April 30, 2020 § 2 Comments
By Sarah Mina Osman-Mikesell
When I first read that Amy Roost was looking for contributors for Fury: Women’s Lived Experiences During the Trump Era, I knew that I had to submit an essay. Between teaching under Trump and having a Muslim father (who believes that Trump is akin to Hitler), I knew I had a lot to say on the topic. The struggle was where to begin.
I wasn’t entirely sure which direction to go in. Should I focus solely on my students, or should I focus solely on my father? How were the two interconnected?
I began by sifting through my memories.
The best way for me to approach writing about Trump was to begin with when he was first elected, as I had the strongest emotional tie to that time period. I broke down what I remembered happened in the first few days of his being elected:
- My husband’s blistering anger
- My fear and concern for my students
- Discussing the results with my students
- My father’s advice
- How I decided to fight
When I first remembered these moments, they did not appear in this order. I had to script it out chronologically to find the best order in which to tell others how to “fight like hell.” Then, I divided the memories into sections to help me shape my ideas on the topic. The sections turned into:
- When I first learned he had won
- First Day
- My Baba
- Fight like Hell
- Visiting Baba
- Constant Worry
I put memories of my students under “First Day.” The memories of my father went under “My Baba.” While this system wasn’t very creative, it did help with getting what I wanted to say onto the page, and with structuring the essay.
The next hurdle was considering how publishing my essay would affect the people who were written about. I wasn’t concerned about my students; none of them are directly named, and I painted them as revolutionaries fighting an unjust system. I felt the same about Baba, who inspired the title of the piece. But I was a bit concerned about my mother-in-law. Although she appears only briefly, she is not portrayed in the most flattering light, and I am still not sure how she will react to her portrayal. I chose to wear a hijab for a brief period, and she wasn’t angry with my decision, but she was bewildered—she questioned why I’d covered my hair, and if I was suddenly Muslim now. I decided to not remove her actions as I felt they reflected many Americans’ bewilderment and concern around hijabs.
The final struggle was naming the piece. I am not the best with titles, and often rely on an editor’s help when coming up with one. I felt that “Fight like Hell” worked for a few reasons:
- My father rarely swears, so for him to swear is a big deal. I didn’t show him swearing in the essay, but Trump is one of the few things he swears about.
- I liked the idea of it being a mantra of sorts. “Fight like Hell” sounds a bit like a war chant, and as we continue to battle Trump and his administration, we need a battle cry that reminds us to continue to fight for justice.
I am beyond flattered to be featured in Fury: Women’s Lived Experiences Under Trump alongside so many powerful and talented women. The book reminds me that although we are starting to become fatigued (especially with the latest crisis in the world) we cannot give up. It’s not just our current situation we are fighting for; we are fighting for those who will come after us, and we do not want to saddle them with an impossible mess to clean up. It continues to be time to fight like hell.
From “Fight Like Hell”
“How are you doing, Baba?” I asked, stuck in anxious L.A. traffic. […] “Are you going to leave?” I continued, concerned. “Do you want to move back to Egypt?”
“No,” he answered frankly. “This is my country too. I deserve to be here just as much as anyone else. I know a lot of your students are immigrants or have parents who are immigrants, so tell them that too. We have every right to be here. We’re American too.”
“So you’re not going to leave?”
“No. I’m going to stay here.” He yawned loudly. “Besides, Egypt has been through far worse, so this isn’t as bad as that. Be proud of who you are. Don’t start trying to hide your heritage because of these idiots.”
“What are you going to do?”
“I’m going to fight like hell. And I suggest you and your students do the same.”
Sarah Mina Osman-Mikesell is a writer and teacher living in Los Angeles. “Fight Like Hell” is featured in the anthology, Fury: Women’s Lived Experiences During the Trump Era. Sarah’s work has appeared in the Huffington Post, Matador Network, HelloGiggles, and Zora. When she’s not writing, she can be found belly dancing or traveling.