Title: My Accidental Jihad
Author: Krista Bremer
Release Date: April 22, 2014
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Genre: Nonfiction, Memoir, Cultural
Rating: 4 out of 5
When surfer girl Krista Bremer moved to North Carolina, the last thing she expected was to fall in love with a Muslim man from Libya. But Ismail opened Krista’s eyes to a new world, one in which Islam was vital. As Krista and Ismail started their life together, their different backgrounds would cause many difficulties and arguments, but also make Krista more aware of the life she lived.
Though My Accidental Jihad lacks emotional intimacy, it’s an eye-opening look at one woman’s unexpected spiritual journey through marriage to an unexpected man.
My Accidental Jihad is a memoir of Krista Bremer’s years with her husband Ismail, from their chance meeting on a North Carolina running trail, to their hasty marriage and the start of their family. It’s clear from the beginning that Krista never expected to end up with someone so different from herself, someone for whom religion was so central. As an outsider in the United States, Ismail’s main tie to his home is Islam. While Krista can be as involved with his faith as she wants (he practices Ramadan while she doesn’t), it’s interesting to see how Ismail’s faith affects Krista. Yes, it causes some arguments, but more than that, it makes Krista reevaluate her own life, seeing it through the teachings of Islam, and helping her appreciate the beauty in the religion.
The memoir is full of anecdotes and stories; though the book spans years, Krista picks different moments to share with the reader in My Accidental Jihad. Readers are treated to a full and comprehensive view of different aspects of Krista’s life. The bulk of the book focuses on Krista’s trip to Libya to meet Ismail’s relatives. Readers are really treated to a fish out of water story here, as Krista adjusts to the different expectations of women in the repressive Libyan culture. Despite the fact that she chafes against the restrictions placed on her, she also comes to appreciate parts of the culture.
The one thing that My Accidental Jihad lacked was intimacy. It was certainly an intriguing read, and no one can claim that Bremer didn’t deal with difficult topics or issues, but despite that, it still has a sterilized feeling. It took me some time to figure out what it was that irked me, and I realized that, despite the fact that Bremer is (at times brutally) honest with the reader, she never really lets the reader in. There isn’t much of an emotional connection. We get stories about what Bremer’s life with her husband is like, but there’s still a wall there. The reader doesn’t really ever come to know Bremer, her husband, or her family; things are very much at arm’s length in terms of emotional intimacy.
Still, My Accidental Jihad is definitely worth the read if you are interested in cultural memoirs. Bremer’s point of view is interesting, and she has many different insights to share. Additionally, her own revelations and the personal journey she doesn’t even realize she is embarking on are both eye-opening and may just have you reflecting on your own life.