Wednesday, December 18, 2013


Controversial books make me a little uneasy, as though I need to hide what I'm reading.  This one is about an adolescent boy, Hayat, growing up in Milwaukee in the 1980s, whose parents are non-practicing Muslims from Pakistan.  His mother's close friend Mina comes to live with the family, fleeing with her son from the oppression of her ex-husband and her family in Pakistan.  Ironically, she begins mentoring Hayat in the Quran, and he eagerly sets out to memorize the entire book without necessarily fully grasping or embracing its meaning.  Hayat's father is a non-believer and provides the counterpoint to Mina and Hayat's devotion to Allah, scoffing at what he considers to be total foolishness.  Mina's engagement to a Jewish colleague of Hayat's father sets off a series a fireworks, including a rash and hateful act on Hayat's part whose tragic consequences will haunt him for the rest of his life.  This book has some striking similarities to John Updike's Terrorist, especially with regard to the power of religion to mold the beliefs of a young person in a radical manner, and in both cases that religion happens to be Islam.  This book, however, is not about violence, although there is some of the domestic sort.  This author populates his novel with devout Muslims, liberal Muslims, and Muslims who bend the Quran to rationalize their hate and prejudices.  Hayat and Mina both examine and reconsider their faith as this very compelling story unfolds.  Their journeys ultimately diverge, and we know from the beginning that Hayat abandons at least some of the strictures of Islam, whereas Mina chooses to remain steadfast to her faith, at the cost of almost everything else that she holds dear.

1 comment:

Elizabeth said...

Patty...thanks for stopping my blog earlier and commenting on ONCE WE WERE BROTHERS.

It was heartwrenching, but it was WWII. It was very good, though.

Let me know what you decide about reading the book.

I am going to take a look around your blog. I had American Dervish on my shelf but couldn't get into it.

Thanks again for stopping by.

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