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Muddy People: A Memoir

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A hilarious, heartwarming memoir of growing up and becoming yourself in an Egyptian Muslim family. Soos is coming of age in a household with a lot of rules. No bikinis, despite the Queensland heat. No boys, unless he's Muslim. And no life insurance, not even when her father gets cancer. Soos is trying to balance her parents' strict decrees with having friendships, crushes an A hilarious, heartwarming memoir of growing up and becoming yourself in an Egyptian Muslim family. Soos is coming of age in a household with a lot of rules. No bikinis, despite the Queensland heat. No boys, unless he's Muslim. And no life insurance, not even when her father gets cancer. Soos is trying to balance her parents' strict decrees with having friendships, crushes and the freedom to develop her own values. With each rule Soos comes up against, she is forced to choose between doing what her parents say is right and following her instincts. When her family falls apart, she comes to see her parents as flawed, their morals based on a muddy logic. But she will also learn that they are her strongest defenders.


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A hilarious, heartwarming memoir of growing up and becoming yourself in an Egyptian Muslim family. Soos is coming of age in a household with a lot of rules. No bikinis, despite the Queensland heat. No boys, unless he's Muslim. And no life insurance, not even when her father gets cancer. Soos is trying to balance her parents' strict decrees with having friendships, crushes an A hilarious, heartwarming memoir of growing up and becoming yourself in an Egyptian Muslim family. Soos is coming of age in a household with a lot of rules. No bikinis, despite the Queensland heat. No boys, unless he's Muslim. And no life insurance, not even when her father gets cancer. Soos is trying to balance her parents' strict decrees with having friendships, crushes and the freedom to develop her own values. With each rule Soos comes up against, she is forced to choose between doing what her parents say is right and following her instincts. When her family falls apart, she comes to see her parents as flawed, their morals based on a muddy logic. But she will also learn that they are her strongest defenders.

30 review for Muddy People: A Memoir

  1. 5 out of 5

    Seb Sebastian

    Lots of potential from this emerging Australian writer. Some parts really resonated with me. I feel like this book was a general overview of migrant life, perhaps if she chose only a few themes to explore she wouldve been able to delve deeper and make more meaningful observations.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Alana

    If you are looking for a cute Aussie memoir to add to your list, look no further than Muddy People! Muddy People is a very candid and entertaining memoir by Sara El Sayed, a young Egyptian Muslim woman who grew up in Australia. Her story telling is light and simple, but the cultural truths and implications of the overt racism and 'otherness' that she and her family have faced in this country really tug at the heart strings. She has a strained relationship with her father, with some of the cultura If you are looking for a cute Aussie memoir to add to your list, look no further than Muddy People! Muddy People is a very candid and entertaining memoir by Sara El Sayed, a young Egyptian Muslim woman who grew up in Australia. Her story telling is light and simple, but the cultural truths and implications of the overt racism and 'otherness' that she and her family have faced in this country really tug at the heart strings. She has a strained relationship with her father, with some of the cultural expectations of women, and with her sense of belonging in Australia. However, she beautifully scrutinised how all of these things have influenced her to understand, accept and reinforce her identity. There were some aspects of this book I could relate to with respect to my ethnic upbringing, though less traditional and religious. However, as a white woman, this book was an opportunity to for me to stand back and understand my privilege. It was an especially disturbing reality for me that Australian patriotism is underpinned by the sense of entitlement by settlers who occupied an established foreign land, but now alienate and struggle to accept other immigrants like Sara's family, the 'muddy people'.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jo | Booklover Book Reviews

