At some point in our lives, we’ve all had to make a choice about where we stand in certain situations. Whether that be political, for a cause we’re passionate about, or for people that we support unconditionally; our choices make us who we are. And for Linda Sarsour, her choices have always been quite clear.
Linda Sarsour, activist, community organizer, and award-winning author has numerous achievements to her name. She’s fought for her country, her people, and for women. She stood up for Islam against Islamophobia and was an integral part of the historic 2017 Women’s March. And she’s been advocating for the rights of Palestinians for even longer.
Linda has become an essential thought leader in the United States. And now she shares the story of her own life and journey from growing up as a Palestinian-American Muslim in the heart of Brooklyn to becoming the world-renowned activist she is today. We’re In This Together is the young-adult version of her best-selling and life-changing memoir We Are Not Here to Be Bystanders. I had the amazing opportunity to not only read We’re In This Together, but also ask Linda a few questions.
Muslim Girl: Why do you think Muslim representation is so important in the publishing industry, especially in the nonfiction genre?
Linda Sarsour: As Muslims, we have powerful stories to tell and our young people deserve to be able to pick up books at the library or in their schools that represent them and reflect their experiences. Representation is very powerful and can have a great impact on people. I am happy to say that the publishing industry has become more diverse and more representative and there are many Muslim American women authors writing across genres but of course, more work must be done.
In your memoir, you speak about your journey as an activist and the formative experiences of your youth that shaped who you are today. What do you have to say to those young people who want to embark on a similar journey and become more vocal in expressing their thoughts and standing up for what they believe in but are afraid to do so?
LS: I want young people to be unapologetic about who they are and to believe that they can be the change they want to see in the world. I believe that our world is in danger and it can only be saved by our young people. My book is a timely way to challenge and inspire youth to be the change they want to see. I believe that the stories in my book will resonate, educate and provide practical information and skills.
Throughout your journey, you’ve had an excellent support system of friends and family. How important is it to have a support system? Do you have any tips or advice on building a support system?
LS: I have been through many difficult moments throughout my activist and organizing career and would have never made it without the love and support of my friends and family. Our support systems do not have to be huge, they just have to be consistent. Your support system can be friends, siblings, cousins, teachers, and/or coaches. The most important thing is to share your work and how you are feeling with them often. Do not wait till you are in difficult moments to reach out. Benefit from their wisdom, advice, and support as often as possible.
You’ve built a huge platform and your story is one everyone knows and admires. You have made history in so many ways! Moving forward, what are your biggest goals and dreams that you want to achieve?
LS: I feel so grateful that my story and work have resonated with so many people all around the world. I am proud to have made history as an Arab Palestinian Muslim American woman and hope that it continues to inspire young girls of color to be bold, brave, and unapologetic. My biggest aspirations are to train thousands of young women and men around the world to organize and build powerful campaigns to tackle the most pressing human rights issues of our time. I believe that I have gained a lot of institutional knowledge and skills over the years and I want to share them with as many people as possible. I hope to embark on a training academy in the future.
You’re an inspiration to thousands of young Muslim women and girls around the world. What is one piece of advice you wish for them to take from your memoir?
LS: My love letter to young Muslim women and girls around the world is to BE UNAPOLOGETICALLY MUSLIM. BE UNAPOLOGETICALLY YOU. Stand your ground. Do not let anyone tell you who or how to be. Live yourself with purpose and let your faith guide you. Always remember, your liberation is bound up with the liberation of women all over the world.
Linda has become such an inspiration to so many around the world and her love for her people and fellow Muslims is something that can absolutely be felt throughout her memoir We’re In This Together.
QUOTES FROM THE BOOK
“Way back when I was four years old, my father bought and opened a bodega in Crown Heights, a predominately Black and Latinx section of Brooklyn. He named it Linda Sarsour’s Spanish & American Food Center. Back then it was very unusual for an Arab man to name a business after a daughter; Arab men usually named things after their firstborn sons. But Yaba had been extremely euphoric about my birth. When his friends would question him about the name of the store, he’d say, “Why should I wait? Linda is everything to me. Why shouldn’t I celebrate her as I would a boy?”
So, Linda Sarsour’s operated from Monday through Sunday, from dawn until long after dusk. For much of my childhood, I only saw my dad on Sundays, his one day off. He would be gone before I woke up during the week and wouldn’t come home until after I was asleep. Sometimes as I snuggled under the covers, I would promise myself that I would wake up the next morning in time to see him. That never worked.
With my father at the store for such long hours and with so many children to raise, most of my mother’s work centered on our home. She was a mother and a housewife and supported the family business. When we were young, a lot of her responsibilities related to babies and young children — changing diapers, bottles, feedings. Practicing Palestinian artistry in the kitchen for nine hungry mouths meant that her grocery runs would take two or three hours. Laundry and cleaning would take much longer. And when you own a bodega, you handle a lot of cash. My mom made sure it made it to the bank.”
Over the years, I did a lot of fending for myself, learning to navigate back and forth between my world at home, flavored with our Palestinian cultural traditions, and the mainstream American society, I often served as a translator, particularly for my mom. I filled out school forms, made sure that my siblings completed their homework before going outside to play, and signed everyone’s school permission slips.
To spare her frustration and embarrassment, I helped Yumma communicate in English with our teachers, the pediatrician, the people in the billing office at the utility company. The fact that I played so many roles made learning particularly important to me.”
Our lives tied together
She’s also been kind enough to share an exclusive excerpt of We’re In This Together, which will hit bookshelves all around the world on November 29! Don’t forget to grab a copy on the release date or even pre-order here.