Love Life Stories

How do I make space for love if my life already seems full?

A few years ago, I was lamenting my perpetual singledom, when a friend asked me, “But do you think you have space for love, or  a relationship in your life?” The answer was – and arguably still is – no. 

I like being busy and hate being idle. I’ve always been this way. At the time, I was studying my master’s, acting as editor-in-chief of a student newspaper, running a freelance illustration business, and tutoring a journalism course at my university. I didn’t have time for a relationship. I was goal-oriented, and a relationship didn’t form part of that goal.

Fast forward to today. My life is just as full, if not fuller. I work a full-time job as a graphic designer, my freelance illustration business is still steaming ahead, I run a few half marathons a year, and I recently started writing for The Tempest

I’m busy. Like, really busy. Weird flex, right?

Am I really too busy for love?

I love being busy. But I also love love, and I wish I could find a balance between the two. After my friend suggested I didn’t have space in my life for love, I bought a double bed. I thought maybe if I had the physical space for a relationship, I’d make space in my life for one. 

We are always able to make time for our priorities.

But physical space doesn’t translate into what I think of as ‘life-space’. Life space is about priorities. We are always able to make time for the things we deem important. We are always able to make time for our priorities. And I didn’t know if making space for love was my priority.

When my friend suggested I didn’t have space in my life for a relationship, my priority was my university degree. Now, my priority is my career.

I’m currently at a point where I need to diversify my priorities. Striking a work-life balance can be tricky, and is something I need to work on. As somebody with a tendency for burnout, I’m always being told to take it easy, to find a balance between work and play. 

I’m on a bit of a mission to find a work-life balance that will allow me to make space in my life for a relationship.

I’m on a bit of a mission to find a work-life balance that will allow me to make space in my life for a relationship. (Although there’s kinda this global pandemic going on that’s made it a bit weird and tricky).

Here are four things I’ve tried, and whether they’ve been personal victories or failures:

1. I tried taking dating apps more seriously

I’m notoriously bad at replying to men on dating apps. In fact, my dating app bio is home to the words, “Bad at writing captivating bios, worse at texting strangers. But also very alone, so maybe I’ll learn.” 

I decided to be more conscientious about replying on dating apps, but I find it difficult to find the time and effort to converse with people who I don’t care for. This helped me learn that in order for me to make space in my life for somebody, I need more of a connection than a superficial right-swipe. 

2. I created some work-life boundaries

I made some work-life rules for myself which – admittedly – worked better before we all started living in perpetual quarantine. One rule that I’ve kept up is that I’m no longer allowed to use my laptop in bed. My work can only happen at my desk, and my bed is exclusively a place of rest. Creating small boundaries like this one work as small steps towards making more space for things that are not work. My hope is that by making more of this kind of space, I’ll also make space for love.

3. I’m learning to say “no”

I developed a habit of saying yes to every bit of work that comes my way. This has meant that I often find myself drowning in work.

I’m trying to break this habit, and learning to say “no” to work that doesn’t serve me. As a freelancer, you have as much right to be picky with what work you take on, as a client has to be picky when it comes to who they hire. A good exercise in this process was to make a list of work that makes me happy, and work I find tedious. I only take on the tedious work if I have the time. Only doing work I love means that I have more time for the work I love, and the people I love.

4. I’m also making more time for the people I love platonically

I enjoy making people feel loved, but sometimes I find myself prioritizing my work over my family and friends. Finding a work-life balance is also about making sure the people I care about know that I care about them. Making life-space for my loved ones used to mean making time to see them face-to-face over a coffee. In quarantine, it means making time for video calls, sending them memes, and reminding them that they’re doing okay. By making space for my loved ones, I’m slowly making more space for romance. Or at least, I hope I’m doing that!

I’m learning that love is a priority of mine. So, making time for love should be a priority of mine, too.

Movie Reviews Bollywood Movies Pop Culture

Here’s why I finally lost my undying obsession for DDLJ

“Go, Simran, go. Live your life.”

These iconic words, spoken at the climax of the 1995 Bollywood classic Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (DDLJ), never failed to make me tear up as a teenager.

DDLJ is the story of Raj Malhotra (Shah Rukh Khan/SRK) and Simran Singh (Kajol) who both reside in the UK and fall in love on a trip across Europe.

They cannot marry, however, because Simran’s father has already decided she will marry Kuljeet Singh (Parmeet Sethi), his friend’s son, whom she has never met. Rahul then pretends to be Kuljeet’s friend and crashes Simran’s wedding preparations to try and win her family over.

I fell in love with DDLJ as a child.

I adored Raj and Simran. I admired Kajol’s unibrow. I recited the dialogues alongside the characters. Most importantly, I treasured the romance. Nothing could be purer than Raj’s love for Simran and what he was willing to do to win her father over.

On the face of it, DDLJ is the perfect rom-com. It presents an unlikely pair – opposites who attract and fall deeply in love – only for a parent to tear them apart. It makes you root for them and cheer out loud when they finally do unite at the end. Like millions of other girls, I also wanted a Raj who would be willing to fight the world to be with me.

Nothing could be purer than Raj’s love for Simran and what he was willing to do to win her father over.

However, as I grew older, rewatching it made me uncomfortable, and it took me some time to realize why.

Raj, it turns out, is the flag-bearer of the creepy guys you see at a store whom you avoid eye contact with because you know they’ll start following you around. He dangled Simran’s bra in her face five seconds after meeting her, and then kept pestering her even when she clearly told him, multiple times, she was not interested in talking to him.

Raj also lied to her about them sleeping together. After all, what girl doesn’t find it hilarious when she wakes up, disoriented, next to a stranger who jokes about sleeping together when she was too inebriated to remember anything?

Worse, when Simran starts to cry upon hearing this, he goes on a rant about how he couldn’t even imagine doing that to her because he knows that honor (chastity) means everything to a Hindustani girl.

What I despise more than Raj’s behavior is that like most Bollywood movies, DDLJ places Simran entirely at the mercy of the men in her life. Her father decided she is to marry a stranger, and before this happens she has to beg him to let her travel across Europe for one last hurrah.

Then, when she returns from a trip equivalent to the last meal, she is punished for doing something deeply unforgivable in her culture – falling in love.

Simran’s own fight and refusal do not produce any results.

As punishment, her wedding is moved up and she is taken to a village in India where her future husband lives. This is a man neither she nor her father has ever met. This is also a man shown to be an alpha male with no intention of staying loyal to Simran. Yet, the preparations continue.

Her future became dependent on Raj and his decision on whether she’s worth fighting for. Simran’s own fight and refusal do not produce any results.

The other women in the film also exist along the periphery. Simran’s mother supports her but is helpless because the only will that matters is that of her father. Simran’s sister teases her about Raj and helps facilitate their forbidden romance.

