Iowa Writes

KAY FENTON SMITH AND CAROL SPAULDING-KRUSE
from Zakery's Bridge


Rashad, eighth grade, from Gaza

My grandmother likes to collect the leaves from the grape trees at the Islamic Center, which used to be an elementary school. She makes a dish that my dad really loves, dolma, which is rice and vegetables and spicy meat wrapped and cooked in the leaves. When she first saw the trees out in front of the old school, she cried out with happiness because she knew we had come to the right place where my dad could serve as Imam. I love for my friends to meet my grandmother. She feeds them and fusses over them. In her eyes they can do no wrong.

When my friends come to the mosque, they might see my dad talking with guests or visiting one of the children's classes at the school. Or he might be getting ready for prayer service. Even though he's a really busy guy, my dad is always happy to see my friends when they come to the mosque.

I love my dad a lot. He expects a lot from me because I'm the son of the Imam. For example, I have to memorize the entire Quran in Arabic. The Quran is the holy book of Muslims. It is over 1400 years old and has 114 chapters of "surahs" that God revealed to the prophet Mohammed through the angel, Gabriel. It's not as hard to memorize as it sounds because the chapters are short. You just take them bit by bit.

Rashad, eighth grade, from Gaza

My grandmother likes to collect the leaves from the grape trees at the Islamic Center, which used to be an elementary school. She makes a dish that my dad really loves, dolma, which is rice and vegetables and spicy meat wrapped and cooked in the leaves. When she first saw the trees out in front of the old school, she cried out with happiness because she knew we had come to the right place where my dad could serve as Imam. I love for my friends to meet my grandmother. She feeds them and fusses over them. In her eyes they can do no wrong.

When my friends come to the mosque, they might see my dad talking with guests or visiting one of the children's classes at the school. Or he might be getting ready for prayer service. Even though he's a really busy guy, my dad is always happy to see my friends when they come to the mosque.

I love my dad a lot. He expects a lot from me because I'm the son of the Imam. For example, I have to memorize the entire Quran in Arabic. The Quran is the holy book of Muslims. It is over 1400 years old and has 114 chapters of "surahs" that God revealed to the prophet Mohammed through the angel, Gabriel. It's not as hard to memorize as it sounds because the chapters are short. You just take them bit by bit.

Muslims pray five times a day: before sunrise, at midday, in the afternoon, when the sun goes down, and before bed. To pray, you turn toward Mecca, the holy city of Islam, in Saudi Arabia. Before you pray, you should wash your face, hands, and head. It's best to pray in the mosque, but that isn't always possible. On school days after lunch, I just pray sitting at my desk. If I were sitting next to you, you wouldn't even know I was praying.

Sometimes I get involved in what I'm doing and forget what time it is. Even though my friends aren't Muslim, they're pretty good at keeping me on track. Once, I got to a really high level on a math game and I didn't want to stop. My friend leaned over and told me, "Isn't it time for you to pray?"

"Okay, okay," I told him. I didn't want to stop.

"Rashad, it's time to pray," my friend insisted. I think he knew I was about to pass his highest level on the game.

I shrugged him off again. I was so close.

"Rashad!" my friend practically shouted just at the point where I topped his last score. He pointed toward the east, which in our classroom is a picture of an elephant on roller blades skating between very tall stacks of books.

"Beat that score," I said smiling and handing him the game. Then I turned in my desk in the direction he had pointed, toward Mecca.

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About Iowa Writes

Since 2006, Iowa Writes has featured the work of Iowa-identified writers (whether they have Iowa roots or live here now) and work published by Iowa journals and publishers on The Daily Palette. Iowa Writes features poetry, fiction, or nonfiction twice a week on the Palette.

In November of 2008, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Iowa City, Iowa, the world's third City of Literature, making the community part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.

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KAY FENTON SMITH AND CAROL SPAULDING-KRUSE

Zakery's Bridge: Children's Journeys from Around the World to the Heartland is a collection of nonfiction stories based on conversations with refugee and immigrant children in Iowa. For more information about this forthcoming book, please contact Kay Fenton Smith (kayfentonsmith@msn.com).

A children's author based in Des Moines, Kay Fenton Smith is involved with youth literacy through volunteer reading and writing programs. In addition to Zakery's Bridge, she is working on a middle-grade novel.

Carol Spaulding-Kruse is associate professor of English at Drake University in Des Moines, where she teaches fiction writing and ethnic American literature. She is the author of Navelencia, a multi-generational story about a Korean-American family.

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on June 09, 2007

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