books and reading

Homeland Elegies

Title: Homeland Elegies

Author: Ayad Akhtar

Genre: Asian American Literature

PopSugar Reading Challenge prompt: book by a Muslim American author

I had no idea what this book was about, and I had another book selected for this PopSugar prompt, but I’ve heard people say how great it is, so I put it on my list. Even though it’s fiction, it reads very much like non-fiction. It’s several chapters, but each one is its own story. The stories revolve around Akhtar, but also his family, friends, career, and being Muslim in a post 9/11 and pro-Trump world.

From Goodreads: A deeply personal work about hope and identity in a nation coming apart at the seams, Homeland Elegies blends fact and fiction to tell an epic story of belonging and dispossession in the world that 9/11 made. Part family drama, part social essay, part picaresque adventure — at its heart, it is the story of a father, a son, and the country they both call home.

Akhtar forges a new narrative voice to capture a country in which debt has ruined countless lives and our ideals have been sacrificed to the gods of finance, where a TV personality is president and immigrants live in fear, and where the nation’s unhealed wounds of 9/11 wreak havoc around the world. Akhtar attempts to make sense of it all through the lens of a story about one family, from a heartland town in America to palatial suites in Central Europe to guerilla lookouts in the mountains of Afghanistan, and spares no one — least of all himself — in the process.

I read one chapter a day, which broke the book up into small vignettes. I’m not sure what parts of the story are fiction vs non-fiction. I didn’t do any research, so I don’t know if Akhtar has ever said. I took it all as truth, though. That said, I’m not going to debate anyone who believes it’s entirely fiction. Given that the book deals with actual events like 9/11, Charlottesville, mass shootings, Trump’s election, etc, the book is definitely grounded in truth. Own voices books are critical these days. And I’ve been reading a lot of Black and Latinx authors. But I’m glad the PopSugar challenge put a Muslim American author on the challenge. This one was a really great insight into the life of Muslims these days.

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