Simran’s aunt is there only for comic relief due to a potential romance with Raj’s single father. Worst of all, Kuljeet’s sister Preeti exists only as the punchline to a joke that is not funny. She falls in love with Raj who happily leads her along to hide his relationship with Simran.

Meanwhile, the decision to fight for Simran, our signature damsel in distress, is what makes Raj the hero. Thus, DDLJ takes a movie designed for female audiences, as rom coms are famous for, and makes it entirely about a man and his fight while the women are shown holding no agency over their lives. This only reinforces how marginalized brown women are in our real lives.

The movie is yet another reminder that the men in our life, be it our boyfriends or our fathers, are our priority.

The entire movie is a battle between the egos of two men. And like most Bollywood movies, the romance here would not be complete without the man literally fighting for love. Ironically, this aggression plays a role in convincing Simran’s father of Raj’s undying love.

What made me uncomfortable with DDLJ’s “romance” was, ultimately, that Simran had no choice. The grand gesture at the end of DDLJ is Simran’s father letting her hand go, telling her to live her life, only for her to immediately clasp onto the hand of another man.

DDLJ is not a bad movie. I would go to the extent of calling it a pretty good movie. It’s funny, emotional, and really panders to the Indian diaspora at the expense of the British (something the anti-colonialist in me appreciates).

The movie is yet another reminder that the men in our life, be it our boyfriends or our fathers, are our priority.

However, I don’t rewatch it for the romance because it reminds me of something deeply abhorrent in our culture; that we as women hold no agency over our lives, but especially over our love lives.

We are all Simran, begging our fathers to let us be free once before they marry us off to whoever they decide is suitable. We are all Simran as she pleads with her father to let her go; to let go of our hands and our lives. We are all Simran, now tied to another man, as our ambitions and dreams remain nameless and unimportant, all secondary to the concept of marriage and men.

I used to wish for a Raj. After rewatching the movie, I now only wish to be Raj, if only to have the agency of going wherever I want and marrying whoever I want (if I want), the way I know I could never do as Simran.

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Health Care Health Wellness

Here’s how to actually be supportive to your friend with bipolar disorder

Lately, most of my heartbreak has come from lost friendships, some of which I still haven’t gotten any closure from. In part, this is because I have bipolar disorder.

In the time that has passed, I’ve come to realize that I deserved better. I deserved to be surrounded by people who accepted me as I am and so do you.

There have been many situations where I have found myself among my friends, experiencing an episode — either depressive or manic — and felt completely alone in my suffering when a few acts of kindness could have made a huge difference.

1. Acceptance

: A girl sitting and looking out of a window.
[Image description: A girl sitting and looking out of a window.] Via Unsplash
Regardless of whether someone is a lover or a friend, don’t ever assume that they can be fixed. They are not a broken tailgate or a leaking engine.

The assumption that a person can or needs to be fixed can destroy your relationship with them.

This is because people cannot simply ‘snap out of it’. This is because they are not doing it to themselves: it is happening to them.

2. Compromise

Two girls talking
[Image description: Two girls talking.] Voa Unsplash
Someone’s mental illness is not about you unless you are abusing them.

So, expecting someone with a bipolar disorder to meet you at your physical, emotional and mental level is unrealistic. This is why you have to be the one who meets them halfway.

If a person cannot come to you, then you come to them, if a person during mania episode wants to jump off a bridge or out of a window, then suggest bungee jumping or skydiving.

At the end of the day, it is about finding a compromise.       

3. Improvise

Two women sitting on a rooftop while watching sunset
[Image description: Two women sitting on a rooftop while watching sunset.] Via Unsplash
Improvising is very important. There will be times when the notion of order and routine falls out the window and all you can do is wait it out. In those moments, it’s best to simply be there for someone.

Sometimes, you’ll need to take it one day at a time, and if one day is too much then take it one hour at a time.

And if that feels like too much for them, go moment by moment because sometimes, you simply need to hold them through the pain.

4. Don’t retaliate

A girl sitting down, looking sad.
[Image description: A girl sitting down, looking sad.] Via Unsplash
When someone is having a panic/anxiety attack, that is not the time to psychoanalyze them. That is not the time to pull out the receipts of all the times that you were unsatisfied with their behavior.

Simply telling someone to calm down is redundant because that person is already doing everything in their power to calm down.

So sometimes, if you can’t cope, the best thing you can do for them is to call someone they trust. Getting someone a bottle or a glass of water can be helpful regardless of the fact that it might not resolve the panic/anxiety attack.

5. Be patient

Two boys hugging in a bar.
[Image description: Two boys hugging in a bar.] Via Unsplash
People who have compulsive behaviors and various tics exhibit (tap toeing, pen clicking, thigh rubbing, pacing) ways to expel anxiety.

While these might be irritable and distracting to a normal person, rather than simply pointing out your annoyance, something you can do is provide the person with alternate forms of expression.

For example, if a person is pacing, you can both go for a walk; if a person is clicking a pen, you can give them paper to write on.

6. Be responsible

A man and woman playing at a foosball table.
[Image description: A man and woman playing at a foosball table.] VIa Unsplash
Social anxiety is real. It isn’t when someone is being rude, or when someone has poor manners. If you have a friend that does have social anxiety, you’ll have to compromise. If you’re inviting them to a party, you have two responsibilities that you must uphold; the first is to respect the people they choose to interact with and the people they choose not to interact with.

And the next is to respect and accept when they want to leave and ensure they get home safely. Allow your friend to gravitate towards people that they find interesting.

Another option is to bring along games or cards, that way if they don’t want to interact but are interested in the games they can play them.

All relationships are hard work. While the representation of mental illnesses like bipolar disorder still has a long way to go, accepting the people among us for who they are, and helping them out goes a long way.

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Love + Sex Love Life Stories

The painful truth of breaking up with someone who feels like home

Trigger warning: Mentions sexual assault

Love has always been conditional in my life. I learnt that when I broke up with my last partner. My friends and family were never stable, a reality that showed up as I got older and struggled to form proper relationships. I resigned myself to the belief that the ‘good guy’ wasn’t for me and that love was always going to hurt.

Until my third year in university, I kept this up. I had been with a couple of guys, in both my first and second years.

In my first year, I dated someone that was a complete fuckboy, and I knew it. He was Italian, a fellow uni student and a friend of a friend—that’s how we got together. I made myself believe that I liked him, and I spent at least eight months with him. Come Easter, we broke up and I never saw him again.

I resigned myself to the belief that the ‘good guy’ wasn’t for me and that love was always going to hurt.

In my second year, I dated a friend of mine that I believed I could trust. It was a belief he broke. It was a belief that broke me through and through.

He sexually assaulted me, and we broke it off not long after. Once I had left university, I was pretty sure that I would never see him again. That was when I met Robert.* We were both interns in the same department and worked together on a project about Peace Education Theory in Israel and Palestine.

