By Eileen Carr
December 29, 2014
(Photo: Pocket Star)
Eileen Carr, author of Veiled Intentions, shares a scene from her new release, which tackles the heavy issues of hatred and prejudice.
Eileen: I never had an easy time talking to my boyfriend's father, Ken. He was difficult and had a hair-trigger temper. I'd love to say I didn't care if he got angry, that his opinion didn't matter, that I'm a strong woman who has no fear of bullies, but I'd be lying. I'm a giant weenie.
Ken had decided to come to our house for Thanksgiving. He came in the night before so we were stuck sitting on my living room couch while the cornbread for the dressing baked in the oven and the cranberries stewed on the stove. Somehow (I remember how, but it would take a super long time to explain and it would be boring), we got on to the subject of Islam. My boyfriend walked back into the room about then, got a horrified look on his face and started making frantic shut up/cut it out/zip it gestures at me. I remembered too late about an e-mail his father had sent warning of an imminent coordinated terrorist attack on the United States in which he cautioned that the Muslims were out to slit our throats and rape our women and that he knew this firsthand because he was a Knight Templar, a claim that weakened his argument for me since he wasn't even Catholic. In the e-mail, he also advised us where to meet him after the attack (Zuni, New Mexico, where there was water and plentiful game) to start our own post-apocalyptic society with him as our leader. My boyfriend wrote back that we would pass since I didn't like to camp.
Back in my living room, Ken began to explain why I should be suspicious of Muslims. I tried to explain why as a Jew I felt it was extra important not to vilify an entire group of people based on their religion because of that whole Holocaust thing. He called me naïve. My boyfriend stopped me before I called his father a bigot.
Over the next few months, Ken sent me weekly e-mails with links to anti-Islamic propaganda. Now here's the first of many embarrassing parts of this story: I didn't know how to argue back because I didn't know anything about Islam.
I started reading and Googling. I attended a lecture about Islamophobia given by a respected professor. At the end of the lecture, I tried to ask a question. The professor ignored me. Finally, the facilitator of the lecture called on me. I explained about Ken and asked where to go for information. The professor stared at me for a second and then said, "Don't bother. You'll never change his mind." I was embarrassed (second time) and a little angry.
"How dare he?" I thought. "How dare he dismiss me when I was nice enough to come down here?" Then I heard what I was saying. Really heard it. Really heard how patronizing I was being. How I thought he should have been grateful that a nice white girl — a nice Jewish white girl — would listen to him and care about his cause. I was really embarrassed then (that's the third time, if you're counting).
I talked to my mother about it. My mother is so liberal she makes me look Republican. I was shocked when she said, "You know those people wouldn't cross the road to piss on you if you were on fire." (In addition to being liberal, she's also Southern.) I couldn't believe my civil rights-loving, ERA-supporting, Bill-Clinton-was-the-victim-of-a-vast-right-wing-conspiracy-believing mother was siding with my boyfriend's NRA-supporting, Ronald Reagan-worshipping, Knight Templar-pretender of a father.
I read some more. I read horror stories about women being stoned for being raped, mutilated for being female, shot for trying to learn to read. I talked to a Muslim friend. I visited her Mosque where I was treated as a welcome guest and listened to several women address the congregation about important issues and watched them being honored in return.
I was confused. I couldn't figure out what to do with all these feelings and opinions and questions. So I wrote a book. I wrote a book that I hope addresses these big issues and shows how they affect real people in their everyday lives. I called it Veiled Intentions because it seems that everyone comes into these situations with their own agendas. I hope at the very least it makes people want to understand each other better and that it is one small step in ending the cycle of hatred and prejudice.
Here's the blurb about Veiled Intentions:
When a young Muslim high school student is accused of a crime she didn't commit, her school counsellor gets involved to clear her record in this ripped-from-the-headlines romantic thriller from the author of Vanished in the Night.
When Lily Simon finds cops in the lobby of the high school where she's a guidance counsellor, she's not surprised: cops and adolescents go together like sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll. But when the cops take Jamila, a Muslim student, into custody for a crime she didn't commit, Lily's high school becomes a powder keg.
