The Wrong End of the Table

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 05 Mar 2019

Member Reviews

I wanted to love this book. I enjoy reading memoirs that provide a different perspective of life in America, being an immigrant in America, being a woman in the world. I was so intrigued by the premise of this book; we need to hear more from Muslim and Arab Americans! 

But this book fell flat for me. The chapters were too short to ever broaden Salman's lived experiences to any cultural critique. I didn't find the jokes funny (although I think the brand of humor is on par for Baby Boomers and Gen Xers). There's some homophobia and Harvey Weinstein apologizing. The chapter on intersectionality is very surface level (and ultimately is what lead me to putting the book down for good). I think if you're just beginning to step your foot into the world of memoirs with social commentary, this is a great fit.

I appreciate having the opportunity to review this book, and I'm happy to share my honest review.
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The core of this collection are stories from the author's life that center around identity, otherness, and whether it's better to fit in/assimilate or go your own way. I appreciated the humorous slant to the collection, but some of the humor fell flat and overall the overuse of footnotes distracted from the story, rather than adding to it. I would love to read more from this author!
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This was an absolute delight to read, but also very educational.  I had no expectations for this memoir, and Ayser Salman did not disappoint.  I loved the format, the combination of short / long chapters kept the pace going steady, the footnotes were both helpful and hysterical, and before I knew it, I was at the end of the book and was not ready to be done.  

Ayser was born in Iraq, and her parents moved the family to Columbus, Ohio when she was three, where they stayed for two years before settling in Lexington, Kentucky.  Her father then got a job in Saudi Arabia, where they would live full time other than the summer months, obvi, at which time they would come back to Lexington.  She never really felt like she fit in anywhere until her family went to Saudi Arabia, where she attended an all girls school and was finally able to be herself / make friends.

Ayser explains the struggles she had in growing up with strict parents, acclimating to life in America as a child, her fear in moving to Saudi Arabia (she researched what went on there to her parents' horror), and then her reluctance to come back to Kentucky once she finally felt at home with others like her.  Ayser is refreshing, hilarious, and honest about her experiences and thoughts.  She explains her culture in a way that others can understand it, but also explains American culture from an outsider’s perspective in the same honest way, which I appreciated.  Being a kid / teenager in America is hard for anyone, but being a foreigner can be even harder, and Ayser’s perspective is one that everyone should understand and keep in mind.

Thank you to NetGalley and GetRedPR for the advanced copy to review.  All opinions above are my own.  Release date is tomorrow, 3/5/19, and trust me, you need to read this one!!
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Linda’s Book Obsession Reviews “The Wrong End of the Table A Mostly Comic Memoir of a Muslim American Woman Just Trying to Fit In” by Ayser Salman, Skyhorse Publishing, March 5, 2019

Ayser Salman, Author of “The Wrong End of the Table, A Mostly Comic Memoir of a Muslim Arab Woman Just Trying to Fit In” has written an entertaining and witty Memoir. Ayser Salman writes about her traditional and immigrant parents who left an oppressed life for freedom in America. As a little girl, Ayser had a difficult time adjusting to the environment and the other children in Columbus, Ohio.  She always felt like an outcast. Her parents were very strict, and found it difficult to understand the modern ways of American life.

Ayser Salman  writes honestly and shares how her parent’s cultural and traditional values differed in many ways from the expectations that Ayser felt in  America. Ayser also writes how the politics in America, made her carefully rethink choices that she had. She candidly writes her dating experiences, and friendships. I found Asyer Salman’s experiences intriguing.  I would recommend this  for readers who enjoy memoirs. I received an ARC from NetGalley for my honest review.
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I received an advanced reader copy of The Wrong Side of the Table by Ayser Salman from the publisher Skyhorse Publishing through Netgalley 

This book was hilarious and just what I needed in a memoir. It is short essays about her childhood and adulthood all centered around experiences about growing up Muslim in the United States. This is a book you can jam through in a day or hold onto for awhile savoring each essay and getting to feel like you were hanging out with Ayser, I did the later. 

Ayser will tell you stories of just trying to fit in in Kentucky, to meeting her first best friend in Saudi Arabia, to her mishaps with dating and managing her families expectations while living her American lives. There are stories that are relatable to everybody from not realizing how to handle interpersonal relationships when at college to balancing dating. Stories that are deeply thoughtful like reflecting on religion in a time when your religion is being scapegoated. 