We didn’t interact much but I thought he was cute. On the 26th of April, we had to present our work. That was the first time Robert and I spoke. We talked about our interests, he told me about a time when he was 16 and did well on his exams and as a reward, he asked his mum to take him to Israel. I had never met anyone who was like me before. From a young age, I had loved learning about history and traveling and I was so surprised to find someone who thought like me.

We fought to answer questions and I always made sure that he knew when I was right.

In my third and final year, I served as president of the Amnesty International Society. It was liberating and I felt empowered. I was defending people who couldn’t defend themselves and was actively working to push my networks. In January, I ran an event. I asked an ex-Bahraini MP to come to my university campus and I invited everyone that I knew. At this point, Robert and I were in the same seminar.

We fought to answer questions. I sat in front of him and every time I would get an answer right, I would turn around and make sure that he knew I had beaten him. I didn’t realize that he liked me, I had never noticed it before. The event came and went, and he didn’t come. I didn’t think anything of it until he messaged me and asked for a video of the event for him to watch. I learned later on that he only asked as an excuse to message me.

From then on, we talked constantly.

I felt that I had finally met my match. I loved it. We used to walk back from the seminar together, talking about politics or what we had been up to. It became my favorite part of Wednesday afternoons.

On Valentine’s Day, my friend held an event, and I ended up inviting Robert to attend it with me. I knew that he wasn’t seeing anyone so I figured that he would be free. I didn’t realize that he had already been invited but had turned it down until I invited him.

For the rest of our relationship, he called Valentine’s Day our first date. We spent the whole night laughing and joking together. I hadn’t really clicked with anyone the way I did with him. He understood my jokes and took them in his stride, giving as good as he got.

This was the first time I saw the cross around his neck. He noticed my surprise and explained how important faith was to him.

He was running to be the head of a student organisation at this point, so our dates ended up being store-bought sandwiches that we would eat while sitting in the main university square. I loved it. The first night he stayed over was the anniversary of my assault, and he held me close the whole night.

Officially, we got together on the 8th of March. I met his friends and they told me that I gave them “the old Robert back.”

Our relationship was safe. I remember there was one night I was staying at his place where he had a single bed. I panicked and sat in the corner of his room crying because I had a flashback. He kept his distance but made sure I knew he was there.

I hadn’t really clicked with anyone the way I did with him.

Once I calmed down, I let him pick me up and put me in bed. Drowsily, I looked over to him going through his wardrobe. He was looking for his sleeping bag to make sure I was comfortable. I went over, reached for his hand and brought him into the bed. He took his cross from around his neck and placed it around mine saying that “God will protect you.” He stayed up the whole night to make sure I was okay.

We broke up at the end of the month. I still don’t know why.

Afterwards, we were together but we weren’t. We acted like a couple but whenever anyone asked us we would avoid the question.

In the week we weren’t talking, he slept with someone else. We talked about it and we both cried a lot. I noticed that he wasn’t wearing his cross, the one he never took off.

When I asked, he said that ‘he wasn’t worthy of it anymore, that he had ruined on the best thing that he had’. I flew out to the States not soon after and we carried on talking like we were still together.

He was there for me whenever I needed him. His hugs made me feel like nothing could touch me because I had him. The night before Eid we were fighting, he had watched a football game during my event and I felt so betrayed. It was 1 a.m., we were on the phone and I was crying.

I couldn’t understand what had happened and I just wanted to know why. What he said to me then will stay with me forever: “You’re the only person I can be myself around. You’re the only person I feel vulnerable around.”

He came over, and it felt like we were back on the same page. I would do anything to go back to that night and just pause it and I don’t think I would ever leave.

The ‘giving back of the stuff’-stage came next and I went to his place to get my things.

He came to mine to drop my things off and stayed. We ended up staying together all night, eating pizza on my bedroom floor, talking. The way he looked, lost in thought smiling at his own memories. He moved and pulled me into his lap saying, “I just want to be close to you.”

I had been dying to take him down the canal, and that Sunday I did. The conversation we had was about the first Socialist Prime Minister and how the Black Plague entered Europe.

To many, it’s not the most romantic but it was quintessentially us. We went to the graveyard, looking at the Commonwealth Graves and just being together. The graveyard is so big that it has different sections. We went into the Islamic section and he took his hoodie off and put it on my head so that I could cover my hair. That really touched me because he thought of it before I did.

It’s been almost a year since we broke up, and I still struggle.

Robert has been the only person with whom I’ve ever been completely vulnerable. Since then, I haven’t found anyone like him, anyone that protected me in that same way. I have dated people since we broke up, but I have never met anyone who has kept my interest like him.

Thinking of him still hurts and I miss him more than I can say. After we broke up, my heart still seemed to belong to him.

He used to talk about how much his family would love me because I kept him on his toes and challenged him.  His beliefs and opinions were what attracted me to him, even after we broke up. He allowed me to explore the opinions that I had never understood before and challenge things that I had learned. I miss having his opinion and take on things, especially politics. I am still struggling with the emptiness he left behind. His cuddles solved everything.

I never needed him to fix me, I just needed him to hold me whilst I was falling apart. I only ever wanted him, and I don’t know if I’ll find someone like him again.

The thought of that terrifies me. I just hope it isn’t true.

*Names have been changed to protect the identity of those involved. 

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Mind Culture Wellness Life

My friend died by suicide. I wish someone had listened to her.

Trigger Warning: Mentions of depression and verbal abuse.


Asha* was a beautiful, ambitious young girl with the brightest smile. She told very bad jokes, to be honest, but she had a laugh so contagious, that you couldn’t help but laugh at them with her. If she was a color, she’d be yellow.

She was THAT kind of person.

A few weeks after her 21st birthday, Asha died. I remember so vividly the moment that my parents gave me this devastating news. There was silence in the room; the grief was palpable. I had so many questions. How? We had just spoken a few days ago when I wished her a happy birthday.

The story of Asha is real. I knew her. Maybe you know an Asha of your own.  Or maybe Asha’s story resonates with that of your own.

It turns out that she had depression, and had been hiding it for years.

Initially, she was hesitant to opt for treatment, but as her pain grew and it started to devour more and more of her body, she decided to seek help.

Her cry for help was met with the following statements:

  • Stop being dramatic!
  • You’re going to go see a psychiatrist? What will people say?
  • Won’t you be humiliated? You can’t just be going around saying you have a mental illness! What if people start treating you differently?
  • Ugh, me too man. Sometimes I feel like I have depression too. But then I distract myself and think positive thoughts and I feel better. Have you tried that?
  • You’re so beautiful and intelligent! How can someone like you have depression?
  • You’re too smart to have depression! I mean look at you! You have straight A’s and such a promising future!
  • Trust me you don’t have depression. Just don’t think about it. The more you think about it, the more you will believe you have it.
  • Honestly, I went through the same thing and I prayed about it and look at me now! I’m completely cured. I didn’t even need therapy.
  • Are you sure you have depression? You look fine!
  • You have depression because you’re too distant from faith. You should really consider becoming more religious. You should go see a priest.

