About the Book
A fresh and authentic coming-of-age story set during the early days of the Arab Spring.
All Mariam wanted was a vacation. What she got was a revolution...
It’s tough fitting in, especially when you have super-traditional Muslim parents and are the only Egyptian at your high school. So when Mariam and her best friend and fellow outcast, Deanna, get arrested after an ill-fated night of partying, she knows that she is in big trouble.
Convinced they need more discipline, their parents pack Mariam and Deanna off to Cairo to stay with Mariam’s grandmother, her sittu. But Mariam’s strict sittu and the country of her heritage are nothing like she imagined, challenging everything Mariam used to believe.
When a girl named Asmaa calls on the people of Egypt to protest against their president, Mariam and Deanna find themselves in the middle of a revolution, running from teargas, dodging danger in the streets of Cairo, and falling in love for the first time. As Mariam struggles to reconcile her rich Egyptian heritage with her American identity, she finds that revolution is everywhere, including within herself.
Rebels By Accident Excerpt
Sixteen (well, almost sixteen), and I’m behind bars. Okay, maybe I’m being a bit dramatic. It’s not as if I’m locked up with serial killers or slashers, but I’m in a cell. Deanna’s with me, along with about thirty other underage girls who were also at the party and didn’t run away in time or convince the police to let them go.
As we piled into squad cars, I watched these girls (and even a few guys) put on all the moves—-crying, flirting, screaming, fainting, even begging—-to get out of the arrest, but none of it worked.
I have to say Deanna gave it her best. Not being able to crack a smile really worked to her advantage when the officer in charge said to her that he was glad someone was taking the situation seriously. She wasn’t kidding when she said she was a great litigator like her mom. When the cop found me hiding in the bathtub with the shower curtain drawn (could I have picked a more obvious place?) and dragged me downstairs with the rest of the crowd, there was Deanna, telling the police we shouldn’t be responsible for the actions of some stupid guys who brought beer to the party. She almost had one cop convinced to let us go when Karen, the bane of my existence, stepped forward and threw up on his shoes.
All through elementary school and middle school, Karen and her drone Beth talked trash about me and my family. Their favorite insults were that my dad was in Al--Qaeda and my mom was only one of his many wives.
At least she’s not in our cell. They put her, and all the other vomiting kids, in a separate cell—-with buckets.
Still, it stinks in here. I stick my nose between the bars, trying to breathe air that doesn’t smell like puke, beer, or raw fish. Who has an open sushi bar at a high school party? Then again, what would I know about parties? This is the only party I’ve been to since first grade.
“Come on, Mar. It’s not that bad.” Deanna pushes against my shoulder. I don’t budge. I don’t say anything.
“Funny how we started the night trying to break into the party, and now we just want to get out.” Deanna stands closer to me, but I can’t even look at her. If I do, I’ll start to cry. And I’m already the biggest freak at school.
“Look, I know you’re flipping out here, but everything will be okay.”
“Are you kidding me?” I turn to her and lower my voice. “I’m in jail. Do you know how happy this is going to make my parents?”
“Now they can feel totally justified when they never let me leave our apartment again.”
Relax? We’ve just been arrested! We are in a holding cell with girls who have picked on me—-or, worse yet, ignored me—-since kindergarten. On top of that, my parents are going to kill me! Why did I let Deanna talk me into going to this party?
Okay, the truth: she didn’t have to talk me into anything. I wanted to go. I would’ve done anything, even lie to my parents, to crash a party. I knew I wasn’t invited and that I’d probably be kicked out as soon as someone saw me. But forcibly removed—-by the police? That I didn’t expect.
Still, I shouldn’t blame Deanna for helping me get what I wanted. But I do. It was an amazing night of music and dancing. Yes, I danced with three guys! And nobody made jokes about my dad being a towel--head or my uncle being Bin Laden…Tonight I was dancing and laughing. I wasn’t a freak or a weirdo; I was just another girl having fun.
“Actually,” I say, turning to Deanna, “thanks.”
“You’re thanking me?” she asks.
“Hey, I know I’m in big trouble but tonight was an adventure—-probably the last one I’ll have until I’m thirty.”
“Don’t mention it,” she says. Most people would say she has no expression on her face, but I can tell she’s smiling.
About the Author: Patricia Dunn has appeared in Salon.com, The Christian Science Monitor, the Village Voice, the Nation, LA Weekly, and others. With an MFA in creative writing from Sarah Lawrence College, where she also teaches, this Bronx-raised rebel and former resident of Cairo settled in Connecticut, with her husband, teenage son, and toddler dog. Visit Patricia at www.patriciadunnauthor.com.