When Madian’s agent Lara from Hurst Publishers approached me in early April to provide a book blurb for this superb memoir of Madian, I felt honored. I knew Madian for a long time, and I consider him a good dear friend. I have always respected him and looked up to him for what he did for the gay community in Amman. To be chosen as one of the few people to provide a book blurb for his book meant a lot to me.
I was intrigued to know more about this great man and expected a good read, but once I started reading, I could’t stop. It was a draft version of the book that I read on my phone screen, and it hooked me till I finished it. It wasn’t only a good read but a great one.
Few days later I emailed Lara the blurb, which she thankfully edited to appear at the back cover of the book as:
This is the story of a great man, full of emotions, pride, dignity and determination. A tale of hope in a world of colliding identities; a must-read!’Fadi Zaghmout, blogger and author of ‘The Bride of Amman’
These two lines of-course don’t do it justice, as it is much more than that. Madian takes us on an emotional journey of a man who is as delicate as a flower and as strong as a rock. A man who grew up in a world of colliding identities, carrying them over his shoulders, molding them into a beautiful mix, and riding them to turn every ugly incident he faces in his life into a colorful ray of light. Madian grew up as a Palestinian in Kuwait, a moderate Muslim in world that have seen Islam drift into extremism, and a gay man in a homophobic surrounding.
The combination of these three identity pillars might not be an exclusive identity to this man, but the way he handled it and lived it, is what makes his story gripping. There is an undeniable tone of pride in Madian’s words. He is a man of integrity and love, and his human side shows in every decision he takes along his life journey.
What makes this read enjoyable is that it is honest and intimate. Madian doesn’t shy from telling personal stories related to him, his family and his close friends. He talks about his life in Kuwait, and what meant for him to grow up in a country that he doesn’t hold its citizenship. How the security of his childhood home gets shattered when Iraq invades Kuwait, forcing him and his family to move to a different country. How he ends up living in a country where he holds its citizenship yet it is not the country of his origins. How he faced his own fears and came to terms with his sexuality. And how he navigated all this misfortune by holding onto the anchor of the loving family he has.
He might not have always made the best decisions, and at times, he let fear guide him, but he has also shown much talent, and it is here where we can see his utmost pride. Most of us know him from the haven he created in Amman – Books@cafe. The first internet cafe in the region that grew to be a hub for tolerance and acceptance. A place that shaped Amman in the past 20 years and empowered many of us to stand up and fight the exclusionary culture that tainted our lives.
“Are you this? Or are you this?” might be the active expression his mother used when she asked him about his sexual preference. A reflection of how mainstream thinking in Jordan and around the world used to define what is an acceptable sexual behavior and what is not. But the title is more than that, and the story is more than that. It is the story of all of us, of how we tend to categories and place people into neat boxes to complete and perfect our views of the world around us. We feel comfort with simple stories, black and white ones that either accept people or reject them. We tend to ignore the complexity of the human condition and focus on one simple characteristic – are you this? or are you this?
The world is full of choices, and the nature of things are seldom binary. If you are to choose today, I’d advise you to choose to read this book. It is an emotional enjoyable read and there is much to learn from Madian and his life.
I wanted to be one of the first to review this book. Hope you enjoyed reading it.
The book is out for orders. You can order your copy now from publisher’s website directly by clicking here.