All Asha got was advice. Lots of it. What Asha didn’t get was help or support to find a solution to her suffering. Her cries for help went unnoticed, all while she was clenching on to dear life, gasping for air whilst under a crushing weight, with not even a sliver of hope in sight.

Asha had been fighting an internal battle with depression for so long. Her cry for help was the only one she had left in her. It was her last fight to stay alive.

Asha died. Though it gives me peace in believing that maybe she’s in a better place, a place without the pain, it wrenches my soul knowing she died a long, miserable death full of anguish. This lethal disease took her life.

And yes, I’m fully allowed to call it a disease, as psychiatrists have called it that as a result of research.

This news was met with statements like:

  • She died because she was weak! She should have been stronger.
  • She just died? But she had such a promising future!
  • I think people like her just want attention.
  • She didn’t even think about her family? How selfish.
  • I have depression too and I’m fine! And my depression is way worse than her’s.

This is not a competition.

How completely nonsensical would these statements seem if Asha didn’t die of depression, but rather died from cancer? People would be perhaps more empathetic and significantly less judgemental. Depression is a disease that is not cancerous, in theory but is still malignant. It is agonizing and noxious.

This lethal disease took her life.

This disease has taken the lives of millions of people. The most loved and cherished people. People with a laugh so infectious that it veils their internal wars and Asha was no exception. No one is immune to it. Like cancer, depression also has biological instigators, often requiring immediate medical attention rather than a simple dose of “cheer up!”

Mental illnesses are real.

The story of Asha is real. I knew her. Maybe you know an Asha of your own.  Or maybe Asha’s story resonates with that of your own.

How many more Ashas do we have to know before we make a change? I don’t want Asha to become yet another statistic.

I don’t want you to have known an Asha of your own, who became a victim of this disease.

We need to be there for each other. We need to check up on one another. We need to remove the stigma that exists around speaking up and seeking professional help.

This disease has taken the lives of millions of people. The most loved and cherished people.

We need to work towards creating a safe environment in which people who are suffering can vocalize their struggles and their voices are heard with empathy and sensitivity. We need to recognize and acknowledge someone’s cry for help because it might have taken a lot of courage, and it might be the only will to fight left in them.

We must do better. We need to do better.

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*The names in this article have been changed to protect those involved. 

TV Shows Pop Culture Interviews

Golden Globe winner Ramy Youssef on disrupting Hollywood’s Muslim stereotypes – and what really keeps him going

First-generation Muslim American Ramy Youssef isn’t your typical actor. He’s made waves by taking home a Golden Globe for best actor in a comedy or musical television series, for his role in the Hulu series Ramy.

As the co-creator and star of Ramy, 28-year-old Egyptian-American actor, and stand-up comedian Youssef set out to tell stories about a kid from an immigrant family who wants to hold on to his culture. He based the main character on his own experiences growing up in suburban New Jersey as a Muslim who considers himself religious.

I felt like a lot of narratives I saw [of] first-generation children…or anyone from a strong faith background was watching them kind of try to erase where they come from.”

“It shows someone engaging with their faith in an honest way. I felt like a lot of narratives I saw [of] first-generation children…or anyone from a strong faith background was watching them kind of try to erase where they come from and distance themselves from the tension of their parents and culture,” Youssef said in an interview with The Tempest. “I wanted to make something that reflected my experience. [That experience saw me] trying to honestly engage and identify with my background, but still asking questions about it.”

With a 97% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, Ramy is built around Ramy Hassan, played by Youssef, a Muslim unsure of what type of Muslim he is or ought to be. The show breaks stigmas and barriers in the Muslim community by addressing topics like sex and dating in Islam, as well as post 9/11 feels.

During our interview with Youssef, we discussed Muslim American representation in the media, his character and spoke of the importance of diverse and authentic representation in the entertainment industry.

The show’s trailer premiered in March, racking up more than 5.6 million views on Youtube. Muslims, in particular, have reacted strongly, with many feeling represented, while others criticized the show’s portrayal of American Muslims and the absence of Muslim women.

Youssef acknowledges the critiques, explaining that Ramy isn’t meant to represent all Muslims. “[As Muslims,] we take a burden on to try to represent everybody and that’s not fair, that’s not something other creators have to do in the same way. It’s important to tell the most specific story to you, don’t worry about any of the feedback or blowback because your job is to actually make something that you can grow from.”

When it came to the importance of representation, particularly the media’s often inaccurate and harsh portrayals of Muslims, Youssef explained his thought process while developing the show. As an Arab-Muslim, he represented the identity he could best depict.

“This is just one piece of representation. This is a small slice of an Arab Muslim family, most Muslims in America don’t even fall under that category,” Youssef said. “Most Muslims in America are Black, while many are South Asian. So this isn’t an antidote to a 24-hour news cycle or years of propaganda and war literature on Muslims. It’s simply just one piece of the puzzle.” 

According to Youssef, there are a lot of differences between the Ramy he plays and his real life. He spoke about the family in the show as compared to his own and described how in real life he has a creative outlet to express himself, whereas Ramy, the character, does not.

“This isn’t an antidote to a 24-hour news cycle or years of propaganda and war literature on Muslims. It’s simply just one piece of the puzzle.” 

“This character, this family talks a little less to each other and this character has less of an outlet so he’s more stuck. But the thing that I really love about this character and something that really resonates with me in real life is that when he has a problem or when he’s trying to figure himself out or get the best version of himself he prays,” Youssef said.

“He turns to God. That is where he goes, that is how he feels comfortable expressing himself and trying to figure himself out. This was something that was really important for me to put out there and that I wanted to have seen,” he added.

Youssef aims to depict the reality of Muslims in his show. He wants the audience to see that Muslims have the same problems, values, and desires other Americans do. 

[Image Description: Three men, Youssef, left, with Mohammed Amer and Dave Merheje, are seated in prayer, while Youssef looks up and to the sky.] Via Barbara Nitke/Hulu
[Image Description: Three men, Youssef, left, with Mohammed Amer and Dave Merheje, are seated in prayer, while Youssef looks up and to the sky.] Via Barbara Nitke/Hulu

“I want the audience to see that Muslims have vulnerabilities. I want them [the audience] to take a look at the types of problems that this family and character face and understand that our problems are very much like anybody else problems.”

Through this show, Youssef hopes to recontextualize words and spaces, while also demystifying the tropes about how Muslims are and operate. “When you hear ‘Allahu Akhbar’ in America it means something violent, but when you watch this show, you realize that is something people say when they are looking to find a calm moment- when they are looking to reflect, just an act of worship that is tied to being a human.”

“Dehumanization here is what’s most important. Anything else is just very specific to this story and not really indicative of anything more than that,” he added.

