This is a hard story to improvise on.
It's about a Muslim American woman, Fadwa Hamdan, who joins the US army (this is what's the big deal narrative).
Or, it's about the archetypal Muslim Arab woman who escapes her oppressive religion and culture (the escapee narrative).
Or, it's about an oppressed Muslim/Arab woman who is saved by America (saving brown women from brown men narrative).
Or, it's about a disempowered woman who struggles against Arab Patriarchy and American patriarchy to find herself (the feminist narrative).
Or, it's about a woman who wants to be a man, so she joins the army and go around yelling: "“I’m gonna be a shooting man, a shooting man! The best I can for Uncle Sam, for Uncle Sam!” (the get me out of this box and put me in another narrative).
Or, it's about a vulnerable woman who is recruited by the US army because she knows Arabic and had not much of a choice (we don't like army recruiters narrative).
Or, it's about the army is really good for women. It liberates them, you know. (the army as feminist space narrative)
Or, it's about a woman who made a choice and reinvented herself (Be all you can be narrative).
Or, it's about a woman who is used by the American media which "discovers" her then trail her for months, photographing her and documenting her encounters with lowlife family members (e.g. the "film hindi moment" when Fadwa confronts her brother in his store (action), storms out in tears (close up), then reporter enters shop to interview brother (Cut).
Or, it's an informative story about the similarities between Islam and the army: I learned, for example, that in both, women stand in attention, eat separately from men, and with one hand. All of you out there who were raised Muslim and never knew these crucial facts about your religion, you must feel much gratitude for the NYT taking the time to explain your religion to you. Now, subscribe. (It's the Islam by Dummies narrative)
Or, it's really a story about how many times a writer can use the word "hijab" in an essay before this reader slashes her wrist (it's the torture by hijab narrative).
Or, it's a story about a woman who survived arranged marriage, a slimy husband, a loveless life, segregation in Saudi Arabia, the hijab and niqab, polygamy, a father who disowned her, a brother who kicked her out, homelessness, losing her children, an army boot camp but was finally broken by an English test she could not pass (English teachers are the real villains narrative).
It's a sob story.
It's a feel good story.
It's a sob, feel good story.
It's a sob, feel good, propaganda story.
It's incomplete: some things don't add up. Too neat. Don't know. (the I-was-burned-by-Norma Khouri's narrative).
It's also a story of a mother who feels she had to give up her children and who misses them. I don't know Fadwa Hamdan. But I don't doubt for a single second that she misses her daughters and that her tears are sincere.
Everything else becomes ... insignificant.
Maybe I'm a sucker. So be it. Call it the sucker narrative.