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My Accidental Jihad Hardcover – April 22, 2014


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books; 1ST edition (April 22, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1616200685
  • ISBN-13: 978-1616200688
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (61 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #78,294 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

After quitting her So-Cal beach-bum lifestyle to attend graduate school, Bremer found herself pregnant and impulsively married Ismail, an older Libyan man. Basing this book on her Pushcart Prize–winning essay, “My Accidental Jihad,” Bremer details her youthful Barbie-doll dreams of marriage and wealth and the sweetness of their newborn daughter and then bolts to the comparative ickiness of Ramadan. Ismail’s breath smells bad, for one thing, and his fasting makes him too tired to help around the house. Further, he doesn’t quite comprehend American celebrations, such as Easter and Christmas. “It was difficult for him to understand holidays untethered from meaning and drifting in an ocean of desire and delight.” A trip to Libya to meet Ismail’s family is nearly all dismal, with Bremer grousing about how uncomfortable she is. There’s no coffee, nowhere to go running, and so on. The book’s title refers not to her falling in love with a Muslim but her “own accidental jihad, forcing me to wrestle with my intolerance and self-absorption.” Readers with similar mind-sets will want to follow Bremer’s “love story.” --Eloise Kinney

From Kirkus Reviews

A moving, lyrical memoir about how an American essayist fell in love with a Libyan-born Muslim man and learned to embrace the life she made with him. Sun associate publisher Bremer was a wayward former California surfer girl just starting to build her life in North Carolina when she met Ismail. He was 15 years older than she and different from her in almost every possible way. Yet his gentle simplicity made her feel as though she could “finally exhale…and [open] up to [herself]” in ways she had not been able to with anyone else. When she unexpectedly became pregnant not long after they met, she faced a difficult choice: terminate the pregnancy and continue her pursuit of a promising career in journalism or keep the baby and accept Ismail’s heartfelt offer of marriage. Unable to resist the mysterious allure of the future she “never intended—or even knew how much [she] wanted,” Bremer chose to “stitch [their] mismatched lives together to make a family.” Among the many challenges she encountered was coming to terms with Ismail’s loving but traditionalist family in Tripoli. To them, she was a woman “weighed down by so much individualism, impatience, and desire.” Yet through her visits with them, she also learned to temper the Western individualism she came to realize had been the source of the “creeping despair that comes from doggedly chasing the elusive dream that women can be everything at once.” As she gradually came to accept a different way of living—and eventually, worshipping—in middle-class America, Bremer grew to appreciate Ismail, her extended family and the struggle they brought into her life more than she even imagined possible. A sweet and rewarding journey of a book.

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Customer Reviews

I read the entire book in a day.
Laurie Zolas
This is a love story written with tender expressions.
Sally A subject
It is a very well written memoir, easy to read.
B. J. Taylor

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Mary Reinert on June 2, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Near the end of this book the author tells of an instance being with a friend who makes what she considers a snide remark about Islam and reminds herself that she too once had a "soothing homogeneity, its bright illusions of superiority.." From my perspective, she still has an illusion of superiority; now however, it's her feeling of heterogeneousness. Although I definitely feel the author loved the man she married, I can't help but sense that it was that "difference" was a lot of the appeal. Even before meeting Ismail, the author relished a non-traditional path: "unshaved legs" and discussions about wearing a tampon on a nude beach. In short, being different from the pack was important and somehow more exhilarating, more interesting, more worthy.

The book is definitely well-written and I appreciated the author's clarity, style of writing and wit throughout the book. However, I was disappointed in the subject matter. The daily challenges of marrying someone of a different faith were interesting. The trip to Libya and the meeting of Ismail's family was fascinating. Nevertheless, at times, the book had the tone of a tempest in a teapot; to her credit, she does reflect on her own self-absorption.

Finally, I'm not sure I completely understand the title. As a westerner (she never calls herself Christian so not sure) living with a Muslim, she was forced to come to grips with her own intolerance and self-absorption calling that her "accidental jihad". However, the issues seem to be cultural rather than faith driven. She tells of attending church but nothing is said about her own personal faith and how that conflicts or reinforces her marriage or experiences with Islam.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Sincostani on June 21, 2014
Format: Hardcover
As half of a inter-cultural marriage, I appreciated Krista Bremer's own story. My first impression was that she definitely writes beautifully! This is the most vividly described non-fiction I've read in a while, but it's also very easy to read; I couldn't put it down.

I enjoyed reading her self-introspection and growth with regards to her unplanned marriage and life, and the journey towards Islam, for which she and her family seem to grow in understanding and regard.
She writes very openly and honestly. I know that some other reviewers say that she seems to hold back, but as a person of Muslim and Middle Eastern background, I thought that she discussed many things that few from that upbringing would mention even in private conversations. She is very brave in my opinion. I'm very curious as to how the book was received by her Libyan relatives!
Note: I received this book as part of LibraryThing's Early Reviewers program.
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Format: Hardcover
To better understand the message of the book, I looked up the definition of jihad and found several; they all had one term in common, struggle. Jihad is a striving toward belief and a striving toward a world governed by Islam.
According to [...], jihad means:
1: a holy war waged on behalf of Islam as a religious duty; also : a personal struggle in devotion to Islam especially involving spiritual discipline
2: a crusade for a principle or belief.
Another interpretation is that among Muslims, it is a war or struggle against unbelievers, while in Islam, it is the spiritual struggle within oneself against sin.
I thought it would be important to read the book with those ideas present in my mind.
When the book begins, Krista Bremer‘s life is going nowhere in particular. She loves surfing and is living with a boyfriend in California. Both have no real end-game in sight. She works for Planned Parenthood, advising pregnant woman of their options. After watching her friends move on with their lives, she decides to make a change and pursue her education further. She applies for her Master’s Degree and is accepted to a school in New England. She packs up and heads there exchanging surfing for jogging for her exercise and pleasure.
Occasionally, when she jogs, she notices a middle-aged man who runs at the same time as she does. Soon, they happen to meet in a store, and they make plans to jog together. He, Ismail, is a Libyan, working and living in America and is a practicing Muslim. She is in her twenties and practices a moderate form of Buddhism, often meditating. Their relationship evolves and when she finds herself in a compromising situation, they decide to marry.
Theirs is an unusual love affair, but it is deep and sincere. They work hard at finding common ground.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Crystal Princess on April 29, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I appreciated Krista's sometimes painful honesty about how she reacted in various situations: visiting her husband's family in Libya, how she could be made uncomfortable by her husband's exuberance for life that didn't always mesh with her "white bread" up bringing. And I loved her willingness to share sweet, intimate moments from her life as well with Ishmail. This book is about Krista's spiritual journey as well and her eventual realization that she could find peace in Islamic practices enabling her to deepen her connection with God and Ishmail.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Ashton Wilson on April 26, 2014
Format: Hardcover
I read My accidental Jihad and enjoyed this memoir immensely. Learning about cultural lives teaches me and others more wisdom and knowledge about our world . It teaches us how beter to understand diversity in all aspects as told in this story. It shows how love is not just a feeling but an understanding and acceptance of a person this book spoke volumes of all of this. I would recommend this book to anyone wanting more wisdom and knowledge of tolerences of relationships and culture diversity.
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