    The proverb, “Don’t judge a man until you have walked a mile in his shoes” (which apparently has been traced back to the Cherokee) is iconic because the truth it encapsulates is undeniable. And, memoirs such as this from young Egyptian-born Sara El Sayed provide wonderful opportunities to walk, and thus better understand, the different life experiences of our fellow Australians. If you are taken aback by the title, Muddy People, there is no need to be. It relates to a perceptive and recurring tie The proverb, “Don’t judge a man until you have walked a mile in his shoes” (which apparently has been traced back to the Cherokee) is iconic because the truth it encapsulates is undeniable. And, memoirs such as this from young Egyptian-born Sara El Sayed provide wonderful opportunities to walk, and thus better understand, the different life experiences of our fellow Australians. If you are taken aback by the title, Muddy People, there is no need to be. It relates to a perceptive and recurring tie-back within El Sayed’s story narrative. She explains this upfront in her Author’s Note: “…my father is on guard. He wants me to know the rules. We are Egyptian, after all. We are Muslim, after all. We are not white. My parents’ advice has always been a crucial part of my life. When I say ‘their advice’, I mean them telling me to do things and me doing them. Their rules govern how I live. Our culture governs how I live. The fact that I am an adult does not change this. There have been many rules over the years, some logical, some not. Sometimes they contradict one another. It means that sometimes things get a little messy. A little muddy.” This may at first seem a little dour, but note El Sayed’s refreshingly blunt and candid tone. This translates into engaging and vivid recollections of pivotal events in her family’s lives within ruled-based chapters like ‘Rule #2: Good Girls Don’t Wear Bikinis’, ‘Rule #4: No Moving Out Without a Husband’ and ‘Rule #10: No Fighting With Your Brother’. And dare I say it, in spite of the overt double standards applied to the sexes within their faith and being the target of overtly racist remarks, her ability to draw out the ironic humour while interrogating the causes of conflict with great empathy and compassion for others. This alone makes Muddy People an appealing read. Continue reading: https://www.bookloverbookreviews.com/...

  4. 4 out of 5

    Cathryn Wellner

    Memoirs by young people are often unsatisfying, based on such limited life experiences, but El Sayed brings depth to hers. She recounts her experiences as a young Muslim in Queens with simplicity and candour. But beyond the simplicity lie significant cultural truths about a country of settlers who occupied an already settled land but who now struggle with the implications of accepting other immigrants. Though El Sayed's stories are very personal, they carry enough universality to nudge white Aus Memoirs by young people are often unsatisfying, based on such limited life experiences, but El Sayed brings depth to hers. She recounts her experiences as a young Muslim in Queens with simplicity and candour. But beyond the simplicity lie significant cultural truths about a country of settlers who occupied an already settled land but who now struggle with the implications of accepting other immigrants. Though El Sayed's stories are very personal, they carry enough universality to nudge white Australians to evaluate their own responses to "outsiders".

  5. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    Pending

  6. 5 out of 5

    Vivienne Coburn

    brilliant book! a very quintessentially Queensland/Brisbane book. If you like anything by Benjamin Law, Maxine Beneba Clarke and/or Alice Pung, you'll love this. brilliant book! a very quintessentially Queensland/Brisbane book. If you like anything by Benjamin Law, Maxine Beneba Clarke and/or Alice Pung, you'll love this.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Monique Aganovic

    This was a beautiful memoir, the last few lines really packed a punch and brought tears to my eyes. An incredibly raw and honest piece of work.

  8. 5 out of 5

    James

    I feel these stories will stay with me for some time. In the way that a good book does. Muddy People is a beautiful and impactful read in the very best way.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Ann

    Picked this book up to see if I would like it. Basically I could not put it down. Finished it in about 24 hours! A very well-written, entertaining - and riveting - account of growing up in a culture other than the one you were born into, the latter of which carries restrictions not compatible with the new culture you are immersed in and must deal with. It will resonate with most women and girls - and with anyone who has ever been a teenager who ever experienced any insecurities. In fact, if you’v Picked this book up to see if I would like it. Basically I could not put it down. Finished it in about 24 hours! A very well-written, entertaining - and riveting - account of growing up in a culture other than the one you were born into, the latter of which carries restrictions not compatible with the new culture you are immersed in and must deal with. It will resonate with most women and girls - and with anyone who has ever been a teenager who ever experienced any insecurities. In fact, if you’ve EVER had to work out how to fit in - in a class, at school, at work, in a family, community or neighborhood - pretty much anywhere in life - you’ll find it exquisitely relatable. A winner by @sarakelsayed !

