Ala Fox speaks to managing editor Emily Everett about her essay “Ramadan in Saint-Denis,” which appears in The Common’s most recent issue. Ala talks about weaving together the threads of her experiences living in Paris into an essay that explores a lot of questions but doesn’t try to answer them. The piece dives into the dynamics between neighborhoods, and between native Parisians and immigrant communities, and explores the possibility of creating and sustaining love across language barriers and distance. Ala also discusses why she was nervous about publishing the essay, and how it would be received in the Muslim community.
It is Ramadan in Saint-Denis, the banlieue north of Paris. It is almost 21:00h on a June Sunday, and the sun hangs a hazy orange in the sky. The elevator in Amir’s building is broken so we climb the six stories, past the floors of muffled French Arabic and children’s screams. His mother’s home has one bedroom and a narrow tile-floored kitchen, like the one in my grandmother’s apartment in Beijing. There is a cigarette lighter for the stove, but I am too clumsy for this, so Amir manages.