When asked about the advice he would give to fellow Muslim Americans seeking to follow in his career path, Youssef spoke of the importance of taking risks.

“Try to pray and drink a lot of water.”

“Take risks, don’t be worried about the feedback that you may or may not get. Just know, that if you’re young and want to be something, you just have to be as authentic as you can. Be yourself,” Youseff said.

He finished his advice off with a practical note: “Try to pray and drink a lot of water.”

The first season of Ramy is available on Hulu. Earlier this year, the network announced that the show had been renewed for a second season.

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This interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

Editor's Picks Health Care Love

Best of The Tempest 2019: Love edition. Here’s what we loved, felt, breathed for

It’s been one hell of a year. A year filled with love, pain, hope, anxiety, new beginnings, endings, and everything else folding itself into the spaces between them. It was the year of Instagram relationships, lonely millennials, standing up for yourself, confronting your mental health, experiencing new things and we have all these narratives that screamed for breaking boundaries and barriers.

We had a whole lot of love, some breakdowns, growth and trying to accept ourselves for who we really are. There was an inherent connection to self love, working through relationships, redefining and inspiring ourselves. This was the year of us.

These are some of the stories that filled us with love, expanded our hearts, and pierced through our beings:

1. “Love in the time of Instagram” by Iman Saleem

Love in the time of Instagram

Relationships are constantly being redefined and Iman writes about trying to be in a millennial relationship – the ups and downs – the spark – the miscommunication. It’s all here, and it’s yours for the taking.

2. “Even with social media, millennials are officially the loneliest generation” by Anonymous

Even with social media, millennials are officially the loneliest generation

Why is it that we seem to live in a world that thrives on connection and yet making real connections is so seemingly difficult? Anon writes about their inherent loneliness, connecting it to genetic makeup, state of mind, social media and varying types of interaction.

3. “I’m so happy my parents got divorced” by Alice Draper

I’m so happy my parents got divorced

Every family culminates in different types of relationships. We have our family of origin, the family that we find along the way, and then the family we choose. Alice pens her experience of a child of divorce and how it helped her grow closer to certain family members.

4. “10 amazing disabled leaders and activists you absolutely need to follow on Twitter” by Julia Metraux

10 amazing disabled leaders and activists you absolutely need to follow on Twitter

Julia writes about some disabled activists that were doing some badass things – read this article to find out more.

5. “It took years to go on my first date – I still don’t know why” by Karis Rogerson

It took years to go on my first date – I still don’t know why

Let’s be real, dating in 2019 has not been easy. Missed connections, weird signals, social media taking over – can a girl just get asked out on a nice date? Is that too much to ask? Karis talks about the first time she was asked out on a date, and you need to read her story now!

This was the year of us.

6. “I slept with a guy who thought he knew me better than myself” by Hannah Adler

I slept with a guy who thought he knew me better than myself

In 2020, let’s vow to stop listening to others’ opinions about OUR bodies. Hannah recounts an experience where her partner claimed he knew her orgasms better than she did. The AUDACITY.

7. “This is how it felt to live with severe anxiety – and how I finally won” by Anonymous

This is how it felt to live with severe anxiety – and how I finally won

I’m proud of this year for finally being the one that allowed so many of us to begin speaking about our mental health openly. Anon talks about their battle with anxiety – the rise, the climax, and finally – the confrontation.

It was a ridiculous wish. The more I let my anxiety rule my life, the bigger it grew.

8. “It’s time we stop romanticizing all forms of suffering” by Sana Panjwani

It’s time we stop romanticizing all forms of suffering

There almost seems to be this creepy glorification of having depression or anxiety that has been sprouting around social media. Sana fiercely tackles the subject with her narrative about online trends and their effect on our mental wellbeing.

9. “Just because I haven’t been with a woman doesn’t mean I’m not bi” by Anonymous

Just because I haven’t been with a woman doesn’t mean I’m not bi

Anonymous delves into their story of trying to figure out their sexuality – it’s real, relatable and powerful.

I never want to be the reason someone ends up getting hurt because I selfishly decide to explore my needs. I never want to treat someone as my ‘bi-curious experiment’.

10. “To the mothers who chose to wait” by

To the mothers who chose to wait

At the end of the day – the power of choice is everything, Katherine’s personal narrative brings us close to her as she recounts her experience of finding out she was pregnant and having the right to choose.

11.  “I was abused by my Quran teacher and I’m not the only one” by Mehvish Irshad

I was abused by my Quran teacher and I’m not the only one

In the wake of #MeToo, so many powerful women have come out with their stories. Mehvish opens up about her personal experience in this piece.

12. “How taking naked selfies made me love every one of my curves” by

How taking naked selfies made me love every one of my curves

Empowerment is what you take from it and for Beatriz – it came from naked selfies.

Seeing curvy girl selfies on Instagram only fueled my need to express myself. Embracing every step of my self-love journey — for the past year, it’s a constant rollercoaster of abundance and scarcity with very little room for anything in between.

13. “Everything finally made sense when I accepted my asexuality”  by Anonymous

Everything finally made sense when I accepted my asexuality

​Acceptance is our 2020 motto – we hope to grow into the new year – accepting all the pieces of ourselves that we’ve been told not to. Anonymous writes about feeling different as a child, and how romantic connection is something they crave but when it comes to physical connection – masturbation is the best it gets.

But once the climax is achieved, and I’ve had the orgasm I need, I would have got all the sexual satisfaction I want, and I have never wanted anything more than that.

14. “Choosing to be a traditional wife isn’t a threat to my feminism” by Bisma Parvez

Choosing to be a traditional wife isn’t a threat to my feminism

Feminism has so many different definitions – and Bisma speaks about how being a traditional wife is a part of her definition of it.

15. “Your self-worth is not defined by your relationship status” by Maheen Humayun

Your self-worth is not defined by your relationship status

The world around us is always trying to put us into boxes, to define us according to some type of formula. Maheen writes about accepting your relationship status, and giving society a fuck you when they try to define you for your singledom.

For 2020, your self worth should be defined by you – how much you’ve grown, you’ve inspired, you’ve tried. Even if it’s one small step, you should applaud yourself for it. Every journey towards moving and changing and growing is inspiring – and we’re here to share those stories with you.

We hope you found some love and healing along the way.

We sure did.

Book Reviews Race Books Pop Culture

The Hate U Give paints a clear picture of police racism in America

I’ve read a fair share of books in my life. There have been novels which moved me, amused me, taught me, and inspired me. Rarely, though, have I come across titles which have done it all. Most often fall short of their mark. Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give isn’t one of them.

Released in 2017, The Hate U Give quickly took the world by storm, prompting the 2018 release of its film starring Amandla Stenberg who, beforehand, was best known for her character Rue from The Hunger Games.

