Osamah Sami tackles the refugee experience with humour and gusto

By Samaya Borom
good-muslim-boy

Good Muslim Boy | Osamah Sami | Hardie Grant

Good Muslim Boy by Osamah Sami is a well-written and entertaining memoir of one man’s journey from a persecuted young Iraqi living in Iran to a refugee immigrating to Australia in the mid-1990s with his cleric father and family. The memoir follows Sami’s trials and tribulations as he and his family settle down in Australia.

Sami’s keen insight into Australian and Muslim life, in particular, and the cultural expectations and differences that can create conflict are captured in an open and honest way – his comedic eye finding the humour in most things, even if this is often directed at himself.

Sami’s anecdotes of being detained by Homeland Security in the USA and fleeing Iran during the Iran-Iraq war are a testament to his engaging writing style and his keen observational skills.

Though he was born in Iran, Sami was looked down upon as an Arab and outsider in his local community, struggling to fit in with the Iranian children, whose cruel taunts and actions reminded him of his status as an outsider in the close-knit Iranian community. As a child, he also struggled to fit in with the cultural expectations of his own family; this discrepancy increased dramatically as Sami grew into a young man caught between his Iraqi identity and his new home in Australia.

Difference is a recurring theme in the book and Sami tackles it with gusto. From condemnation of the Australian Iraqi community about his appearance in a gay movie on the internet to their outrage at him playing a Lebanese man engaged to a lesbian as well as Saddam Hussein in Saddam: The Musical, the conflict between secular Australia and Sami’s cultural and religious background is readily explored.

The result is a book that not only provides honest insight into the cultural appropriation of Muslims in Australian society, but an elucidating journey into Sami’s own family’s issues as they too struggle with the idea of maintaining strong links to socio-cultural and religious practices.

Good Muslim Boy is an entertaining book that provides a light-hearted read on what is essentially a serious and confronting account of what comes with seeking a better life in Australia. The ability to straddle multiple identities in a bid for acceptance in, not only your country of birth, but your adopted country is difficult, but Sami expertly navigates such terrain with wit and candour.

Good Muslim Boy is now available from Hardie Grant.

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