Suraiya Jafari, An American President is now available!


suraiya cover My first novel–Suraiya Jafari, An American President–about an Indian-American Muslim Congresswoman who accidentally becomes the U.S. President, is now available!

Order your copy here.

To read my interview with A Hotchpotch Hijabi in Italy, click here.

(Some of my previous lawyerly writings are also still available, including The American Bar Association Complete and Easy Guide to Health Care Law. That is, if you didn’t rush out and get a copy when it was first published.)

Plus, there are still hundreds of great articles to read on The Socratic Project. (I know you didn’t read them all the first time!)

Can religion build bridges?

Nirmala Rajasekar is a world-renowned artist of Carnatic (South Indian) music. I met her when she gave a presentation at our local library as part of a state arts grant. We’ve kept in touch, and she sent me an email inviting me to a concert she was giving at a local Hindu temple.

I’ve never been to a Hindu temple, and I asked her if it was okay for non-Hindus to attend. I was nervous because I used to accept invitations from other Christians to attend their services, and one time a Pentecostal friend told me that I was not welcome at her church for a second visit. They felt that I was “not ready for Jesus.” (Let’s just say they didn’t get my humor.)

If other Christians are telling me that I’m not welcome, what hope did I have at a Hindu temple? Continue reading

How do you define success?

In 1860, a young lithographer named Milton Bradley invented a game he called The Checkered Game of Life. Bradley intended the game to “forcibly impress upon the minds of youth, the great moral principles of vice and virtue.”

Players who landed on squares labeled Honesty, Bravery, or Success, ended in Happy Old Age. Players who landed on the squares labeled Poverty, Idleness, or Disgrace ended in Ruin, or perhaps, Suicide.

Such squares of vice and virtue do not exist on today’s version of the game we know as LIFE. What happened?

In 1959, the Milton Bradley toy company introduced a new version of The Game of Life to celebrate the company’s 100th anniversary. The object of the game was now to make the most money.

The game of LIFE made Bradley a wealthy man, and do you know what he did when he made his fortune?

He decided that the key to success for poor children was a kindergarten education, particularly learning through art, and devoted his life to creating tools to help children. He set up a manufacturing plant to make crayons, watercolor paints, colored paper, and flashcards.

That venture earned him little money at all, yet in his old age he considered his greatest accomplishment the opportunities he had created for young children.

It should be noted that Bradley was able to create those opportunities because he first became financially successful.

So what constitutes success?
Is it becoming financially independent, or is it being of service to others?
How do you define success?

When do you switch schools?

My oldest daughter, JJ, graduated from high school with great friends, a very good education, and nearly a year’s worth of college credit. The Husband attended that same high school 30 years ago. Yet, I am considering switching school districts for BaoBao.

The Husband thinks the current district is just fine, and I agreed until we attended JJ’s graduation ceremony. JJ was one of 671 graduating students. This was difficult for me to fathom, as there were fewer than 400 students in the entire school system of K-12 that I attended.

It is one thing to KNOW that your child is Student #377, and another to SEE your child being #377 at graduation. Continue reading

Would you confront someone with a swastika tattoo?

The scenario: You are at the local pool with your children. A man with a swastika tattoo walks by. You are offended by this tattoo, so you talk to the pool manager. The manager tells you that she can ask the man to put on a shirt, but she cannot force the man to cover up.

She asks. He refuses.

Do you approach the man yourself? Do you leave?

A friend went through this dilemma. She stayed. Continue reading

If you ruled the world…

what would you change?

Sure, there are the BIG things, such as ending world hunger and preventing families from breaking apart and global peace and all that. Those are the OBVIOUS changes. What about the smaller things that would make living more pleasant?

If I ruled the world:

  • every night, people would be given a list of the lies they’d told during the day
  • no one would give a sh** about the Kardashians
  • my hair wouldn’t get frizzy when it’s humid
  • interfaith cooperation would be a required course
  • fracking would be banned
  • prom dresses wouldn’t be skanky
  • college & vocational courses would be free and easily accessible
  • ditto for birth control
  • people would listen more than they talk
  • parents would never outlive their children

Your turn. If you ruled the world, what would you change?