The Hate U Give was inspired by two distinct things. Its title is in reference to one and that is American rapper Tupac Shakur whose music is well known for focusing on racism and social oppression. The title’s acronym reads THUG, a nod to his concept of THUG LIFE which fleshes out to read: The Hate U Give Little Infants Fucks Everybody. “What you feed us as seeds, grows and blows up in your face,” Tupac explained.

The other source of inspiration was the #BlackLivesMatter movement. Together, both feed into the prevalent themes of the book which highlight how oppressive systems keep the poor and minorities from progressing by feeding into a cycle of crime and violence.

The book follows the story of 16-year-old Starr Carter. A black teen who lives in an underprivileged, predominantly black neighborhood but who attends a posh private school where the majority of the students are white and wealthy.

And there Starr teeters, portraying two personas and managing two entirely different worlds. There is the Starr of Williamson Prep (her school) and the Starr of Garden Heights (her home). But the balance she created between the two comes crashing down when she finds herself the sole witness to the police shooting of her unarmed childhood best friend, Khalil Harris. 

Soon, Starr is caught in the middle as Khalil’s death becomes a national headline and takes on a narrative we, unfortunately, all know too well.

Black person. White officer. Shoot first. Media frenzy. Racial tension. No justice.

Many of us are on the outside looking in, yet we fight. We stand in solidarity and protest. We tweet and post and write letters and articles. 

“People like us in situations like this become hashtags, but they rarely get justice. I think we all wait for that one time though, that one time when it ends right,” wrote Thomas (p. 61).

However, true to reality, Khalil didn’t get justice either. 

And it’s this brand of honesty that makes THUG stand out even more. Thomas brilliantly places readers in the thick of the situation. We feel Starr’s fear, pain, frustration, anger, and strength as she realizes the unique position she finds herself in. We feel it as she deals with hearing Khalil’s reputation dragged through the mud. His transgressions used to label him a “thug” and a “gangbanger” and justify his murder. 

We feel it when riots and protests take place, when the blatant discrimination is laid out clear as day, when her white Williamson Prep classmates capitalize on a serious injustice to get a day off at school, when the police put words in Starr’s mouth as they paint a picture to fit their narrative. It’s felt with every word Thomas penned down.

Khalil, then, is symbolic of every person who has fallen victim to police racism and brutality. Philando Castile. Michael Brown. Sandra Bland. Oscar Grant. Freddie Gray. Rekia Boyd. Tamir Rice. Eric Garner. Walter Scott.

Same story, different name.

Overall, THUG is a tale of racism, activism, grief, family, friendship, wealth disparity, police brutality, and the media’s portrayal of the black community. It educates, impacts and inspires – three signs of a must-read book – and does it engagingly.

Get The Hate U Give here for $10.99. Watch it here for $14.99.

Want more book recommendations? Check out our first ever global Reading Challenge!

Editor's Picks Love + Sex Love Life Stories

It took years to go on my first date – I still don’t know why

I didn’t go on a date until I was almost 24. This wasn’t because I was against dating so much as the fact that no one had ever asked me on a date.

But there I was, two weeks away from my birthday and a guy on Tinder asked if we could get a drink that night. It felt too rushed and I like to take things slow. I would be happy talking to a guy over text for weeks or months before meeting in person – but I said yes. Mostly because my coworkers urged me to, but partly because it felt just impulsive enough to be right.

It didn’t end up going anywhere. My second-ever date a few months later also didn’t lead to anything, but the two of them combined, mere months apart when I’d waited almost 24 years for a first date, felt like a sign – that times were changing. It felt like maybe, just maybe, I was finally becoming someone who dated.


Now two years have gone by and I’m starting to wonder if I’m not well on my way to another 24 years without a date. 

Again, it’s not that I haven’t tried or wanted to date. In fact, maybe I’ve wanted it too much. Maybe I’ve poured too much of my self-esteem into getting a date, a follow-up date, a relationship. 

These two years in a “dating desert” have been a rollercoaster. Some days I believe there’s something wrong me — surely there’s something wrong with me if I can’t get anyone to want me! 

Other days I’m convinced it’s not me, it’s them; the men of the world are just not looking at me the right way, not seeing all that I have to offer.

Ultimately, I think it’s neither of the two. What I try to remind myself (when I can), what I try to make myself believe, is that there’s nothing wrong with not dating.

This is something that I absolutely know and believe in my mind and sometimes even in my heart. I know so many great people who haven’t dated, or who did date but never married, or who did all the above but are alone now; and that’s not just fine, that’s good.


Because everyone has their own story to tell, everyone’s life is its own beautiful narrative, and it can’t all look the same.

I think back on the things I wanted as a child (married by 19, multiple children by my mid-twenties, living in South Carolina for my whole life) and I have to laugh.

That’s not my life at all.

I’m a single 26-year-old in New York City who can barely manage to feed herself most days; a brood of children would be supremely unlucky to have me as their mother at this stage. 

But as a kid, all I wanted was the story of dating in high school, engaged in college, married by graduation, family a few years later. I didn’t succeed in that plan obviously since I didn’t date in either high school, college, or even grad school. And I thought it made me broken.

I thought it meant I was unlovable, undesirable, and flawed in a way that couldn’t be fixed. Sometimes, if I’m being honest with you (and myself) I still feel that way. But that doesn’t make it true. 

Just because I feel broken doesn’t mean I am broken. 

More importantly, my time in single-dom is teaching me something very important: how to love myself. That’s something I’ve always struggled with. My self-esteem has lived at the bottom of the ocean for much of my memory, and I’ve lived with depression and anxiety since high school; all of that combines to make me not just dislike myself, but outright hate who I am much of the time. 


Being single forces me to reckon with that.

I can’t default to finding my value in the fact that a man loves me because there is no man who loves me. I can’t ignore the feelings of being undesirable, because they’re ever-present. 

It’s hard for me, as someone who desperately craves human connection and wants a so-called “forever person,” to come to terms with the fact that I don’t have that

I think it’s okay to want a relationship and be sad that I don’t have one. I do think what’s not okay is beating myself up over it. 

That’s what I’m trying to stop. Instead of looking at this amount of time with no dates as a desert, I’m going to look at it as just another stretch of ground on the journey of life, if you will.

Maybe it’ll last forever; maybe it’ll end tomorrow.

In the meantime, I’m going to remind myself and everyone around me that there’s nothing wrong with being single and learning to love yourself.

TV Shows LGBTQIA+ Pop Culture

15 LGBTQIA+ tropes that need to be retired yesterday

Queer representation is having a good year (Valkyrie “needs to find her queen”! David (ew) and Patrick! Robin Buckley!). However, we’re still backsliding. There are still too many LGBTQIA+ tropes and trends in television that reinforce negative stereotypes and perpetuate a complete lack of awareness when it comes to the queer community. Negative characters and oblivious portrayals are as disheartening as they are harmful.

