“The Wrong End of the Table” by Ayser Salman is a funny outlook on American life via the eyes of an Iraqi Muslim transplant. It’s very light as in mostly the reader gets a view of dating obstacles rather than visits to the mosque, but the humor is well-constructed and the story is relatable.
The author moves to Ohio from Iraq at the age of 3 with eventually relocating to Kentucky then Saudi Arabia then back to Kentucky, where she wrestles with adolescence. Some of the events chosen to be highlighted are intriguing with her stint living in Saudi Arabia and connecting with a friend through the “Xanadu” soundtrack. Or how another friend there worked to escape the restrictive country to her mother who lived in the U.S. The Saudi Arabia chapters stick out since it’s rare to hear what it was like to grow up as a girl there in the 1980s, especially one who had come from America. Another event that stuck out was when the author lived in the college dorm in Kentucky and was accused by her African-American roommate’s cousin of racism over a Prince poster. It shows the growth during that young adult period when clashing with different people from different backgrounds.
Then some of the events were questionable to be plucked out for a memoir like her preschool experience of seeing sexual touching, which didn’t really open to another storyline though emphasized how America would be very different from Iraq. It fit with the theme of the story of not understanding what was going on while trying to be in the know, but it was awkward. At the end, she dives into dating in her 40s, which highlights multiple men who don’t really make an imprint in her life yet they’re mentioned.
Overall, it’s a light and funny memoir. I waited for moments such as her experiences jumping to so many different places and finding a mosque since her Muslim identity is in the title and a part of the book’s marketing, but it’s somewhat missing. The footnotes on almost every page may sound annoying, but they’re hilarious. To sum the memoir up would be it’s a collection of essays of experiences that may not be as life-defining but can induce laughs.