Is there value in manual labor?

The Sis owns and runs a commercial cleaning business. She and her business partner have 18 part-time employees. The Sis makes enough to send both of her kids to private school, and, if necessary, to support her family if her husband lost his job.

One of her part-time employees is my daughter, JJ. There are some family members that cringe at the thought of JJ working a custodial job on her breaks from school. These family members believe that, as the daughter of an engineer and lawyer, JJ should not have to take on what they consider a menial job.

Unfortunately for JJ, who would much prefer to spend her breaks sleeping in and hanging out with her friends, The Husband and I do not agree.

We refuse to give JJ an all-expenses paid trip through childhood, and here’s why: Continue reading

Is plastic surgery a good idea?

I don’t watch much television, and when I do, I generally prefer British crime dramas (Inspector Lewis, Poirot) or HGTV.

One evening I was flipping through channels and found a show about ‘Real Housewives’ of somewhere or other. I’ve been a real housewife, and I can tell you that my life of laundry and dishes and diapers bore very little resemblance to the lives of the women on that show.

What really captured my attention, though, is that the women had undergone so much plastic surgery that they barely looked human. Continue reading

Are we all ambassadors?

Immediately following WW2, many Americans were stationed in Japan as part of the Occupation. One of these Americans, Lucy Herndon Crockett, spent 18 months there on a Red Cross mission.

She wrote about the growing influence of Americans on the Japanese, about the tensions and the friendships between the two groups, and how every American in Japan  was a representative of America and democracy in her book Popcorn on the Ginza.

Even the civilian file clerk, eating popcorn while walking down the Ginza, a street of global-travelers-150x150high-end shops in Tokyo, is a reflection on America and our way of life, according to Crockett.

This is true today, as well. Every American is a reflection of our beliefs as a country. Continue reading

What is perseverance?

tennis-ballEvery Saturday, the courts at the Reed-Sweatt Family Tennis Center in Minneapolis are filled with hundreds of children, including my daughter, BaoBao, practicing tennis drills as part of the Inner City Tennis Program (ICT).

Along with tennis drills, the children are taught seven character values throughout the program. Sometimes the value taught is Perseverance, which ICT defines as “I will try one more time. Forever.”

This is a great lesson for kids, and I hope that BaoBao takes it to heart, but in reality, I find myself needing that lesson more and more.

My life contains more failures than I care to recount.
Fear and self-doubt are constant companions.
Whenever I think about giving up, I now tell myself, “Try one more time. Forever.”

How do you define perseverance?
When have you persevered?

[This post first appeared on The Socratic Project.]

Should political platforms include religion?

I am a Christian. My religious beliefs influence my political views.

My friend is an atheist. Her religious beliefs influence her political views.

Religious beliefs and political views inescapably intertwine. This would not be a problem, except that our political leaders are elected from only two major parties: Republicans and Democrats.

The exception to this rule is when a third-party candidate manages to get elected to a state office. (i.e. The Reform Party’s Jesse Ventura becoming Governor of Minnesota. Minnesotans have not elected a third-party candidate to a major office since Ventura. We learned that lesson the hard way.)

The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states:  Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.

Courts interpret this to mean two things:

  1. No national religion may be established in the U.S.
  2. The U.S. government may not give preferential treatment to one religion over another.

When all of our politicians come from only two political parties, and those parties espouse a particular belief in God, does that violate the Establishment Clause?

Political platforms are not laws enacted by Congress. However, as was repeatedly stated by both sides in the recent campaign, a politician’s religious views are integral to their political views.

So if all major politicians embrace God in their political platforms, does that not create a preference for one religion over another?

Would you feel the same way if politicians replaced “God” with “Allah” (Islam), “Deva” (Buddhism), or “Waheguru” (Sikhism)?