since moving to atlanta in may, i have met some fascinating new people-- many at the non-profit think tank where i work. matthew and i work together on the same initiative and have shared many a divergent theory on politics and pop culture over a nice cup of tea (i prefer the exotic and spicy chai and matthew normally sticks with something white and fruity-- the antithesis of our choice in women, i have discovered.) matthew, from upstate new york, met his lovely wife melody, who grew up (mostly) in dayton, ohio, while the pair were in college together at wesleyan in connecticut. now you might be saying to yourself, "dayton? when i think of dayton, i don't exactly think 'exotic and spicy'. in fact, i kinda think 'white and fruity'. did you mix up your metaphors there, collins?" well, let's just say matthew managed to find himself a little fireball in the rolling hills of middleton.
melody moezzi is an activist, author, and attorney who happens to be iranian and muslim. and she is damn proud of all those qualifiers. she spent more than four years of her life-- a true labor of love-- to research, write, harangue, beg and finally publish her non-fiction work "war on error: real stories of american muslims". the book itself is a collection of interviews with twelve americans who are all very different but share one common bond, they are all muslim. melody uses their stories to tackle the misconceptions of islam that have run rampant in america in a post-9/11 world, some extreme and others simply naive (luckily, i fall into the latter category). her prose is melodic (no pun intended) and mirrors the way she speaks in person, minus the usual expletives peppered throughout, of course. i liked melody from the first moment i met her; she kissed me on both cheeks and said "damn" in the first 30 seconds. my kind of woman.
so, the event. melody spoke at wordsmiths books in downtown decatur on a friday evening. she approached the makeshift stage in her knee high boots and various bits of gold jewlery (and just on a side note...kudos matthew. that wedding ring is bitchin'!), sipping on a fresca and exuding a demure timidity. and then she opened her mouth. the only word i can think of to describe the reaction from the 30 some odd people there was captivated. complete captivation. melody read a selection from the book about time she spent in montana, drawing connections between disparate experiences and injecting humor into even the most serious and solemn of assertions. it, and she, was wonderful.
the reading was followed by a q&a which melody handled splendidly. eventhough atlanta is a big, diverse city, some crackers still creep in at events. but even potentially offensive comments and questions were disarmed by the empowered yet gentle reaction they elicited from melody. i was impressed with her command of the subject of islam and the qur'an, her wit, and her verbal filter. after dealing with the masses for a good 30 minutes, melody took her leave-- to a heavy dose of sincere applause-- and perched herself behind a folding table with a green sharpie for the book signing that was to follow.
i waited in line with the rest, making plans with alan-- the director of communications at our non-profit-- to head to birdie's (a very gay place on the square in decatur)afterwards. when i approached melody with my recently purchased copy of her tome, she excitedly grabbed it from me to sign. she politely asked how to spell my name (thanks to all the crazies who have tried to ghetto-ize the one true spelling of my first name, everyone now has to ask how to spell it). i said it was the standard way, uniteresting-- just like me. we chatted for a minute or two and then alan and i headed out, leaving matthew to deal with melody's parents. the next morning, when i cracked open "war on error" to see if i could find any embarassing tid-bits from the chapter about matthew to mock him with on monday morning, i came upon the inscription written on the title page from the night before. she had written: "to the very not uninteresting" collins and i smiled with the realization that maybe i wasn't that uninteresting after all.