Like any good friend you will laugh with Ayser, cry with her and learn from her. Pick this book up now.
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 I recieved this as an ARC and was really excited to read it was not for me. The  author tells us her life with humor but I can't say I found it funny and I love to laugh. The writhing is ok, the story is ok but it could have been so much more! There is no denying that it must have been hard for her and maybe if she had put more depth to her story this would have been awesome but alas it is not so.
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My thanks to Skyhorse Publishing, and Netgalley.
Ayser Salman is a freak of nature! I expected all.sort of Immigrant angst from her. Nope. Not a peep. She did experience a few weird things that most of us didnt. Sorry Ayser, the smacking of butts in preschool must be an Ohio thing. Heck, it's probably in their college chant song, but since the rest of us aren't Midwesterners then we don't understand it! It is after all Ohio! My favorite thing about Ayser? She's human! Yep! Who'd a thunk it? She leaves Iraq at.3. Ohio, U.S.A., where.some really odd things happen in school! Yet, she still hasn't given up on us yet! Kentucky. Saudi Arabia. She meets some of her favorite people ever in S.A.  Sorry, Saudi Arabia..Not South Africa.Then she's here, home again. My favorite thing about Ayser is just how very girl next door she is. Ayser would have been my friend, although I'd have stopped her.from.wearing all.those stupid, preppy clothes! Oh, she wouldn't have thanked me though, because I'd have put her in suede cowboy boots, with some tight levis, and legwarmers, and cowboys chasing her all over the place! Sorry, but there was no point to any of it if those cowboys weren't knock, knock, knocking! 
I'm all.seriousness though Ayser is funny. Her family is one of whom most would envy. Annoying? At times, sure. But love always rings true. Fuck Trump and his xenophobia. I'm Scottish. Trumps Scottish! 😠😡 I'll take people looking to better themselves, over people who thing no one is better than themselves!
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I enjoyed reading of Ayser’s struggles to become an Arab Muslim in America. She approaches the subject with humor and candor.

When Ayser was only three years old her family moved from Baghdad, Iraq to Columbus, Ohio. So Ayser went along with them since as she said “legal emancipation from your parents isn’t an option in Iraq until the age of seventy-four, and even then only if you’re married.” At the age of three culture shock is not such a major event. Two years later they moved to Lexington, Kentucky where Ayser was frequently called “Ayser Eraser”. (Hey, a kid I knew was named “Horace Lanier” – Need I tell you what he was called?) Her family continued to move around for several years, with each locale providing further adaptation challenges.

Ayser writes of what it means to be an Arab and what it means to be an American. The transition from Iraqi Arab to American-Iraqi Arab often resulted in the feeling of being at the wrong end of the table. “You know that feeling of being at the wrong end of the table? Like you’re at a party but all the good stuff is happening out of earshot?” Always trying to fit in yet always feeling left out.

And if life wasn’t hard enough, along came 9/11. She now feels isolated in her own country, wondering why people can’t recognize the difference between a terrorist and a practicing believer of Islam.

The chapter titles should be enough to get you to take a look – “Land of the Free, Home of the McMuffin”, “Sibling Rivalry, or: How to Stop Your Sister from Getting the Western Name”, “Iraqis Take Forever to Say Goodbye”, and “You Can’t Blame Everything on Your Period; Sometimes You’re Going to Be a Crazy Bitch: and Other Advice from Mom”.

As an adult she asks herself what she would tell her younger self. I loved her comment that “I would also tell her not to discount her time spent at the wrong end of the table, because sometimes you have to spend time at the wrong end in order to appreciate being at the right end.’

Do be sure to read her footnotes as they provide much of the candor – and are quite funny.
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Ayser Salman’s memoir The Wrong End of the Table is a story of awkward childhood-teen antics and trying to figure out who you are when you have so many different cultures pulling you in different directions. Salman arrives in the U.S. with her family after they leave fascist Iraq in the 1980s. Figuring out who you are is no easy task and figuring out who you are as a Muslim, an Arab, an American, a woman, and an immigrant just feels like a lot of extra stress if you ask me. Salman, however, never bemoans her fate and through every twist and turn she finds a way to love, live, and learn from her multifaceted upbringing.

