DiversifYA: Fida Islaih, part two

FidaToday, Fida Islaih is back on the blog! Fida is a college student, poet and writer. She is also part of the editorial staff for New Dawn, a magazine for MYNA (Muslim Youth of North America). She also was awesome enough a couple of weeks ago to provide us with some insight in being Muslim.

If you haven’t done so yet, follow Fida on Twitter here. If you want to read more of her writing and her poetry, have a look at her wonderful blog!

1. How do you identify yourself?

I’m a Palestinian Malaysian American. I see myself strongly that. And that is what I say when people ask me. But being with friends of many different cultures I accept myself simply as a human and a Muslim. I’m a poet, too, and in some you can see I write of my three cultures, but call myself global or more lyrical: a daughter of the world.

I also identify myself as sensitive and having a muscle disability. Sensitive as always been with me, but because I never really saw the full affect of my disability until middle school, so I only identified with it recently.

Being from two opposite sides of the world and having a disability is what makes me who I am.

2. What did it feel like growing up with a muscle disability?

I started walking late. I had physical therapy as a toddler. I had physical therapy again as a middle schooler. Now I do yoga.

You know how in elementary school we had to walk in lines? I ended up being last because I walked slow.

In high school. I sat near the front because of my eyesight. If I was feeling achy in class I could leave to the resource room. I had an iPad to reduce my weight load. I got copies of notes and extended time on tests and getting to class.

That’s it really and on achy days I felt like and sometimes cried. Writing helped me or any artsy thing.

3. What are the biggest challenges? Conversely, what are the quirks/perks?

The biggest challenges is when my friends go to camp and beg me to come but I can’t because of the physical activity. I find out there was one less rigorous and went. I still skipped some things because I get tired easily. Recently I go hiking with my family, sometimes my legs start getting tired and I lag behind. My parents stay with me and the kids are way ahead. Sometimes I can’t go on and my mom turns around to go back. I feel bad when she has to stay with me because I know she wants to go.

As for perks: my family has a disability plate for the car and each time we go my younger siblings are always thanking me for it.

In school I can use the elevator. I was the first one in my school to get an iPad because the special Ed department wanted to reduce the weight I was carrying, before that I had a second set of books. I got a permanent pass to go to the resource room whenever I get fatigued.

4. What do you wish people knew about muscle disabilities?

There are many different levels from very bad to being almost normal. Everyone is the same, as in don’t look at them differently. In the disability each person is different, so don’t assume things. Push us to be active, but know their limits.

5. What are the biggest cliches/stereotypes you’ve seen?

When my parents tell their friends I have a disability they expect to see a physical look of weakness. They are surprised to see me looking normal.

BONUS: What is your advice for writers writing diverse characters?

Don’t be the writer who makes a character feel sorry for the other. Make them a friend.


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