CALIFORNIA – Growing up in California to Iraqi Muslim immigrants, Huda Al-Marashi has always dreamed of her own love story that ends with a surprise proposal and a happily-ever-after end, The Star reported.
In a family that follows arranged marriage, she got engaged to a family friend after high-school graduation.
This struggle to honor her upbringing, while still holding onto the wide-open possibility that Western love represents is what she covers in her new book, First Comes Marriage: My Not-So-Typical American Love Story.
“I thought, ‘How can I have my American story if nothing romantic is happening?’” she asked recently from her home in San Diego.
That led to “several moments of fallout” before Al-Marashi realized that she wasn’t struggling with the man she married, but with her own expectations of romance and love.
“The people I knew were struggling to uphold tradition in the most respectful way possible,” she said.
“We had a respect and sense of value for our parents, and I didn’t see that represented. I thought that maybe we didn’t have stories worth telling.
“It’s not that, it’s just that they’re not being told.”
Along with telling the story of her traditional courtship and marriage, the book also seeks Muslim stereotypes that swarmed around her after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
“In that climate, the word ‘Muslim’ started getting thrown around,” Al-Marashi said.
“‘Muslim’ this. ‘Muslim’ that. And in the comment sections, that hate and the trolls, and people asking, ‘Who is the Muslim community?’
“There is this great misunderstanding of how diverse Muslims are,” she continued. “The countries we come from, the languages we speak. We are all different people, different groups. We don’t have some central command.”
The book also corrects misconception that arranged marriage is a forced one.
In truth, “it’s more of an introduction,” Al-Marashi said.
“People can’t get past the idea that our parents would arrange our marriage,” she said. “Even to us, that sounds ludicrous. We grew up together, we knew each other, and when my husband became interested in me, his family asked that he be allowed to get to know me.
“At any time, if I had said ‘no,’ that would have been OK.”
Al-Marashi believes that First Comes Marriage is a story that anyone, from anywhere, can relate to. How to reconcile what you dreamed of and what you got.
“And that’s one we all struggle with,” she said. “Everyone winds up in that place.”
Now 41, Al-Marashi got engaged at the age of 18 and has been married for nearly half of her life.
“It’s OK to stay with your spouse for a really long time,” she said. “I wish the trope of the boring old married couple would die.
“The fascinating married couples and the ups and downs are nothing to fear. They can be fascinating, too.”