Throughout Salman’s memoir you see the juxtaposition between her own experiences growing up as an immigrant child in the U.S. and her parents experiences who obviously came to America as adults. I don’t know which experience is harder, but suffice to say that immigration is just hard. My husband is Brazilian, I am Australian, and we live in Switzerland, so I can only attest to the struggles and frustrations you have when trying to figure out new lands, languages, and cultures. In some ways, I do wonder if immigrating as a kid has its positives as young children can adapt a bit easier to new things around them. As Salman points out, her parents still had a thick accent and probably struggled a lot more to align their Iraqi culture with American culture than she, as a child, did.

One of the themes throughout Salman’s memoir is her often hilarious struggles to find a balance between her different identities. She talks of a time before ‘intersectional’ feminism and what it was like to feel like you had to pick a side. She brings up white-passing, which is something that many Arabs can do, and the struggles of navigating life with other minorities.

The catalyst for her life and how she is perceived by the world is definitely the 11th of September 2001. This event changed the world and how we live and travel in it. Furthermore, as a Muslim Arab the rise of Islamophobia only seemed to exponentially increase after this date. Again, it is this navigating of inbetweenness that Salman struggles with throughout her life. Yet she does it with a lot of laughs and fun. Her relationship with her parents (see all of her footnotes) is just hilarious. The universality of her relationship with them reinforces that love and family transcend cultures. We are at the core, humans.

Salman’s memoir is an important addition to the cannon of Arab American literature in the way that it offers new insights into love, dating, and identity. Her writing is extremely honest and heartfelt and I would describe her style as Nora-Ephron-esque. In between the laughs there are some really hard truths about being a Muslim Arab American in the U.S. today and I think it is this balance of comedy and heartfelt truth that will win over any reader.

What books by Arab Americans have you read? Will you be picking up Salman’s memoir March 5th, 2019? As always, share the reading love.

NOTE: This novel was was accessed through Netgalley and Skyhorse Publishing for review purposes. Expected publication is 5th March 2019.
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Though described as a  "mostly comic memoir" it is also a very factual account of immigrant life and how someone will cope in modern America.

Considering the "Muslim" question post 9/11 Ayser had a tough time as it is to assimilate and be part of the crowd from the time she was a little girl. She was just different and she had a tough time beginning with her name. Her parents were highly educated, modern and forward thinking but they still carried with them different ideas re women and their behaviour and this carried out in their way of thinking towards their daughters. It did change by the end of the book, but it seemed hard and this seems to be quite the form and commonplace for most immigrant daughters Muslim or not!

Taking place across Iraq their place of origin which they got out in the nick of time, then crossing over to Kentucky and then back again to Saudi Arabia in which Ayser fit in surprisingly well and then back to the States where Ayser grew up and lived her adult life. Trying to find love, life and a balance between pleasing everyone else and then finally beginning to please herself.

This memoir, bit of travel guide and biography was tongue in cheek humor and factual as well. 

Enjoyable read.
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First up, thanks for allowing me to try out this book. I was very much excited to try it out, but after trying it for a few times, and being shocked by the first chapter which in the end I skipped (really, I don't need to read about little kids giving each other blow jobs or other crap), it just isn't working for me. The style of writing just doesn't work. It is supposed to be comical, but the best I am doing is giggle a bit at rare parts. I am now at almost 20% and I am just not having fun reading it. 

Maybe it is the foot notes which are a nice addition but by the time the chapter is often over I have already forgotten what 1 or 5 in footnotes meant. Scrolling back, sure, but my Kindle isn't too amused if I do this more than once, plus it is really distracting to keep on having to scroll back to just find out about that footnote. 

Sorry, but this book just isn't for me. :( I also wish I didn't have to rate it, but Netgalley wants a rating. So I am sorry for that as well.
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The following review is my personal opinion and in thanks to Netgalley and Skyhorse Publishing for an advance readers’ ebook.

I laughed my way through this charming book of an Iraqi woman and her experience growing up in America as a child and into adulthood. I suppose I can relate being quite shy and insecure of myself growing up, but also knowing what it’s like living abroad. I had a good friend from a Turkish Muslim family and remember similar sentiments from them also. I won’t think of McDonald’s or money the same way. 

The book also shows we have way more in common with immigrants than many realize and the book is being published at a very pertinent time in history. 

I liked all the endnotes and especially learning the thoughts of her family. Kids are still jerks and my heart ached multiple times for Ayser Eraser. (Ok, could not resist adding that).

