True American: Part Three

Photo by Drew Farwell on Unsplash

[Image Description: The smoldering embers of a campfire bloom and brighten around a charred wooden log]


Present Day

Dear Basma,

It’s been a while since I’ve heard from you. Have you been getting my letters?

It feels so strange not wearing a hijab. I feel like I’m naked. Samira feels the same way. I think most of the other girls do. Hijabs were one of the first things they ripped away from us (and the rest of our clothes). Now we’re forced to wear khaki shorts and these white polos. We all look like snowmen. I would have preferred pants and long sleeves. At least, that way we would have some protection from the onslaught of mosquitos. But I must be grateful for what our Lord provides.

There’s one television that we all can watch. The counselors pick only what our Lord makes, which includes old reruns of “The Apprentice” and “America’s Next Top Model.” I’m sorry I never got to finish binging “Game of Thrones.” You will have to tell me what happens. They have better not killed off Daenerys. She was always my favorite.

Today we had to watch American football. I’ve only watched it when I went to our neighbor’s Super Bowl parties. But I didn’t really watch. Do you remember those parties? Where Mr. Hinds would wear Broncos gear from head-to-toe even if they weren’t playing? And those little chicken wings his wife would make… Those were glorious.

“We’re going to watch a team called the Patriots,” Counselor Kelly told us. “They are our Lord’s favorite team. He wanted you to watch them play against his least favorite team, the Broncos.”

We all groaned.

“Anyone but the Patriots,” Laila muttered. “I don’t even watch football and I know you’re supposed to hate the Patriots.” She straightened up as Counselor Sean patted his gun.

“They are our Lord and Savior’s favorite team! We must watch the same team he does!” Counselor Kelly shouted. “Now, if all of you had driven here, you would go out to your cars and drink beer. But since you were brought here by bus, you don’t!” She laughs at her own joke. “So you just drink beer, eat brats, and watch the game here. It’s a reward for all your hard work on the wallets!” She winked.

“What are brats?” Mohammed #3 asked, crinkling up his nose.


We all let out another groan. Counselor Sean shot a hole in the wall.

“Come on now! This is a reward, a celebration! It’s how we celebrate in America, by drinking beer and watching football!”

I never had a brat in my life. In Denver, we celebrate with a burger from Good Times. I miss the wild fries.

“You know that we can’t eat sausage!” Kyle cried, leaping up onto a table and knocking a case of beer over. The smell seeped into the gray carpet as the beer poured out. I felt like throwing up. “It’s against Allah’s will! It’s--”

Counselor Sean tipped the table so that more of the beer slipped and Kyle fell off.

“Come on snowflake,” He jerked Kyle up. “It’s time for you to learn some more about the values of America.”

Kyle turned the color of the carpet. “No! No--I know the values. I know to love our Lord.” He’s shaking now.

Samira and I exchanged an alarmed look. This was the first time Kyle didn’t fight back.

“I just want to enjoy the celebration! I’ll eat the brats--look--” He grabbed one and stuffed it into his mouth. He forced a crackled grin. Laila recoiled from his face.

Counselor Sean sauntered back to his corner. He seemed content for now.  

“See everyone! Kyle is in the spirit!”

I miss you.

Your sister,



Dear Basma,

We’re no longer alone. Today they shoveled in the others. We heard on the news that California has fallen.

There are so many others. The cabins now are even more cramped. Five new girls are stuffed in with us. Three of them are sleeping on top of each other on the floor, and they all have to share one blanket. Rumor has it that one of the Mohammeds that was living in another cabin decided it would be easier to just sleep by the campfire every night.

There isn’t a lot to talk about, other than how much we all hate being here. It’s funny how much hate can unite as well as divide people.

The counselors still believe that we will one day be able to reintegrate with American society, that we will one day truly be American. I don’t know how they expect this to happen when their ideas of “American activities” have become not only making wallets, but sweaters, belts, and shoes. It’s turned into a full-blown sweatshop, complete with flies, dangerous machines, and a lack of air conditioning.

I’m going to try to review my Girl Scout skills to know which berries and plants are okay to eat. Full meals are becoming sparse around here.

Writing has made me tired, so I’m going to have to cut this letter short.

I miss you,

Your sister,



Dear Basma,

I have no idea if you are getting my letters. I do hope you are well. I’m not sure if anyone even cares about us anymore. Or even knows we’re here.

Laila heard a rumor that the Lord is going to visit our camp. He wants to see if we’re “American” enough to be integrated back into regular society. I know I won’t make the cut. Counselor Paul caught me praying the other day, and put me in the chapel to stare at a giant cross. Good Americans worship Christ.

I’m not sure how much longer I can take this. I know I shouldn’t complain. I know that I am supposed to keep faith. But it’s so hard when---



Sarah Mina Osman is a writer and teacher residing in Los Angeles. She loves to travel and has been to four different continents. She has a deep appreciation for tacos and sloths.