Thanks to Krista Bremer for her essay “My Accidental Jihad” [October 2007], about her marriage to a Muslim man. I imagine it took courage to write. Bremer’s experience illustrates the struggle for tolerance in an intolerant world, and I felt inspired in my own attempts to understand different cultures and religions.
Krista Bremer serves up her marriage with humor and spice, leavened with unblinking honesty. She and her husband, Ismail, clearly treat each other with kindness and respect, even when they do not entirely understand one another. Marriage has always seemed impossible to me, and this coupling of East and West proves that it is indeed possible, perhaps even desirable.
Krista Bremer’s essay about being married to a Libyan Muslim shows ignorance, racism, and intolerance. Her knowledge about Libya and Islam comes only through her husband and her brief trips to Libya. She reminds me of other European and American women I know who have married Libyans and want their husbands to adapt to their Western moral values, as if their culture and religion were far superior to their spouses’.
It seems Bremer enjoys making fun of her husband’s religion. She needs to learn Arabic and live in an Arabic country for a few years to understand Islamic culture. Really, she should have married someone of her own race and religion, but then she wouldn’t be able to write essays like this one.
Oh, and regarding kissing: permissible during Ramadan.
Krista Bremer responds:
My intent was not to make fun of my husband’s religion; rather, I was trying to make fun of my own limitations in order to highlight his integrity. Ismail is my biggest fan — and at times my harshest critic. He is the first to read anything I write, and I would never publish anything he felt was disrespectful. When he read this piece, he laughed out loud.
If I’d married someone just like me, I wouldn’t have a six-year-old daughter who proudly teaches her classmates about her Libyan heritage, or a two-year-old son who exclaims, “Allah!” each time he sees the moon.
When my brother introduced me to The Sun last Christmas, I could not have anticipated the loyalty of your readers. I recently put my house on the market, and one of the reasons the buyer cited for purchasing the property was that I had a subscription to The Sun. Anyone who took the time to read your publication, she said, was also likely to properly maintain a home.
Thanks for helping me sell my house.
Frances Lefkowitz’s essay “Saturn Is the Biggest Planet on Earth” [September 2007] nailed everything: San Francisco, poverty, language, culture, crummy childhoods, and especially teenagers. Maybe high-school students should read it instead of Catcher in the Rye.
Every time I open The Sun, I correctly predict I’ll see many stories by and about drug addicts, alcoholics, victims of abuse, and prison inmates. What is your preoccupation with these groups? I can’t believe these people are the majority of your readership, or that those who have been abused or addicted or incarcerated want to read stories that mirror their own lives all the time. I fit into two of those categories myself, and I say it’s getting old.
I picked up my first copy of The Sun in the early 1990s and got immediately absorbed in an article written by a prison inmate. From that point on, I became captivated by the correctional system and inmate culture. I received a counseling degree and even landed a job within the prison system. I remember my boss telling me he’d known many professional women who’d been led astray by inmates. At the time I thought nothing of his statement.
After I left that job, an inmate at the prison contacted me, and — naïve, optimistic fool that I was — I began a correspondence with him that led to marriage. After my husband’s release, he immediately went back to doing what he knew best, and I became yet another conned woman who lost it all: my counseling license (my ex reported me to the counseling board when he received the divorce papers); more than twenty thousand dollars; my belief in myself; and my trust in others. I paid a price for believing in a convicted felon.
When I read Saint James Harris Wood’s essay “Letters of Light from a Dark Place” [September 2007] I was raging inside. Here was another manipulator mollifying himself through his writing, making himself feel better, getting people to think, How great that he’s learned; and what a story. The public is fascinated with people who act out their dark sides. Meanwhile, I and others who have felt the impact of inmates’ poor choices have to try to repair our lives with no spotlight and often little support.
I wish Wood well; after all, he isn’t my ex. But I also wish the media would publicize more stories like mine, ones that take some of the glamour out of the subject of repentant criminals.
Last night at two in the morning I read Joseph Bathanti’s short story “Fading Away” [September 2007]. Then I read it again. It was rich in details, characters, and dialogue. The ending was chilling but good. I hope Bathanti writes another chapter in the story. I’d like to know if his protagonist Fritz makes it.
The Sun responds:
To Name Withheld, who implies in the September 2007 Correspondence that only men have sexual fantasies in their sleep, I say, “Sweet dreams, woman.” Like Sy Safransky, I too dream of sex. For me it can be with my husband, old boyfriends, male acquaintances, and, yes, even other women.
Lois Judson’s essay “With Eyes Open” [September 2007] grabbed me from the first sentence. As a twice-divorced woman, I can say she captures perfectly the conflicting thoughts and feelings one has, sometimes for years, after a marriage ends. The scenes with her husband draw a vivid portrait of divorce and the pain that often accompanies it, especially when there are children involved. Her writing has helped me take a few more steps along the path toward acceptance.
In her essay “What Is Offered” [August 2007] Bonnie Linden quotes her friend Gabe as saying, “Men never grow up. All they think about is sex.” This is obviously not true. Just take a look at Sy Safransky’s Notebook. Although he likes to write about his intimate relations with his wife, he clearly spends an equal amount of time thinking (and dreaming) about George W. Bush.
I approached Gillian Kendall’s interview with Joan Ogden [“How Many Americans Does It Take to Change a Light Bulb?” August 2007] with great expectations. I was disappointed. It was the same old song and dance about alternative fuels and more-efficient cars. Time and time again the conversation about our energy problems gets bogged down in a discussion of how to make automobiles more efficient, when it is the automobiles themselves that are the problem.
The real question is whether the U.S. can continue to be a society based on the automobile. The problems with automobiles are greater than just the gas it takes to move them. (The best way to conserve energy is to stay put.) There are also the energy and materials used to produce automobiles; the transformation of good land into roads and parking lots; the time we expend earning the money to maintain and insure our cars; and, of course, the number of automotive-related deaths and injuries each year.
All of the above will unfortunately have to be accepted as long as people need to move rapidly from one place to another. We can, however, scale down our use of automobiles by restructuring American society to eliminate unnecessary car trips. Let’s make biking safe and practical and build efficient, affordable — free, if need be — mass transportation. These are two of the best solutions to our energy problems.
I’ve been working hard all week, and on Sunday evening I take a break and lie on my bed with my portable chess computer and my Sun magazine. I lose to the computer, then open The Sun and read Gary Buslik’s short story “Slides” [August 2007], about a man reviewing his father’s abuse by looking at old family vacation photos. I skip ahead a few pages to another short story titled “Your Life’s Stakes,” by Mark Wisniewski. By the third line I realize that it’s an allegory about our inevitable decay and demise: vintage Sun material.
At this point I decide to take a break from reading and turn back to my chess computer, which beats me again.
I pick up The Sun once more. Lauren Slater’s essay “Consumer Report” looks promising. But I find the author contemplates death and laments her failure to achieve literary greatness. Just as I am reading, “I write Ford or Pontiac paragraphs: decent, smart enough, but not top of the line. Not even close,” my wife lets me know that dinner is ready.
At the table I’m a little grumpy, and I explain to my wife that I’ve just had a rough time “relaxing.” And now, I tell her, I’m going back to read the rest of the magazine; it’s something I have to get through. “I don’t understand your logic,” she says. “That’s because it’s crazy logic,” I say. “But I’m going to do it anyway.”