Only dislike is the use of swearing where it’s really not necessary.
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A humorous and eye opening look into someone coming from the outside  looking in to a new world as a Muslim coming from Iraq to America
A good and enjoyable read especially the exaggerations
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💫 Hilarious (and insightful) voice — especially for a memoir!
I know some memoirs can be a little dull, but I've had so much luck with the ones I've picked up over the last year or so. And, luckily, this memoir was one of the best I have read in a long, long time.

The way Ayser retells events from her childhood, in particular, is phenomenal. Having been bullied for her race and culture cannot have been easy, but she narrates all these horrible events with so much humor, you can't help but laugh. I mean, how many writers can turn rejecting your crush's promposal for your parents' religious beliefs into something hilarious?!

💫 Self-deprecating humor is my favorite
Being a memoir detailing a lot of Ayser Salman's fuck-ups throughout life, it's no wonder that there's a fair share of self-deprecating jokes and stories. And I loved every single one of them. From her mistakes while dating in her 20s to peeing herself in front of everyone and playing it as if she had spilled water on her pants, Ayser is a queen when it comes to making fun of herself.

💫 Footnotes. Lots and lots of funny footnotes
I'm crazy about footnotes and this one really piles high with them. Every chapter has heaps of footnotes that add snarky, funny comments to whatever Ayser is telling us about. For example, she will be telling you about that time she was pushed in middle grade and at the same time she is adding footnotes with comments her mom or editor have made about that particular section.

But the author has also added some footnotes to give readers a broader context of what she is writing about. You will see this mostly when you reach the sections in which Ayser Salman writes of living in Saudi Arabia during her teen years. Or when she writes of her early childhood in Baghdad, in which she explains what it was like living in a country almost ready for Saddam Hussein.

If you get a quick out of reading funny footnotes (*ahem* like me), then you'll most likely want to pick this memoir up...

💫 A detailed look into the inner-workings of the Salman family
In this memoir, we meet not only Ayser but also the people who matter the most to her: her parents. There is obviously a very tight bond connecting Ayser and her parents, and so they make a lot of appearances in the book. Not all of them are positive (what teenager can say they have never thought ill of their parents?) but they're all heartwarming. You can so truly tell that this is a happy family in their own way.

I loved the mother figure the most. She is the one who is ever present, either in the footnotes telling Ayser to not include excerpt A or B because "it would make you look bad," or in the actual chapters. This is a woman who loves her daughter more than anything and who would do anything for her.

Ayser's father is also a very hilarious character. There's a point in the novel in which the author narrates her trip to Hawaii with her parents. They hadn't been out of the country much (except in the Middle East) and are two very funny characters together. But Ayser's dad's observation that "Hawaii comes from Arabic" really cracked me up. I loved seeing this man claw at the thinnest of evidences of a linguistic relationship between the two. For someone who has studied linguistics before, this was one of the funniest parts of the memoir.

💫 What's assimilation? Adapting to American culture
As you might have noticed, there is a lot of content on this memoir about feeling like you belong and feeling hostility against your presence. Ayser, as an Immigrant from a Muslim Arabic country, experiences difficulties assimilating with American culture, despite having been born and mostly raised in the country.

We see this happen not just when she is little and packs a lunch to take to school that is (worlds) different from what her friends take. We also see this in how people pronounce her name (incorrectly), in how people make fun of her for having hairs on her upper lip (which she describes as typically Iraqi), and in how people react when they learn she is Iraqi.

I would say that this is the most ~serious~ part of the whole memoir, and Ayser doesn't dismiss the topic like she does other things in a funny way. She confronts what it's like to be Muslim Arabic in Ameria before and after the 9/11 attacks, and explains how she managed to get her own voice.

💫 Interesting account of what it's like working in the movie industry
Ayser Salman moved to California to get involved in the movie industry, and she actually succeeded. In this memoir, she tells us how she got her role as a film editor and what her job consisted of. I have never really understood what movie editing or production entails, so these chapters were interesting in the sense that they showed me a world I had never paid attention to.

Another thing I liked about these chapters was how the author doesn't speculate about the Harvey Weinstein scandal. Given that she worked there, some people might think that she knew him and knew of his actions. But Ayser flat out admits never having met the man and not wanting to take over the #metoo conversation.

However, this isn't to say that she doesn't talk about being a woman (and specifically a Muslim Arabic woman) in the workplace. The last chapters of the memoir are a more serious insight into claiming your own space and your own voice, regardless of what others around you say. While they don't read like the rest of the memoir, they are a great addition to the collection.

