Heir to the Crescent Moon
“It’s a marvel the way Abdur-Rahman blends cultural criticisms and reflections on media into a memoir about the stories we inherit and choose to tell. With quick prose and stunning insight, she skillfully widens intimate family portraits into histories of the American Civil Rights movement. She captures the challenges and triumphs of keeping faith in an ideology, keeping faith in our loved ones. Heir to the Crescent Moon is a deeply personal account of learning to navigate the limitless possibilities of being Black and Muslim and a woman.”—Donald Edem Quist, author, Harbors
“In swift, stunning passages, Abdur-Rahman’s brilliant memoir, Heir to the Crescent Moon, fearlessly and honestly recounts what it is to inherit religion, to embody wisdom, to protect love, and to assume the immeasurable role of daughter.”—Susan Steinberg, judge, Iowa Prize for Literary Nonfiction
From age five, Sufiya Abdur-Rahman, the daughter of two Black Power–era converts to Islam, feels drawn to the faith even as her father, a devoted Muslim, introduces her to and, at the same time, distances her from it. Abdur-Rahman’s father and mother abandoned their Harlem mosque before she was born and divorced when she was twelve. Forced apart from her father—her portal into Islam—she yearns to reconnect with the religion and, through it, reconnect with him.
In Heir to the Crescent Moon, Abdur-Rahman’s longing to comprehend her father’s complicated relationship with Islam leads her first to recount her own history, and then delves into her father’s past. She journeys from the Christian righteousness of Adam Clayton Powell Jr.’s 1950s Harlem, through the Malcolm X–inspired college activism of the late 1960s, to the unfulfilled potential of the early 1970s Black American Muslim movement. Told at times with lighthearted humor or heartbreaking candor, Abdur-Rahman’s story of adolescent Arabic lessons, fasting, and Muslim mosque, funeral, and Eid services speaks to the challenges of bridging generational and cultural divides and what it takes to maintain family amidst personal and societal upheaval. She weaves a vital tale about a family: Black, Muslim, and distinctly American.