And yet, Emmy season after Emmy season, we pat incremental change and mediocrity on the back, calling it progress. That needs to stop. No more trophies until it actually gets better. So, Hollywood, here’s a list of what could be, should be, has to be improved because you clearly need help:

Beware of spoilers!

1. My body is your body

The cast of <em>Queer Eye</em>, five men of similar build dressed in suits.
[Image description: The cast of Queer Eye, five men of similar build dressed in suits.] Via Getty
There are bears and otters and butches and femmes everything in between, but they’re rarely seen on screen. The Queer Eye hosts pretty much have the same body type. Darren Criss or Ben Whishaw could dead dropped into the majority of LGBTQIA+ roles and no one would notice. There is little to no deviation and that’s not representation. 

2. Language 

A brown-haired, white boy responds to someone off-screen, saying: "I'm not gay."
[Image description: A brown-haired, white boy responds to someone off-screen, saying: “I’m not gay.”] Via Derry Girls on Netflix
Somehow “gay” is still slung like it’s damaging to one’s masculinity. In Netflix’s Derry Girls, James is repeatedly called “gay” for no reason other than perhaps getting a rise out of him. The series is set in the 1990s, but this detail doesn’t get excused as world building. It doesn’t add anything and it doesn’t help. 

3. This is going to take ALL episode

A shirtless, white man is drenched and seated on a stage. Behind him is a woman lying down.
[Image description: A shirtless, white man is drenched and seated on a stage. Behind him is a woman lying down.] VIa It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia on YouTube
Coming out storylines are still important; however, they don’t always have to take the entire season to come to fruition. Let that character do something else with their story arch. Not everyone needs a Puppy Episode

4. One dimensional queers

A brown-haired white man in a blue button-down and red bowtie says: "Uh, my friend Eric and then my ex John, and then Eric again."
[Image description: A brown-haired white man in a blue button-down and red bowtie says: “Uh, my friend Eric and then my ex John, and then Eric again.”] Via Grace and Frankie on Netflix
The Damiens and other gay-best-friends are being swapped out for those with more depth, like Sex Education‘s Eric. Queer characters deserve development beyond being gay, give them hobbies and all the trivial bits that are written into other characters.

5. Acceptance = Flawless Allyship

A white man in a cap and brown shirt looks stoically at his son.
[Image description: A white man in a cap and brown shirt looks stoically at his son.] Via Glee on YouTube
The super chill attitude of parents/siblings/partners is refreshingly positive, but it leads to a the assumption that Love Is Love and the conversation doesn’t need to go any further when in reality there’s a lot more to be done for gay rights. 

6. Heteronormativity with all the trimmings

Two white women - one blonde, the other black-haired - in prison are having a conversation while seated on the floor. The blonde one says to the other: "You're really telling me you didn't miss me at all?"
[Image description: Two white women – one blonde, the other black-haired – in prison are having a conversation while seated on the floor. The blonde one says to the other: “You’re really telling me you didn’t miss me at all?”] Via Orange Is The New Black on Netflix
Queerness often appears as a straight relationship simply rewritten so that both partners are of the same gender. Not everyone can or wants to assimilate to that norm. There isn’t a boyfriend and a girlfriend when there are two girlfriends.

7. She wears a hat and you know what that means

A woman in a blue striped shirt, suspenders, and a newboy cap is seated in a dark restaurant.
[Image description: A woman in a blue striped shirt, suspenders, and a newboy cap is seated in a dark restaurant.] Via The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel on YouTube
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel‘s Susie is the example of presentation standing in for conversation. Her character feels too much like a benchwarmer for when the show decides to get political. 

8. One lone queer character amid masses of straights 

Two dark-haired white men - one in a suit, the other in a red bellhop uniform - are staring each other down.
[Image description: Two dark-haired white men – one in a suit, the other in a red bellhop uniform – are staring each other down.] Via Mad Men on Netflix
There’s never an abundance unless it’s the L Word or Loking. There are partners and exes, but rarely just everyday other queer people. 

9. Queer-baiting

A blonde girl and a black-haired girl kiss. They're dressed in a yellow-and-white cheerleading uniform.
[Image description: A blonde girl and a black-haired girl kiss. They’re dressed in a yellow-and-white cheerleading uniform.] Via Riverdale on The CW
A potentially queer character or couple is usually hinted at or teased. Too often the scene seems to have been written just to draw in a potential audience. The entirety of BBC’s Sherlock, anyone?

10. “I’ve never done this before.”

Two women are lying in bed looking at each intensely. One has her arm outstretched, cupping the face of the other.
[Image description: Two women are lying in bed looking at each intensely. One has her arm outstretched, cupping the face of the other.] Via Killing Eve on YouTube
The fluidity of sexuality deserves screen time, but currently the bed’s a little crowded with “straight” people. This I-normally-wouldn’t-but image feeds into the whole queers are here to steal your wife stereotype. 

11. Strategic camera pan

Two white men in suits are on the dance floor, their foreheads touching as they gaze lovingly into each other's eyes.
[Image description: Two white men in suits are on the dance floor, their foreheads touching as they gaze lovingly into each other’s eyes.] Via Modern Family on ABC
The camera tends to look away during even remotely intimate moments between queer characters. Or deny by omission that they even have sex. Equal screen time or bust. The Shadowhunters fandom erupted when Malec was denied a sex scene in season 2. The writers tried to make up for it in season 3.

12. Lesbian sex involves a lot of clothing

Two women in bed cuddle after sex. The one on the left side-hugs the one on the right who says: "Hello."
[Image description: Two women in bed cuddle after sex. The one on the left side-hugs the one on the right who says: “Hello.”] Via In The Dark on Netflix
This costume quirk is obviously an attempt to keep it PG, but come on. Straight couples have had strategically draped sheets for decades. Will no cameraperson attempt to hide the nudity of two women on screen? 

13. Repression & Hate = Closeted Gay

Two high school football players - one black, the other white - mock two other students dressed up in costumes.
[Image description: Two high school football players – one black, the other white – mock two other students dressed up in costumes.] Via Glee on YouTube
Characters like Sex Education‘s Adam illustrate the tired trend of tortured high school bullies being the result of their own self-hatred. Scripts need to stop assuming the best of hate and homophobes. 

14. Bury your gays

A dark-haired, brown woman stared coyly at her blonde friend.
[Image description: A dark-haired, brown woman stared coyly at her blonde friend.] Via You on Netflix
If your script includes the death of a LGBTQIA+ character, go back to the writing room. Remember what happened in The 100‘s fandom after Lexa was killed?

15. Queerness is overwhelmingly white

Two white women in tank tops are drinking in a low-lit dining booth.
[Image description: Two white women in tank tops are drinking in a low-lit dining booth.] Via Gypsy on Netflix
Thankfully shows like Pose, Queer Sugar, Dear White People, Black Lightning, and The Bold Type are changing the game.