  10. 5 out of 5

    Diana Chamma

    'My mother was engaged to another man before marrying my father. When I ask her about it, she says, "he was handsome. A dentist. A very handsome dentist.'' Maybe if Mama married a very handsome dentist instead of Baba, I would have had better oral health, an my nickname would not be Soos.' -p24 'It made me nervous, the way he kept asking the students to do things instead of ordering them. As if they could say no and that would be that.' -p27 'She told me he would come on three conditions. 'The fir 'My mother was engaged to another man before marrying my father. When I ask her about it, she says, "he was handsome. A dentist. A very handsome dentist.'' Maybe if Mama married a very handsome dentist instead of Baba, I would have had better oral health, an my nickname would not be Soos.' -p24 'It made me nervous, the way he kept asking the students to do things instead of ordering them. As if they could say no and that would be that.' -p27 'She told me he would come on three conditions. 'The first,' she announced, 'is that I prove I'm a good Muslim.' She said this as if it was reasonable. As though she might record herself praying five times a day. Skype him at fajr, zuhr, asr, maghrib abd isha. Or do a medical test. Surely the Good Muslim gene was detectable in her blood. Hereditary maybe.' -p35 ;There's something about men,' Nana has said to me, 'that makes me hate them. They are bossy. They are controlling. They are rude. They say one thing and they do another. They make rules for you and then follow none of them. They are hypocrites. They take, they take, they take, and give you nothing but headache. Men are pigs, all of them. Don't get married, if you can help it.' -p57 'Aisha was at the irritating age of six, where she was young enough to want Mama with her all the time, but old enough to hit me in the face in a way that really hurt.' -p135 'Sadness is different. Sadness is not sharp. It's heavy, the way it sits on your chest, filling your throat every time you try to breathe. Sadness is not understanding how to get up.' -p168 'You can't go through life not doing things out of fear of upsetting your father, you know. I will tell you now, you will upset him. Everything you do will upset him. You have to be prepared for that.' -p174 'Egyptians say el shatra tighzil birrigl homaar, which means a smart girl can knit even if all she has is a donkey's leg.' -p191 'My mother says, 'If there is one thing. in life I have learned, something I will never lose faith in, it's this: if it weren't for money, marriage wouldn't exist. If women had money, there would be no need for husbands. They would be on their own. And they would be happy. And that is a fact.'' -p211

  11. 4 out of 5

    Amelia

    Ahhh what a gorgeous memoir! I always have a hard time reviewing memoirs but I can confirm that I loved reading this one. I really enjoyed how it was split into different sections by rules that had to do with the chapter you were reading and the mixture of past and present as she cares for her father going through cancer treatments. As reader and author we share very different upbringings and cultures but I was able to relate to many childhood experiences Sara wrote about which were purely human Ahhh what a gorgeous memoir! I always have a hard time reviewing memoirs but I can confirm that I loved reading this one. I really enjoyed how it was split into different sections by rules that had to do with the chapter you were reading and the mixture of past and present as she cares for her father going through cancer treatments. As reader and author we share very different upbringings and cultures but I was able to relate to many childhood experiences Sara wrote about which were purely human and shared by many I’m sure! Sara shares many personal stories in here, including her strained relationship with her father, but her writing has so much kindness that you can feel the love she has for her whole family. Overall this was a gorgeous read and has reminded me how much I love memoirs!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Vivi Widodo