Police think Jamila is responsible for a hit and run, and since she's not talking, they have no choice but to keep her as the main suspect. And since the victim—a young soldier recently returned from Afghanistan—is lying unconscious in the hospital, the whole town is taking sides on whether or not Jamila's arrest is religious persecution. Determined to find the truth, Lily teams up with a reporter to uncover what really happened the night of the hit and run. But Lily didn't expect to find such a tangled web…
Here's an excerpt …
Shelby's finger hovered over the mouse. To click or not to click, that was the question. She was as frozen as stupid boring Hamlet. Gah. How could anyone stand that stupid play? Just the thought of Ms. Bradley's boring voice droning on and on about uncertainty and action made her eyelids grow heavy. The kids in Mr. Gardella's class got to do a whole mock trial where they decided whether or not Hamlet was guilty. Shelby didn't get to be in that class. She hadn't made the cut for Honours English. Or the gifted program. Or advanced placement anything.
She looked back at her computer screen. The "Jamila Is a Terrorist" Facebook page already had 248 likes. That was, like, two-thirds of the junior class at Darby High. Nobody would even notice Shelby's click. Her hand trembled a little.
She pulled it back and wiped her palm on her jeans. They were loose on her legs. When had that happened? She'd never had to worry about her weight like a lot of other girls. She was like her mom, a little on the thin side, but she was pretty sure those jeans had clung to her legs at the beginning of the school year. Maybe they'd stretched out. She'd throw them through the dryer on high the next time she washed them.
She turned her attention back to the page. Different people had posted photos of Jamila taken at different school events and drawn heavy black beards on her face and put turbans on her head. There were pages of comments, too. Most of them were a bunch of LOLs, but a few sounded really angry.
At least one person suggested running over Jamila in a parking lot to see how she liked it. Thirty-five people had commented on that post, all in agreement. Shelby swallowed hard. It was just talk, right? Just kids blowing off steam. Nobody was going to actually do anything.
She recognized most of the names and faces on the page, but there were a few she didn't know. She clicked on one girl's profile. She was from Pennsylvania! What was a girl from Pennsylvania doing hating on Jamila? She didn't even know her.
Shelby clicked on a second and a third face she didn't recognize. Iowa. Texas. Wow. Crazy. She wished her hands would stop shaking and sweating. It was creeping her out.
Her folks hadn't said anything, but the open wine bottles in the refrigerator were gone and so was the beer. It was like they were daring her to ask where they'd gone. Seriously. Like she'd give them that satisfaction.
There were other places to get booze. Heck, she could go down to the Safeway any night of the week and give one of the bums that hung out there twenty bucks to buy her a bottle of something. She'd done that plenty of times. All her parents had done was make it a little inconvenient.
Why didn't they just say something? Why set stupid little traps that not even a kindergartner would fall into? No wonder Shelby needed a little something to get through the day. Between her stupid parents and her boring school, who wouldn't need something to make it through the day? She'd felt soooooo much better this afternoon after she came home and had just a little bit of vodka from her stuffed animal stash. It didn't take much. A few sips never hurt anyone and they definitely helped. It was stupid to have tried to stop all together.
It was so hypocritical of the adults to try to keep the kids from drinking. I mean, what did her mother do every Friday night practically the first second she walked in the door? She opened a bottle of wine and poured herself a water-tumbler-size glass of it. Cassie's mother and father smoked pot practically every night. Shelby had seen them, giggling and hiding out in the backyard when she'd spent the night. She couldn't believe they thought that nobody knew.
Everybody knew. In fact, Cassie took a little bit of weed from her mother's stash every week so she had her own supply.
Shelby threw herself back on her bed and stared at the ceiling. She couldn't imagine her mother making it through a weekend without opening a bottle of wine. There'd be booze back in the house in no time. In the meantime, she could make a return trip to Safeway one night. Although that hadn't turned out so well the last time, had it?
There was also that little stash of Vicodin that her mother had from when she'd had a root canal. It was sitting untouched behind the box of tampons under her mother's bathroom sink. Shelby doubted her mom even remembered it was there. Pills were not her mom's thing.
Yes. That would do the trick. A Vicodin or two would never be missed and they'd be perfect to take the edge off.
Shelby sat back up, pulled her computer back onto her lap, and clicked the like button.
Then she stared. The likes on Jamila's Facebook page now numbered 427.
It figured. Jamila had managed to go viral.