March 23, 2012

American Dervish

another book that has been on my request list so long, i forgot where i first heard about it. i must have read something about Islam/Pakistan/immigration, because another library book in my stack is a biography of a NY Jewish woman who converts to Islam and moves to Pakistan.

the story takes place in Milwaukee in the 80's. Hayat is a Pakistani-American boy whose mother's best friend Mina escapes an abusive arranged marriage in Pakistan and comes with her toddler son to live with Hayat's family. Mina is the axis around which the entirety of the story spins. the whole narrative is comprised of the other characters reacting to her: her faith, her plight, her decisions. i began the book assuming, as the American cover leads one to think, that Hayat is the dervish. but it's Mina who ultimately sacrifices everything, although for what i am not entirely sure. (the UK cover seems a little more accurate to me, seen below)

Hayat's parents have long ago disaffiliated themselves from Islam, but Mina arrives with her own passionate interpretation of the Koran, which she teaches Hayat. He is entranced and immerses himself in the scriptures, only to become more and more disillusioned through the course of his adolescence and the events that unfold. it's an interesting religious coming-of-age story, made more fascinating by lifting the veil on a foreign religion & culture in the Western world. i really liked this one.

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