Highlights from CHAI’s Book Club ‘On Clipped Wings’: A conversation with author, Jameela Alter

By Razia Kosi, Executive Director

If you were able to take a sabbatical from your work for one year, would you take the time to make your dream come

Members of CHAI Book Club snack and chat with author Jameela Alter

true? That’s exactly what Montessori school teacher, Jameela Alter, did when she took a sabbatical in 1996 to write the semi-autobiographical book On Clipped Wings. The author candidly shared her own life experiences as an Indian Borha Muslim, whose traditions are both rich and controversial. She stated many of the characters in the book were loosely based on real experiences or people she’s met in her life.

The original title for the book was “Circumcised.” Jameela reflected that this titled might have been too controversial or too provocative for readers. It also might have limited the reader’s preconception of what the book would be about; when in actuality, the themes in the book have multiple layers.

Some of the themes discussed at the CHAI book club were:

1) The complexity of moral decisions when one feels they have no power in changing their future,

2) The tendency for all religions to pass along a sense of religious superiority,

3) The power of love and friendship, and

4) The topic of circumcision. While female circumcision was addressed, we also discussed the ramifications of “circumcising the mind”- or how we cut away or prune information that is passed along to children or future generations.

Trauma, resilience and one’s ability to forgive or not forgive were also part of the conversation at the book club. Traumatic events are external life-threatening events that happen to a person, and the response that a person has to the trauma can vary in many ways. Many forces can be healing when recovering from trauma. Hope, love and faith can be very powerful healing forces, and can also be damaging if those who you love inflict the trauma or the faith you believe was falsely used to inflict the trauma.

We invite others to join in the conversation and share your comments. We intentionally kept specifics from the book vague to avoid any spoiler alerts, for many of you who are still reading the book.

Razia with board member, Swaran Dhawan, and author, Jameela Alter

The next CHAI reading will be The Happiness Project on Sunday, January 27th, 2013 from 2-4pm in Ellicott City.  Please email board.chai@gmail.com for the address, we hope to see you there and please share books that you would like us to read and discuss in our CHAI Book Club.

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