A Conversation With Salina Ali

Salina Ali is a student attending classes at CCNY. Her literacy narrative is a memoir about growing up Islamic and her experience abiding by those Islamic norms. Believing this religion wasn’t right for her at a young age, she questions her own religion. Due to growing up in a very traditional household, Ali was scared to voice her thoughts verbally. “My parents would enforce Islamic norms, occasionally saying “Oh don’t listen to this type of music, don’t eat pork, don’t do this”, she says when asked about what her household was like. She would keep her thoughts until recently. Later at a science summer program, she and a lab partner researched antibiotics that were ineffective at curing a specific bacteria. This experiment would be the catalyst of a revelation for Ali. She compares the antibiotics that are ineffective at curing illnesses to following a religion that constantly made her question herself. This led her to find that this religion was holding her back from living life. Finally, she stops following this religion and starts living her own life.

Ali uses a lot of emotional appeal in this narrative. She uses personal anecdotes to express her feelings and to help the reader connect to her experiences. One of these anecdotes was when she felt embarrassed on the first day of seventh grade. It’s lunchtime and all the other students were lined up to get food, while she was the only one sitting down, with her lunchbox. Because of her religion, she wasn’t allowed to eat the meat the school served because otherwise that would be considered sinning. Feeling jealous, she questioned herself. It would be one of the many times when she felt out of place because of the religion she was born into.

During the summer program, Ali executes the experiment with a lab partner who she quickly bonds with. After learning more about her lab partner, things immediately clicked. The partner, in fact, comes from a completely different household when it comes to spirituality.” We started talking for a while, she came from a family that wasn’t so religious. She was so different from me. We quickly became close and exchanged numbers”, she exclaims in the interview. This marks the catalyst in her journey.

What makes this rhetorical strategy insightful is Ali shares her inner thoughts in these anecdotes. She shows how she felt when she ate lunch on the first day of seventh grade, feeling unnatural because she couldn’t eat the same food the other students ate. These feelings of isolation make the narrative more relatable to anyone who also struggles with religion growing up, unsure if religion is supposed to guarantee a happy life. Like Ali, many other people are born into families who are very traditional when it comes to religion, so having to keep these feelings of being an outcast in society to themselves isn’t uncommon for them.