Tea with Arwa: A Memoir of Food, Faith and Finding Home in Australia by Arwa El Masri

by |July 15, 2011

‘Tis the season to have books spruiked, fa la la la la, la la la la.

I have had been in the box seat the last couple of weeks with all the publishers coming in to the warehouse showcasing their key books for the (gasp) Christmas season. Yep, in my head, it is all bushfires, BBQs, and long lazy days at the beach. I am not going to tempt you with what is coming quite yet, except for this one.

Arwa El Masri has an interesting story to tell. So interesting in fact that she will be a panellist next Monday on Q&A, along side John Safran, John Lennox and Eva Cox. I for one am fascinated by how this once-was-Saudi girl, turned into a little Aussie kid in Grafton, defied expectations with her choice of a husband (Hazim El Masri, rugby league legend) and then later chose to take the veil.

Eva Cox, John Safran, John Lennox, Arwa El Masri

For the whole story, of course, we have to wait for her memoir of food, faith and finding home in Australia, which will be released in October. Pre-order it here,  now.

From the Publisher:

The most important things in Arwa el Masri’s life are her family and her faith … and then her love of food.

Arwa is a child of many countries. She was born in Saudi Arabia, lived in America as a child and spent time with her extended family in Syria and yet, as the daughter of Palestinian migrants, Arwa did not have a country that she could call home.

Just before her ninth birthday her parents came to Australia to give their daughters the greatest gift they could, the right of citizenship and a country that could call their own, a place they could belong. But what a different place it was from the dry, desert landscape she was used to. Arwa and her family lived in the regional town of Grafton, a place where Arwa was to learn that hospitality was not just an Arab trait.

After a brief return to Saudi Arabia the family settled in the Western Suburbs of Sydney. It took a teenage Arwa time to find her way in her new country and to reconcile her Muslim faith with her life as a young woman in Australia. But she made friends, and slowly Australia got under her skin and into her heart. She lost her accent and sounded just like an Aussie kid, stopped being startled when kookaburras started laughing, her hair was sun-kissed and her face sunburned.

Finishing school she enrolled in the University of Western Sydney so she could be close to her home and her family. She met her future husband, Hazem El Masri, through friends. But he was not who she thought she should marry. Meeting Hazem made Arwa reassess what was important to her, look at her own prejudices and question who she was and how she wanted to live her life. She had to chose between duty and love. Her grandmother’s wisdom helped guide her and she chose love and married Hazem.

When she was twenty-three and newly married, this Aussie girl who loved John Franham and Vegemite decided to wear the veil. The first time she went out in public wearing it she was shocked at how she was treated. Many assumed she did not speak English or that her husband had told her what to wear. Both were incorrect. For Arwa, it was a personal choice and about taking her faith to the next level.

Through telling her story, Arwa demystifies the veil and shows the importance of belonging. Regardless of faith, we are all looking for the same things, safety, love, family and a sense of home … and in Arwa’s mind also a good meal. TEA WITH ARWA is a memoir about finding home … and yourself.

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