    It's a memoir of Sara growing up in Egyptian Muslim family in Brisbane, Australia. I read this book in one sit on one Saturday during the lockdown after the news announced that NSW hits number of 800+ for covid19 cases. This #memoir written by @sarakelsayed helps enlighten my Saturday. The writing ✍ is just so simple, flowing naturally, and oh goodness 😆... the wittiest memoir I ever read, made me LOL. 🔖 I always love to read memoir from people of different culture or backgrounds, there's always th It's a memoir of Sara growing up in Egyptian Muslim family in Brisbane, Australia. I read this book in one sit on one Saturday during the lockdown after the news announced that NSW hits number of 800+ for covid19 cases. This #memoir written by @sarakelsayed helps enlighten my Saturday. The writing ✍ is just so simple, flowing naturally, and oh goodness 😆... the wittiest memoir I ever read, made me LOL. 🔖 I always love to read memoir from people of different culture or backgrounds, there's always thing to reflect about me as immigrant living in this country; good and bad, satisfying and disappointing. Definitely a #recommendedbook #recommendedreading for this year.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Ceyrone

    I really enjoyed reading this memoir, it’s always great when you read something that is relatable and that makes you reflect back on your own childhood and upbringing. I love the way it was written, with rules that the author had to follow, some of which, my parents also had as rules. Interspersed, were snippets about her father and mother. I loved her grandmother and wanted more of her. It was a great read. ‘Sadness is different. Sadness is not sharp. It's heavy, the way it sits on your chest, I really enjoyed reading this memoir, it’s always great when you read something that is relatable and that makes you reflect back on your own childhood and upbringing. I love the way it was written, with rules that the author had to follow, some of which, my parents also had as rules. Interspersed, were snippets about her father and mother. I loved her grandmother and wanted more of her. It was a great read. ‘Sadness is different. Sadness is not sharp. It's heavy, the way it sits on your chest, filling your throat every time you try to breathe. Sadness is not understanding how to get up.’

  14. 4 out of 5

    Helen G

    As a migrant to Australia I could relate to many of the situations described by the author. It helped me to revisit some of the ‘strangeness’ of a new country. It is as she describes a series of anecdotes that capture her journey and adoption of a new home. It also gave me an insight into the harshness of how we treat those who are viewed as ‘different’. I am grateful for her gentle acceptance of her journey and of the lessons we all have to learn as a community to embrace others.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Lyn Quilty

    I loved this book. Sara writes with honesty, humour and at times great pathos. She reveals the hardships she encountered at school and in life generally without ever feeling sorry for herself, though as a reader I felt great empathy for her. A good insight into the problems migrants have adapting to the Australian way of life, and the pressures created for young people. Beautifully written. Highly recommended.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Bronwen Heathfield

    I read an extract of this book in the paper last weekend and it intrigued me. I have now read it and am glad I did. I enjoyed the story of a young Muslim girl growing up in Queensland who also struggles with her friendships and family relationships. The different chapters follow her relationship with her mother and father and the rules of the household. Well written as it transports you to her world and some definite commonalities for any female growing up

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jane Worsley

    Absolutely loved this book. An original and unique voice on an under-represented and very misunderstood community. Highly recommend.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Brooke Alice (brookes.bookstagram)

    TW: death, war, cancer, racism, bullying, abortion/miscarriage Muddy People is a memoir of Sara El Sayed's short life. It shows little snippets of her experiences, schooling, relationships with her parents, family dynamics, her belief systems and the racism and bullying that she has experienced whilst trying to find out where she fits in. I especially enjoyed the short chapters which flowed between her mother or father, and "life lessons". I enjoyed reading the chapters about her father, and the s TW: death, war, cancer, racism, bullying, abortion/miscarriage Muddy People is a memoir of Sara El Sayed's short life. It shows little snippets of her experiences, schooling, relationships with her parents, family dynamics, her belief systems and the racism and bullying that she has experienced whilst trying to find out where she fits in. I especially enjoyed the short chapters which flowed between her mother or father, and "life lessons". I enjoyed reading the chapters about her father, and the strained relationship between their views on religion and values. I can't begin to imagine how difficult it is to navigate two worlds and feel this sense of not quite belonging wholly to either. I found it quite easy to read, and was able to follow along with all the candid and difficult moments. It makes me quite aware of the blessed opportunities I have been provided being born in such a country with access to everything. Thank you for sharing your life Sara.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Shonna

