Don’t just read Salaam, with Love…Experience it!
I read Salaam, with Love by Sara Sharaf Beg after finding a list of 100+ of the Best New YA Books of 2022 So Far. As I perused, I immediately went on a downloading spree. This was the first book I picked to read.
Dua wants to spend Ramadan with her parents in Virginia instead of New York with her extended family, but when the decision is taken out of her hands, she finds herself connecting with them and even possibly a special someone. Surrounded by family, she begins to take Ramadan seriously for the first time, gaining a new perspective on what it means to be Muslim in America. As her family faces many challenges, she must decide how her culture will shape her future.
If you’ve read my blog, it’s no secret that I love eating new things. It would be so easy to make a running list of food to try while reading Salaam, with Love. Since Dua’s family is fasting for Ramadan, she has food on her mind a lot. While I did earmark several dishes, this time I decided to focus on aspects of the story other than food for my post.
While reading this book, I could relate to Dua and her views on dressing up. Legend has it I enjoyed wearing frilly dresses at a young age; however, in my memories I only recall the opposite. Somewhere in early elementary, I traded in skirts and dresses for t-shirts, tennis shoes, and a ponytail. I dreaded getting dressed up for church, cringed at the idea of picking something appropriate out for special occasions, and don’t even get me started on the anxiety that came from school dances. I remember a few occasions that I tried to put my qualms aside and embrace formal wear. One in middle school ended with a boy in my math class touching my hair and commenting on how surprisingly crunchy it was—due to all of the hairspray, of course. He wasn’t saying it to be mean, but it made me incredibly self conscious nonetheless. I didn’t wear my hair down again until late high school.
For Dua, dressing up is a part of the Ramadan traditions, but that doesn’t mean she enjoys it. She’s constantly putting on comfortable jeans and button up shirts only to be sent by her mother to change into something more appropriate. At one point, Dua says, “My mother thinks one of the best ways to respect the Qur’an as God’s word is by approaching it while wearing nice clothing.” So Dua does, even if she doesn’t really want to.
In the book, the color of Dua’s kameez and dupatta was always described and embroidery spoken of, but I still wanted a better picture in my head of what Dua might look like in her traditional attire. This led me online where I got lost scrolling through pictures on online shopping sites of women draped in vibrant colored fabric with intricate detail. They were truly beautiful. There was a wide range in styles from daily wear to the most ornate wedding attire. I could see how Dua may be more excited to wear one kameez over another based on the varied types.
Eventually, I got over my aversion to fancy clothing. A big part of my acceptance of dresses came from working in a building that lacked air conditioning and embracing an outfit that wasn’t as hot. As the years went on, I started just liking them for comfort even when AC was installed. Today, I spend my days in comfortable clothes since I’m at home with my kids. Therefore, now I look forward to dressing up when we do make it out of the house. You’ll have to read this book to see what—or who—can help Dua have a similar change of heart.
There you have it. As you read Salaam, with Love, reminisce about how you dressed at different ages. Remember your favorite outfits from special occasions. Maybe take a look at the attire of other cultures and see how it compares.
If you haven’t already read Salaam, with Love, what are you waiting for? If you already have, why not pick it up again? Either way, take my advice when you do—don’t just read it, experience it!