Rebels by Accident by Patricia Dunn
Mariam Just Wants to Fit In.
That’s not easy when she’s the only Egyptian at her high school and her parents are super traditional. So when she sneaks into a party that gets busted, Mariam knows she’s in trouble…big trouble.
Convinced she needs more discipline and to reconnect with her roots, Mariam’s parents send her to Cairo to stay with her grandmother, her sittu.
But Marian’s strict sittu and the country of her heritage are nothing like she imagined, challenging everything Mariam once believed.
As Mariam searches for the courage to be true to herself, a teen named Asmaa calls on the people of Egypt to protest their president. The country is on the brink of revolution—and now, in her own way, so is Mariam.
Patricia Dunn has appeared in Salon.com, The Christian Science Monitor, the Village Voice, the Nation, LA Weekly, and others.
With an MFA in creative writing from Sarah Lawrence College, where she also teaches, this Bronx-raised rebel and former resident of Cairo settled in Connecticut, with her husband, teenage son, and toddler dog.
Guest Post on Rebels by Accident
I was compelled to finish writing Rebels by Accident during the Arab Spring, when the youth of Egypt took to the streets in protest of the thirty years of repression and censorship under the Mubarak regime. However, my inspiration for starting the book was my son, Ali, who like the central character, Mariam, is an American-Egyptian-Muslim who had been bullied by other kids.
Ali had no problem speaking up for himself when he was called “Bin Laden’s son,” hit on the head, and told to go back to where he came from (even though this was the New York suburb where he was born.) However, there are many kids like Mariam, who struggle with their cultural identities and often try to hide from the world. I wrote a story about how an Egyptian-American teen living in our post 9-11 world and disconnected from her culture figures out what it means to be Egyptian and American.
I believe diversity is important in all literature, but especially in YA. I come from a small town called The Bronx. Everyone in my neighborhood was originally from Italy, but we, my family, were the “Americans” on the block. I grew up knowing that I was different, but it was from the stories I read, the books recommended to me by my school and public librarians, that I learned there was a whole world full of people who were “different,” and different was not bad, it was good, very good.
These differences made me want to explore the world and, ironically, the more I traveled, the more I learned that as diverse as we are, we also have much in common. It’s our need to love and be loved that makes us all one people. I believe that much of the hate found in the world exists due to fear of the unknown but as we learn about other cultures we grow as people. The more understanding we are of what we once feared, the more we allow ourselves to welcome into our lives. The optimistic teen in me will forever believe that to change the world, you start with one person, one voice, one story, and go from there. As my Moroccan friend Hassan says, “step by step.” Rebels by Accident is at its core a book about revolutions: those that happen on the streets, and those inside ourselves.