This week, my thesis idea has started to take shape. Although nothing has been done on paper, my brain can already start to form the story without any specifics for now. After getting feedback yesterday, I feel that whatever research I have to do is clear for me. I did assume I was done with that aspect of my thesis since I am using all of my research for classical music and its impact on children in schools, but turns out, I was wrong.
My story “The I of the Storm”, is focusing on interracial and interreligious marriage along with the musical component. An orthodox Jew marrying (or in love with) a liberal Muslim. Now, in terms of my familiarity with Islam, I have many years of practical experience interacting and learning about Islam. Some of my best friends are Muslims and we have been together for 10+ years now. They have shared many things about their religion that makes it what it is, and I always took those discussions as discussions of research. Little did I know that eventually it would serve a real purpose in my academia. I have celebrated Eid with them and their families, and the curious Jessie that I am, they even let me pray in the mosque with them. Aren’t I a follower of the Catholic and Sikh faith? I sure am, but praying is the same everywhere. The language just might vary, or the style might vary. One element in my story that I am trying to achieve among all this love, drama and reuniting is that it doesn’t matter what faith you follow or where you are from, just be a human.
Judaism, on the other hand, is a religion that I barely know about. Should I be honest? I guess I can. I never had a genuine interest to learn more. With whatever exposure I had to do it, it was a background that I didn’t agree with in multiple ways. As a result, while learning more about other faiths such as Hinduism and Islam from my best friends, Judaism was never a consideration for me. And yes, I am admitting that my bias got the best of me. I have never known anyone from that faith either, so even if I wanted to know real experiences, it wouldn’t have been possible. In undergrad when I met a classmate classmate, I tried talking to him. It was a class about world religions. But he always kept to himself and secluded himself from everyone else since he was the only Jew in class. It disappointed me, and I felt that because I wasn’t part of his faith, that he didn’t consider it fit to discuss anything with me or anyone else for that matter. And he explicitly said that his mother didn’t approve of him visiting any other temple or learning about any other faith when we had to do it for a final project. My live, in-person experiences put me off and I didn’t think anything of it to further explore Judaism. But now, I have to.
My story is meant to represent diversity and let YA readers see their reflection in my characters, Ehsan and Sarah. But it has to be done right. Accurate representation, and valid information has to be exemplified. There shouldn’t be any reader saying “Hey, that’s not true. That’s not what I do.” Unfortunately though, no matter how much research I do, especially about Judaism and their beliefs and practices, there will always be someone who won’t agree with what I write. Why? Because everyone is raised differently and their own values and thoughts shape them, not the overall faith. Every Muslim is different, every Christian is different, so on and so forth. So, for me to be able to get Sarah to appropriately represent 14 million Jews that live across the world? It’s impossible, but I can try my best to be as close to reality as possible.
So after all the new ventures I have to take, I realize that I should not be too ambitious at this point in time. Baby steps is the best recipe. Outline the progression of my story, go back to my short story and make sure to include points from there and maybe even start writing Chapter 1. I need to get the ball rolling for my idea to seem as cohesive as I imagine it to be. No biting off more than I can chew. It’s the beginning. Baby steps.