birk and the Thirty Mosques in Thirty Days Project
 1 Plurality Across 30 Mosques
 2 Everyday Bonds: Living Muslim Lives in America
 3 Assembling the Stories of 30 Mosques
 4 Sandow Birk and Scenes for an American Qur’an
 5 Bending Borders in an American Qur’an
 6 Tradition as a Ritual Process of Communication

2 “Learning to Pray All Over”: The Body in Mohja Kahf’s Poetry and Fiction
 1 Marvelous Women
 2 The Language of the Body
 3 (Un)moored
 4 Just Being

3 “Are You A Muslim or Will You Love?” Dropping the Veil in Kazim Ali’s Writing
 1 The Body in Space
 2 Patterns in and of the Body

4 Begun in Mystery: Ayad Akhtar’s Fiction and Drama
 1 Visible Lives, Invisible Hands
 2 The Invisible Hand
 3 Akhtar’s Islam
 4 Faith and the Body
 5 Disgraced

5 “Sometimes I Feel Me”: Between Faith and Resistance in the Poetry of Blackamerican Islam
 1 Amir Sulaiman
 2 Blueprint

6 Where Hope Begins: The Intertextual Worlds of Rabih Alameddine
 1 Intertextual Violence and Identity
 2 Violence, Identity, Hope

Conclusion—“Half In, Half Out”: Willow Wilson and Ms. Marvel to the Rescue

Those interested in the intersections of imaginative writing and religious identity in the contemporary U.S. culture.
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