Laura Purdie Salas is hosting Poetry Friday this week. You’ll find links to all of the participating blogs at Writing the World for Kids.

Happy Poetry Friday, friends and readers.

Next Tuesday, August 11, Saadia Faruqi and I celebrate the launch of our co-authored middle grade novel, A PLACE AT THE TABLE.

During one of our *many* conversations about the book (before, during, and after we wrote it), Saadia and I discussed a poem called “My Best Friend Is Jewish.” This piece, by Briana Naseer, appears online at Blue Minaret, the literary journal that Saadia edits.

Pre-order from Baltimore’s Ivy Bookshop to receive a bookplate signed by both authors with your copy!

There are so many overlaps and echoes between this poem and the friendship story at the heart of A PLACE AT THE TABLE. The book is about two girls, one Muslim, the other Jewish, both first generation American. They are not friends when they first meet in an after school cooking club. They are both dealing with typical middle school issues, and with issues that are specific to having immigrant parents. While the two of them begin to open up about their cultures, they never make a big deal about how Muslims and Jews are “supposed to” dislike each other.  In this way, they are just like the friends in the poem.

I hope you enjoy it. If you teach A PLACE AT THE TABLE, consider pairing it with “My Best Friend Is Jewish”. That would make for a fascinating discussion with kids.

My Best Friend is Jewish

By Briana Naseer

My best friend and I meet

at freshman band camp

where we are both

wholly unaware

that one of us is Muslim

and one of us is Jewish.

Our history teacher sees us

laughing together,

boasts that he has solved

all of the tensions

in the Middle East

and I am too young

and too naïve

to realize

what he means.

When Rosh Hashanah

and Eid Al-Fitr fall

on the same day

that year,

we end up comparing

the lunar calendars

in our respective religions.

We both get teased

by white boys

who tell us we’re going

to hell, in the name

of Jesus, of course.

We both find

each other’s eyes

when the coaches pray

a Christian prayer

at all the football games.

We both lament

at playing Sleigh Bells

for four years in a row

at the Christmas concert,

heaven forbid

we say “holiday”

or “winter.”

Read the rest at Blue Minaret.

One of *my* best friends is Muslim, thanks to our work together on this book.

7 responses to “Poetry Friday: “My Best Friend Is Jewish””

  1. Ruth says:

    I love this. Can’t wait to read the book.

  2. That is so powerful (and painful), Laura. Thanks for sharing it. Looking forward to reading your book!


    Hi Laura,

    It’s been such a joy to see this book coming closer and closer to all our reading laps and screens and chairs. I’ve pre-ordered and am waiting. It just so happens that Tuesday is a special day for me…so I have an extra bond with this book. Thank you for the poem. When I was teaching in Greece, I remember a soccer tourney that held games at my school’s campus. The Iraqi and Kuwaiti teams were matched up and it was in early 90s. I wondered how it would go. When one team…I cannot remember which had enough injuries that they were facing forfeit, the other team volunteered players to finish the match. It is possible…young people know. We just have to make way for them. Hooray for ‘A Place at the Table.’

  4. Linda Baie says:

    What a joyful journey I imagine you and Saadia have taken together & it feels like a joyous one, Laura. I am looking forward to your book, launch this week & having it in my hands! The poem would be one that I would have shared if still teaching. Thanks for it, will send on to a former colleague.

  5. Mary Lee says:

    Love this poem! Congratulations on this amazing collaboration. I can’t wait to read it!

  6. Laura, A PLACE AT THE TABLE sounds wonderful, and what a pairing with this poem. Can’t wait to see the book!

  7. Thanks for sharing this powerful poem Laura, and what a good match with Saadia and your new book–I’m looking forward to reading it!

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Laura Shovan

Laura Shovan is the author of the award-winning middle grade novel, The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary. Her second book, Takedown, is a Junior Library Guild and PJ Our Way selection. Look for A Place at the Table, co-written with Saadia Faruqi, in 2020. Laura is a poet-in-the-schools Maryland.

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