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Ignite DC #3

Ayanna Nahmias

From Islam to Orthodox Judaism

An astonishing and timely memoir from first time author, Ayanna Nahmias, this mesmerizing story chronicles her emotional and physical struggles from birth in the United States to her life in Africa. As she evolves, we share in her trials and tribulations as a child born into one religion but forcibly converted to another.

From her non-traditional Muslim childhood in America as a follower of the Nation of Islam, to her traditional Muslim childhood in Nigeria, she takes the reader on an incredible journey into her unique life as the child of a radical Islamist and Anti-American expatriate. Exquisitely written with the use of powerful imagery, she distinctly frames the characters and situations that will define her for the next thirty years.

In the late 70's her family traveled across the African continent through Nigeria, Cameroon, Central Africa, Sudan, Uganda and Kenya to arrive in Tanzania twenty-nine days later. She paints an unforgettable portrait of this trip with her parents and younger siblings, in a passenger car without any special equipment or outfitting. She describes in poignant detail this seminal experience, where the family was at times faced with difficult situations and dangerous obstacles. Her recollections are educational, informative and exciting, and provide the reader with rare moments of hilarity.

Her family emerges from this adventure to find themselves on Bahari Beach, an enchanting, magical stretch of beach along the Indian Ocean in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, where she feels that her dreams of serenity will finally come true. From its' endless stretch of white sand kissed by the azure blue of the Indian Ocean, to the deliciously sensuous trade winds, this place hearkens to her soul; and as a child of the dunes it provides a place of comfort.

She quickly realizes that her life in Tanzania would be no different from the strict and oppressive life she led in West Africa. Even with their relocation to the Socialist regime of President Julius Nyerere, her father's rage against systemic racism and perceived injustice did not abate, and continued to manifest in tyrannous and capricious behavior.

After years of abuse, Ayanna tells of the conflict and heartbreak she felt when her devoted mother planned a daring escape to save herself and her offspring. An escape, if unsuccessful, would have resulted in their capture and death because her father regarded them as his property.

The psychological agony that resulted from Ayanna's conflicted allegiance to an imperfect parent, is sublimely portrayed through emotionally penetrating language. Although she recognized the necessity of the abrupt separation, the shock of leaving her father, her culture, and her religion to return to a country for which she no longer had an affinity resulted in immense psychological trauma.

Based upon a trajectory of an impaired father daughter relationship, and her desire to fill this void, she engaged in a succession of inappropriate relationships that often culminated in sexual violence. She displays with unsentimental varnish, a convoluted journey of perseverance and strength that enables her to overcome a troubled past.

Bahari Beach Dreams is a memoir that bears witness to the author's unwavering determination to synthesize the Pan-African hopes and dreams of her parents, with her choice to convert to Orthodox Judaism, and raise her multiracial son with the full knowledge and pride of his African heritage. It is the ultimate portrayal of a woman who achieves feminist power and self-actualization within the religious systems of Islam and Judaism, as she reinvents herself and builds a solid foundation for her progeny.

About Ayanna Nahmias:

Ayanna Nahmias was born in Florida into a military Christian family. Her radical, Islamist father who had a deep hatred for American values and culture moved the family to Nigeria and Tanzania and raised them as Muslims. In the late 70's, fleeing his oppressive and tyrannical rule, she returned to the United States from Africa with her mother and siblings. She completed high school and graduated from Bates College in Maine with a Bachelors of Arts in English Literature. She subsequently relocated to Washington, DC where she established a partnership in an art gallery in the upscale Eastern Market neighborhood. Because of her refreshing yet controversial perspective on art, she was featured in a Washington Post news article. Ayanna currently resides in Arlington, Virginia and publishes an internationally followed, highly rated and well reviewed blog titled, "Memoirs of a Cipher". It explores the similarities between Islam and Judaism, and the challenges women face in trying to achieve feminist power within both systems.

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