In general, television has come a long way since shows like Will & Grace, Queer as Folk, and Ellen. LGBTQIA+ representation no longer finds itself confined to the first two letters of the acronym. Of course, there’s still lot’s to learn, but in the meantime, support the series that get it right and show the world what it needs to see. 

Book Reviews Pop Culture

“The Nightingale” shows us that war heroes aren’t always men

Kristin Hannah’s book The Nightingale is impactful, important, and not something that fades from memory easily. I read it quite some time ago but the story still weighs inside me.

It’s about women. It’s about struggle. It’s about love. It’s about war.

The Nightingale is the story of two French sisters, Vianne Mauriac and Isabelle Rosginol, as they resist Nazi forces when World War II engulfs France.

Despite being sisters, Vianne and Isabelle are as different as two people can be. Vianne, the older sister, believes in following rules and peacefully surviving through the time of war. Isabelle, on the other hand, is more rebellious, fearless, defiant, and wants to fight in the war. As the war wages on, the differences between them become more pronounced.

“You are stronger than you think you are, V,” Antoine said afterward.

“I’m not,” Vianne whispered too quietly for him to hear.

Vianne’s husband, Antoine, is sent away to fight as a soldier. After he’s gone, Vianne is left alone with her daughter, Sophie. She continues teaching at a school along with her friend and neighbor, Rachel.

Throughout this time, she faces many challenges – Nazi officers billet with her, her body is violated, and her Jewish neighbors are arrested. Later, she begins rescuing Jewish children and hiding them at the local Catholic orphanage when their parents are taken away. She’s afraid, but she has suffered enough and wants to make a difference.

Isabelle, in the meantime, becomes a part of the French resistance movement, and hatches a plan to assist allied airmen out of France after their planes are shot down. She becomes known as the Nightingale for her work. Isabelle is dangerously vulnerable at this time as she faces a threat of being caught by the Nazi forces.

Later, Isabelle is captured by the Nazis and interrogated. Doubt shadows them – they don’t believe the Nightingale to be a woman. Isabelle’s estranged father saves her then, by claiming to be the Nightingale. He’s executed in her place.

“How can I start at the beginning, when all I can think about is the end?” – Isabelle Rosignol

I live in a country, Pakistan, that has been pushed to brink of war several times. And each time that happens, the role of women in war, and their sacrifice, is often ignored. Women bear the brutalization of war – many are raped and sexually violated – but even then, no one talks about them. Misogyny cages women, even when there’s a war impending.

This book presents a hidden perspective. It shows that women too are war heroes, in their own right.

Vianne and Isabelle are powerful characters. They represent all women who bravely take part in war and fight for their countries – those who survive, those who lose their lives in the middle of it all, and those whose struggles stay with till the end of time.

Vianne is abused at the hands of a Nazi officer and is left impregnated with a child who’ll always be a painful reminder of the past, of war, of the enemy. Vianne’s story resonates with many women who are violated during war.

Isabelle walks into the unknown and puts her life in danger. She leaves behind her name, her story, her life. She makes a mark in the world. She fights. And she wins. She speaks her mind, defies the Germans, makes this war her own. Her story resonates with women who refuse to back down. 

Vianne and Isabelle are real women. They aren’t merely characters of Hannah’s imagination. They’re true people, they’re stories that we often forget.

Get The Nightingale here for $12.23.

Want more book recommendations? Check out our first ever global Reading Challenge!

Health Care Health News The World

Why the world needs to embrace health care tourism

Here in the UK, we pride ourselves on our universal health care service, the National Health Service (NHS). Regardless of employment status, age, gender, or where you live in the country, the premise of the NHS is that everybody has a right to free, high-quality health and social care services. 

It didn’t take long for the NHS to become politically weaponized. In the 2016 Brexit vote, now-Prime Minister Boris Johnson claimed that we sent the European Union £350 million every week, and plastered that message on a bus that toured the country, calling for a redirection of those funds to bolster a struggling NHS. Although the claim then proved to be fraudulent, many people latched on to migrants from the EU and beyond as a cause for the struggling NHS, regurgitating the classic narrative of people ‘taking services that they had not paid in to’.  

The concept of ‘medical tourism’ then started to become commonplace in the UK. It came attached to the narrative that immigrant communities were coming to the UK purely to seek free medical treatment at the cost of the British taxpayer.

Medical and health care tourism could not be further away from that insinuation. Yes, affordability is one of the main reasons that people travel to access health care services, but those who travel are largely from economically-developed countries or well-off backgrounds. 

Therefore, we need to reframe what medical tourism actually is; the first step is to depoliticize and decolonize it. 

The top ten destinations for medical tourism are all developing nations: India, Turkey, Brazil, and Mexico are all on the list. Singapore is perhaps the only country that stands out as being further along the development scale. In some of these countries, procedures can be 90% cheaper than in nations such as the U.S. 

It is no wonder, then, that those living in countries where health care costs are a burden are looking for alternatives. Alongside surgical or medical procedures, there are growing markets for wellness and alternative medicine tourism and cosmetic tourism.

A growing number of diasporic communities are also returning ‘back home’ to undergo medical treatment. As well as affordability, this could be because of the increasing numbers of reports of discrimination against people of color in the healthcare systems of developed nations. My own father went back to India to fast-track diabetic treatment, and a member of my extended family also went back to India for fertility treatment, which has been discontinued on the NHS.  

Health care tourism is often painted as risky, mostly for the same reasons that developed nations believe that immigrants are leeching on their healthcare systems: racism. 

It is not wrong for doctors to advise that people conduct thorough checks of those who are going to be operating on them, as well as knowing about pre-op and after-care arrangements in advance. Especially in a time when medical procedures are being packaged alongside holidays, it would be foolish not to be informed. 

But to call into question another medical professional’s standards, purely because of where they are from, is essentially racist. My father’s medical scans from India were not accepted by doctors in the UK due to perceived issues with quality. Yet India is currently one of the largest markets for health care tourism, praised for its accessibility, affordability and service quality

Trying to curb health care tourism is only going to backfire. In a globalized, data-driven world, health care already should be accessible to everybody, anytime and anywhere. Eighteen British hospitals were responsible for £42 million of revenue from overseas patients, not to mention the further £219 million that these patients then spent on accommodation, food, and transport in the UK. But no one talks about the positive aspects of medical tourism from migrants.

The UK and such countries who claim to be afraid of the ‘strain’ that medical tourism places on their services should learn from places like Egypt, Jordan, and the UAE, where medical tourism is actively marketed and embraced; they have colonized a market niche. The quality of service, combined with the multitude of languages spoken throughout the region, makes it an attractive option for medical travelers from all over the world. 

It shocks me to my core that health care is still not a universal human right globally, and that it is used and abused to relay political, discriminatory, elitist messages. Healthcare tourism is not only good for the economy, but also for global public health, societal integration, and sharing of knowledge.

Closing off healthcare in line with national boundaries is going to be akin to shooting ourselves in the foot.