    When Sara was six years old, she and her family emigrated from Egypt to Australia. Her memoir/coming-of-age tale explores the challenges of being an Arab Muslim in a predominantly white society that all-too often stereotypes Arab Muslims as terrorists. Although the book deals with some heavy topics it is infused with humor and heart. Sayed describes her family members with wonderful detail – I especially loved her anecdotes about her grandmother. It is so important for young people – especially m When Sara was six years old, she and her family emigrated from Egypt to Australia. Her memoir/coming-of-age tale explores the challenges of being an Arab Muslim in a predominantly white society that all-too often stereotypes Arab Muslims as terrorists. Although the book deals with some heavy topics it is infused with humor and heart. Sayed describes her family members with wonderful detail – I especially loved her anecdotes about her grandmother. It is so important for young people – especially marginalized ones – to see themselves represented in books and entertainment. This memoir will resonate with anyone who feels “othered” but especially Arabs and Muslims.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Annabelle

    "Muddy People" is the memoir of Sara El Sayed, an Egyptian Muslim girl growing up in Australia. This isn't the type of novel I would normally read but I'm glad I did. The stories in this novel were entertaining and insightful, I often found myself captivated by the many anecdotes. Because of the unchronological order of the book I often struggled to figure out the time period as the stories jumped between years and ended up being confusing. The writing style wasn't complex and I found it was very "Muddy People" is the memoir of Sara El Sayed, an Egyptian Muslim girl growing up in Australia. This isn't the type of novel I would normally read but I'm glad I did. The stories in this novel were entertaining and insightful, I often found myself captivated by the many anecdotes. Because of the unchronological order of the book I often struggled to figure out the time period as the stories jumped between years and ended up being confusing. The writing style wasn't complex and I found it was very easy to read, even so this was a good book. 4 stars.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Tanalee

    4.5 I enjoyed following the characters in this memoir, not least the author herself. Her writing is clever and personal, and each brief chapter gives just enough of a story with real emotion and impact that you keep turning the pages. I don't pretend that my life mimics hers, but as a person who lived many years in Egypt and also has immigrated to Australia, I have some empathy and understanding for some of her experiences. Very satisyfing read! 4.5 I enjoyed following the characters in this memoir, not least the author herself. Her writing is clever and personal, and each brief chapter gives just enough of a story with real emotion and impact that you keep turning the pages. I don't pretend that my life mimics hers, but as a person who lived many years in Egypt and also has immigrated to Australia, I have some empathy and understanding for some of her experiences. Very satisyfing read!

  22. 4 out of 5

    Martin

    Memoir for a young person often troubles me insofar as how many years have they got something to write about. However, SS has had an interesting childhood and can certainly bring a new perspective being a young muslim girl in red neck Queensland ! Capable writing made this an easy fast read.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Aneets

    I found the first half of this book to be really engaging but the wheels came off a little in the second half. It lost focus and became a little aimless. However would definitely read the authors next book. 3 stars.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Maria Magdalena

    A memoir of Sara (Soos) growing up in Egyptian Muslim family in Brisbane, Australia. Simple, straightforward writing. Funny at times, sad at others. Maybe if this book was on the Australian school reading list there would be less bullying and more understanding of New Australians?

  25. 5 out of 5

    Nicole

    Loved reading about the muslim culture in Australia

  26. 4 out of 5

    Vivian

    A simple yet impactful study on the collision of cultures.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Aseel

  28. 5 out of 5

    Scarlette Wonderland

  29. 5 out of 5

    Nadine

  30. 5 out of 5

    Maddie

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