💫 There is a lot to be taken from this memoir
Since Ayser Salman wrote this memoir from her point of view, we get a lot of great cultural insight, both into the Iraq she lived in, into Saudi Arabia, and into America. As a person who never completely fit into any of these countries, whether because she didn't see herself as being from there or because others treated her like an outsider, her comments are especially remarkable. Her voice is so poignant and so spot on, that it's hard to disregard her observations.

There is also a lot to be learned from this memoir in terms of how we treat people who are from another country. As I've mentioned before, the author experienced racism throughout different stages of her life, and she remarks feeling like she's on the outside looking in because the door was closed to her. This is an issue Ayser goes into depth about, and also a metaphor I found delightfully clear to anyone who has never experienced this.
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Ayser Salman was born in Iraq, spent several years in the US, moved to Saudi Arabia with her family, and finally came back to the States. This memoir is a series of short stories knit together around the theme of feeling slightly out of place. 

The chapters are very short; some were only a few pages long on the kindle. Salman also uses footnotes which I enjoy in a memoir. (I love a pithy aside.) But the format in an ebook was a little disjointed. 

I very much enjoyed the chapters about her time in Saudi Arabia. I would probably read a whole book about that. (Ayser - if you’re listening!) I found her experience as a young, female child in a country that limits the rights of women very interesting. 

Some of the other chapters left me wanting more. It almost felt like someone gave her a list of topics and said she dutifully marked them off. I wanted more but I felt like she barely brushed the surface. It’s hard to be satisfied with just a couple of pages sometimes. 

I really enjoyed Ayser’s voice. Her perspective is rather unique in the memoir market. The only shortcoming is that I just wanted more!!!
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I came to this book with few expectations beyond reading a few amusing anecdotes. I did get those, but this is actually a great mixture of humour, a heartfelt exploration of familial relationships, the description of a voyage of self discovery and a political commentary. 

The vast majority of the book will make you laugh but there are touches of both sadness and anger; the open letter to Trump being a case in point. 

I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this book and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
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The story of an Iraqi woman growing up in Kentucky. Lots of culture clashes and some political discussion. I love memoirs of women so this was perfect for me.
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Memoirs are a favorite genre for me, especially when they exist outside of my normal realm, and yet find ways to be relatable.  It reminds me that while we all have different life experiences, we are still connected through common human experiences.

Ayser was born in Iraq, then lived in Ohio and Kentucky, then moved to Saudi Arabia, then back to Kentucky, and finally found her home in Los Angeles. She discusses the challenges of melding her Arabic traditions with her newfound American culture, and how this impacted her throughout her life.  Her experience of being at “the wrong end of the table” is one that we have all related to at one point or another in our lives, and shows that human experiences are similar regardless of our backgrounds or upbringings.
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I loved this book! Salman offers a unique and fresh perspective in the humorous memoir category that is often lacking diversity. Salman is relate-able in her memoir and at no point was I desiring to skip ahead!
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Ayser Salman has found herself at the wrong end of the table for years, having straddled many - and seemingly disparate - identities. Born in Iraq, Ayser moved to the US at the age of three along with her family who sought to escape Iraq’s fascist and authoritarian regime. Ayser and her siblings grew up in Lexington, Kentucky; a town with few Arabs and foreigners at the time. In her memoir, Ayser recounts the challenges of growing up in a homogenous American town as the child of immigrants. Her parents, while highly educated and enthralled by Americana, are rather traditional and conservative, though the intensity declines with time. As a result, Ayser, who is hellbent on assimilating, finds it challenging to live life as a typical American girl. In her memoir, Ayser shares funny anecdotes about her life and how she has changed from wanting to assimilate to reconciling her dual identities as an American, Iraqi and Muslim. Hers is an interesting account as she is in her forties and immigrated to the US decades ago. In general, most of the information concerning American Muslims centres on those who have recently immigrated (in the last two decades, maybe) as opposed to long-established Muslim immigrants (which dates back to the 19th century and even further in some cases). It’s quite interesting to read about Ayser’s experiences in Kentucky and Saudi Arabia (where she spent part of her adolescence); it’s a fascinating juxtaposition. 

If you are looking for a humourous look into the life of a moderate Iraqi-American Muslim, this could be the book for you. I certainly enjoyed reading about Ayser’s life.

Thank you to NetGalley, Skyhorse Publishing, and Ayser Salman for the privilege of reading this title prior to its publication.
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