Review: Proud: My Fight for an Unlikely American Dream by Ibtihaj Muhammad

Proud: My Fight for an Unlikely American Dream

Title: Proud: My Fight for an Unlikely American Dream
Author: Ibtihaj Muhammad, Lori L. Tharps
Type: Nonfiction
Genre: Memoir, Autobiography
Publisher: Hachette Books
Date published: July 24th 2018
Format: Digital Copy
Page Count: 256
Source: ARC via Netgalley

Rating: 5/5

Growing up in New Jersey as the only African American Muslim in hijab in town, at school, and on the playing fields, Ibtihaj Muhammad always had to find her own way. When she discovered fencing, a sport traditionally reserved for the wealthy and white, once again she had to defy expectations and make a place for herself in a sport she grew to love. Even though Ibtihaj would start fencing later than most, at 13 years old her talent was undeniable. From winning state championships with her high school team to three-time All-America selections at Duke University, Ibtihaj was poised for success, but the fencing community wasn’t ready to welcome her with open arms.

Ibtihaj Muhammad’s path to Olympic greatness has been marked with opposition and near-debilitating challenges because of her race, religion, and gender. As the only woman of color and the only religious minority on the U.S. women’s saber team, again Ibtihaj had to push past stereotypes, misconceptions, and negativity to find her own path to success and Olympic glory. 

Proud is the inspiring story of how Ibtihaj rose above it all with grace and compassion. She provides an unflinching and honest portrayal of how she managed to stay true to herself and still play by the rules. A coming-of-age story, a hero’s journey, and a moving memoir from one of the nation’s most influential athletes.


Thank you to Hachette Books and NetGalley for providing an advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest and unbiased opinion of it.

Being a fencer myself, I was so excited to read this book. Proud is one of my most anticipated reads of the year.

As the first Muslim American woman to wear a hijab while competing for the United States in the Olympics, Ibtihaj Muhammad is an inspirational symbol for people all around the world. While her success is well-known, her book Proud invites readers into her life and her inner thoughts. This is a wonderful memoir that inspires and teaches. Ibtihaj Muhammad tells her story of her fight for the American dream, her struggles as a Muslim American, and finally her success in the Rio Olympics.

From the get-go, Ibtihaj begins with her first experiences of her status as a minority from the small age of grade 4. Even though her name is a 7 letter word, her teacher finds it difficult to pronounce and cuts it down to “Ibti”. While Ibtihaj accepts, she questions why her teacher can easily pronounce other longer names. From a young age, Ibtihaj is already experiencing the results of her differences.

Raised in a middle-classed family, Ibtihaj’s parents wanted Ibtihaj to get involved in a sport, while still being able to stay true to their faith. When her mother discovered fencing while looking into a school gym one day, she knew exactly that this was the sport for her. With the clothing that provided coverage over the body and a mask to shield the face, fencing was perfect for Ibtihaj. With the mask, everyone was the same and equal.

Ibtihaj’s work ethic is truly something to appreciate. Despite getting involved in the sport much later than others, Ibtihaj makes up for it with her hard work, determination, and passion for the sport. She trains hard and doesn’t let others discouragement bring her down.

“When other people told me ‘no, you can’t,’ that’s when I told myself, ‘yes, I can.’ “

There has been many ups and downs in her fencing career, but her determination and perseverance if what brought her to the podium of the Rio 2016 Olympics. Her drive is really unparalleled and truly inspirational.

Her road to Rio was never a smooth path. What made it so difficult was the subtle and outright discrimination that she faced. Some of it sourced from the referees, who were biased when reffing her bouts. Most of it came from her team. The aggression that she faced from other fencers were heartbreaking to read, like how they would ignore her during competitions or even leave her out of group dinners. For anyone else, this would have broken their spirit. But Ibtihaj fought through it and didn’t allow it to deter her.

Not only has she been amazing in fencing, Ibtihaj has done so much for the community as well, from creating her own clothing brand, Louella, to being a part of the United States Department of State’s Council to Empower Women and Girls through Sports. Fencing has turned out to be more than just a sport for her, but a method to provide a change in the world and to empower other women.

Needless to say, this was an amazing novel. Ibtihaj writes so passionately and honestly about her struggles and success, that it’s impossible not to appreciate her work. It’s amazing how despite all the aggression she’s faced for her differences, she remains so faithful to her identity and doesn’t falter from her ideals. This world doesn’t have enough fencing novels like these. This world doesn’t have enough people like her. This is a must-read. It’s truly inspirational and empowering.




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