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The Outcast Of Society

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"I've always been an outsider; a displaced person." Alice Hoffman.

At one time or another everyone has been at the fringe of society in some way: an outcast in high school, a stranger in a foreign country, the best at something, the worst at something, the one who's different. Truly being an outsider is the one thing we all have in common and have experienced it one way or another. Through the character of Lily, a white Ethiopian woman, Camille Gibbs weaves a rich tapestry for struggles of an outsider in her book Sweetness in the belly. As an outsider Lily struggles to achieve a sense of belonging, and feels isolated from her roots. However being an outsider allows Lily to explore who she is as an individual and her faith and the practice of Islam is what binds Lily to her Ethiopian culture.

As a child, Lily always felt out of place, an outsider. She was born to restless English parents who would cart her around the world, never staying anywhere long enough to put down roots. She felt as if her parents never really wanted her, she was just something that they had to bring along. In Harar the adapted country she grew in, Lily was labeled a "ferenji" (foreigner). "snotty nosed children who ran up and touched me shouting "Ferenji! Ferenji"(51). Even though Lily worked very hard to adapt to the Ethiopian culture, which she did, people never truly understood her, and always misjudged her. Despite knowing her religion Islam really well, she was never really appreciated for who she was. She was always misjudged because of her "white" color. "We do not learn our Islam from farenjis! These people are useless! Liars! Thieves!" (211).

Lily wasn't appreciated much in London (from where she originally was) either. Although her white skin gave her authority in the country, society fully never accepted her, because Lily was still set to Ethiopian culture, and struggled to adapt to the English way of life. "Every time I introduced myself to a new neighbor .... I presume to be Ethiopian, I watch their faces soften, distrust yielding to uncertainty as they listen to the white woman with the Semitic tongue and peculiar accent." (17). In both countries, the place she grew up in (Harar), and the place she was originally from (London), Lily was an outcast, however she stayed strong to what she believed in which gave her the strength to overcome her struggles. "This is not an easy place for an outsider, but you have this certainty about you, because of your faith, and it has allowed you to fight for a place here" (189).

Religion and faith played a major role in Lily's life. She believes that through religion she can safely relate to others. "Islam unites us, where language and borders does not" (55). When teaching two young boys Arabic, Lily reflects upon how much she loves Islam because "it connects us through time.....In a fatherless world, I was link in a chain that connected God's Prophet...with two dusty Ethiopian boys." (69). Lily practices Islam very well, she becomes so well versed in the Quran, she is charged with teaching local Islamic Children. However despite learning to be Muslim in faith and practice, she is repeatedly denied connections with others who only see the whiteness of her skin. In spite of her knowledge of the Quran, and Islamic faith, she is regarded suspiciously a "ferenji who speaks Harari," and is accused of imitating religious rituals only to be accepted in society. Even though Lily struggled to gain acceptance within her religion, her connection to Islam helped her escape from the more disturbing aspects of life. "Learning Quran had taught me how to be engaged while perfectly still. It had taught me patience, something that I naturally didn't possess." (54) Lily's religion, her faith described who she is as



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