If only all books were this well read! This is author and poet Tamam Kahn‘s galley copy. (Galleys are softbound uncorrected proofs, sent out for early review before the hardcover has gone to the printers — thus the banner across the top saying it’s not for distribution.) And I love this photo because it’s such a vivid expression of the act of reading.
Yes, the act of reading: nothing passive about it, but an engaged interaction of reader, writer, and subject. (I read with a similar intensity, though I prefer a pencil to tabs, marking the margins with lines, exclamation marks, and perhaps a brief Yes! or an abrupt No!, but sometimes getting carried away with extended comments crawling up the side of the page to spread out along the top.)
Tamam posted the photo alongside her review of The First Muslim today. Here’s how it begins:
There is much that is wonderful about this book! I opened the manila envelope, slid the book out, opened it and began reading. Two hours later I was calling to my husband across the room, saying, “Listen to this…”
This is what it meant to be an orphan: the ordinary childhood freedom of being without a care would never be his… At age six, he (Muhammad) was now doubly orphaned, his sole inheritance a radical insecurity as to his place in the world.
Accurate instinct on the basics. In all the years that I studied Muhammad’s life, I never gave much thought to him as an orphan. This fact is often mentioned by historians, but none make us feel the alien landscape in which the boy finds himself in the way this telling does. A certain wariness crept into the corners of his eyes and his smile became tentative and cautious; even decades later, hailed as the hero of his people, he’d rarely be seen to laugh.
Then Lesley Hazleton takes the reader deeper. At age five, he is returned to his estranged blood mother Amina; abruptly, a child between two worlds. In that same year, after the two of them visit relatives in Medina, several days journey north, she dies on the return trip. …now doubly orphaned.
The whole review is over at Tamam’s blog, Complete Word. She ends it with this:
This humanizing of the man, Muhammad, is the thread running through the book. Often, in the media, what is written about Muhammad or the word “Muslim” is overlaid with dramatic and political innuendos to support a variety of loud viewpoints.
Here, it’s like she begins by talking to us in a quiet tone on that noisy street. Come inside where it is calm, and listen to Lesley Hazleton tell about a man who became The First Muslim. It’s a good story.