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Reviewed by Edith Wairimu for Readers' Favorite
With vulnerability and skill, Kathryn Abdul-Baki recounts her experiences growing up as a half-American and half-Arab including her desire to reconcile the two cultures within her in her memoir, Dancing into the Light: An Arab American Girlhood in the Middle East. Abdul-Baki was born in 1952 to an Arab father and an American mother. In 1956, her family moved when her father was offered a job in Tehran, Iran. The family later relocated to Kuwait after her father was offered another job. Abdul-Baki vividly describes her life in Kuwait including her expatriate family and her experiences as a student in a local public Kuwaiti girls’ school. She covers how the loss of her mother impacted her and her father and describes her later move to Beirut for school. She also documents her visits to her family in Jerusalem, Beirut, America, and Hawaii.
The work offers thought-provoking reflections on what growing up as a child with parents from vastly different cultures was like. Abdul-Baki deftly captures the conflict within her and her desire to fit in with her schoolmates. I found the memoir a heartwarming portrayal of family relationships and how they can lift us during tragedy and loss. The different settings in the story are described in cinematic detail and her lifelong love for dance and rhythmic music is beautifully depicted. Brief histories of the places mentioned are offered. They are informative and frame the experiences described in the book. Family, culture, friendship, grief, dance, and music take center stage in Kathryn Abdul-Baki’s outstanding memoir, Dancing into the Light.