Posted in Reviews

Review: The Wrong End of the Table by Ayser Salman

The Wrong End of the Table: A Mostly Comic Memoir of a Muslim Arab American Woman Just Trying to Fit in by Ayser Salman

Recommended: yep!
for a perspective of a woman across her years, for a perspective of a Muslim woman who lives in Saudi Arabia and the United States during her life, for an approachable and welcoming look at her life and how being an immigrant affected but did not define her life


You know that feeling of being at the wrong end of the table? Like you’re at a party but all the good stuff is happening out of earshot (#FOMO)? That’s life—especially for an immigrant.

What happens when a shy, awkward Arab girl with a weird name and an unfortunate propensity toward facial hair is uprooted from her comfortable (albeit fascist-regimed) homeland of Iraq and thrust into the cold, alien town of Columbus, Ohio—with its Egg McMuffins, Barbie dolls, and kids playing doctor everywhere you turned?

This is Ayser Salman’s story. First comes Emigration, then Naturalization, and finally Assimilation—trying to fit in among her blonde-haired, blue-eyed counterparts, and always feeling left out. On her journey to Americanhood, Ayser sees more naked butts at pre-kindergarten daycare that she would like, breaks one of her parents’ rules (“Thou shalt not participate as an actor in the school musical where a male cast member rests his head in thy lap”), and other things good Muslim Arab girls are not supposed to do. And, after the 9/11 attacks, she experiences the isolation of being a Muslim in her own country. It takes hours of therapy, fifty-five rounds of electrolysis, and some ill-advised romantic dalliances for Ayser to grow into a modern Arab American woman who embraces her cultural differences.

Part memoir and part how-not-to guide, The Wrong End of the Table is everything you wanted to know about Arabs but were afraid to ask, with chapters such as “Tattoos and Other National Security Risks,” “You Can’t Blame Everything on Your Period; Sometimes You’re Going to Be a Crazy Bitch: and Other Advice from Mom,” and even an open letter to Trump. This is the story of every American outsider on a path to find themselves in a country of beautiful diversity.


One of the points Salman makes a few times in this book is that her religion or heritage or gender or relationship status do not define her. They’re a part of what make her her but they aren’t the be-all end-all.

That would be her neuroses.

I kid! I’m pretty sure she would enjoy that joke, because she makes a lot similar to it throughout her stories, and those added a lot to this as well. I always love to laugh of course, and it seems that being able to laugh at yourself and your life is a critical skill at times. Especially the times when laughing seems impossible. Salman leans into that a lot, and the result is a roughly chronological tale of her life from a teeny child to a whole-ass adult that makes you really care about her and her journey. Or at least, I did. I was just curious to know more about her, and this totally scratched that itch.

There are a lot of themes she covers, and of course a main one is her religion and immigration experiences as they affected her in the United States and other places during her life. It was especially insane to read her account of the terrorist attacks of 9/11/2001 in the US and what she dealt with in the aftermath. The history of Iraq, where she was born, was also prevalent because she would have so much fear and frustration and anxiety about it when it’s something I’ve never even learned much about in my schooling (I was a wee 7 year old in 2001 so my context was pretty different).

Look man, it was informational and amusing and thoughtful and entertaining and that is a hell of an accomplishment for any book. I can just sum up by saying I recommend this for sure, so give it a go.


Reader, traveler, photographer, and always looking to learn!

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