Reviews

Library Journal
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

In his fiction debut, actor/director Akhtar draws in readers with characters he has created with an understanding informed by empathy. Not unlike the protagonist he plays in the film The War Within, Hayat Shah is a young man exploring his religious identity within the context of his family and community. Whereas his father is a man of science openly antagonistic to religion, his devout mother is often critical of Muslim men by way of her husband's infidelities. Mediating the two viewpoints is Hayat's aunt Mina, recently arrived from Pakistan, who teaches Hayat the Koran and encourages his religious studies. Hayat cares about having an authentic identity as a Muslim, as dictated by his understanding of the Koran, which sets him on a collision course with his father and his peers. VERDICT Through Hayat's struggles to find a stable religious identity against the cultural backdrop of a pluralistic society pre-9/11, first-generation Pakistani American Akhtar shows that multiple factors, including social marginality, complicate the Muslim American experience. Readers who enjoyed Leila Aboulela's The Translator will enjoy this work. [See Prepub Alert, 7/10/11.]-Joshua Finnell, Denison Univ. Lib., Granville, OH (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Haunted by guilt, Hayat Shah remembers growing up in Milwaukee in the early 1980s, dazzled by Mina, gifted and gorgeous, his mother's beloved friend from Pakistan, who fled abuse back home for being too smart. When she moves into Hayat's home with her small son, Hayat is smitten by Mina's beauty and by all that she teaches him (and the reader) about the richness of the Qur'an: for Mina, faith is about personal interpretation, not about the outer forms; she does not wear a headscarf. But when she falls in love with physician Nathan Wolfson, Hayat's dad's Jewish partner, and plans to marry him, Hayat is wildly jealous. Many readers will recognize the extremist rants by and about Christians, Muslims, and Jews, from all sides. But the people at home move beyond the stereotypes, including Hayat's atheist womanizer dad, who hates the racist extremists. The young teen's personal story about growing up in Muslim America is both particular and universal, with intense connections of faith, sorrow, tenderness, anger, betrayal, questioning, and love.--Rochman, Hazel Copyright 2010 Booklist


Publishers Weekly
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Poor Hayat Shah: his father drinks and sleeps around; his mother constantly tells him how awful Muslim men are (especially his father, with his "white prostitutes"); he doesn't seem to have any friends; and he's in love with his mother's best friend, the beautiful Mina who's his mother's age and something of an aunt to him. Unlike his parents, Mina, who came to Milwaukee from a bad marriage in Pakistan, is devout, which makes sexual stirrings and the Qur'an go hand in hand for the young Hayat (aside from a framing device, the story mostly takes place when he's between 10 and 12). His rival for Mina's love isn't just a grown man, he's Jewish, so along with the roil of conflicting ideas about gender, sexuality, and Islamic constraint vs. Western looseness, first-time novelist Akhtar also takes on anti-Semitism. Though set well before 9/11, the book is clearly affected by it, with Akhtar determined to traffic in big themes and illustrate the range of Muslim thought and practice. This would be fine if the book didn't so often feel contrived, stocked with caricatures rather than people. Ultimately, Akhtar's debut reads like a melodramatic YA novel, not because of the age of its narrator but because of the abundance of lessons to be learned. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Library Journal
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

In his fiction debut, actor/director Akhtar draws in readers with characters he has created with an understanding informed by empathy. Not unlike the protagonist he plays in the film The War Within, Hayat Shah is a young man exploring his religious identity within the context of his family and community. Whereas his father is a man of science openly antagonistic to religion, his devout mother is often critical of Muslim men by way of her husband's infidelities. Mediating the two viewpoints is Hayat's aunt Mina, recently arrived from Pakistan, who teaches Hayat the Koran and encourages his religious studies. Hayat cares about having an authentic identity as a Muslim, as dictated by his understanding of the Koran, which sets him on a collision course with his father and his peers. VERDICT Through Hayat's struggles to find a stable religious identity against the cultural backdrop of a pluralistic society pre-9/11, first-generation Pakistani American Akhtar shows that multiple factors, including social marginality, complicate the Muslim American experience. Readers who enjoyed Leila Aboulela's The Translator will enjoy this work. [See Prepub Alert, 7/10/11.]-Joshua Finnell, Denison Univ. Lib., Granville, OH (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Haunted by guilt, Hayat Shah remembers growing up in Milwaukee in the early 1980s, dazzled by Mina, gifted and gorgeous, his mother's beloved friend from Pakistan, who fled abuse back home for being too smart. When she moves into Hayat's home with her small son, Hayat is smitten by Mina's beauty and by all that she teaches him (and the reader) about the richness of the Qur'an: for Mina, faith is about personal interpretation, not about the outer forms; she does not wear a headscarf. But when she falls in love with physician Nathan Wolfson, Hayat's dad's Jewish partner, and plans to marry him, Hayat is wildly jealous. Many readers will recognize the extremist rants by and about Christians, Muslims, and Jews, from all sides. But the people at home move beyond the stereotypes, including Hayat's atheist womanizer dad, who hates the racist extremists. The young teen's personal story about growing up in Muslim America is both particular and universal, with intense connections of faith, sorrow, tenderness, anger, betrayal, questioning, and love.--Rochman, Hazel Copyright 2010 Booklist


Publishers Weekly
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Poor Hayat Shah: his father drinks and sleeps around; his mother constantly tells him how awful Muslim men are (especially his father, with his "white prostitutes"); he doesn't seem to have any friends; and he's in love with his mother's best friend, the beautiful Mina who's his mother's age and something of an aunt to him. Unlike his parents, Mina, who came to Milwaukee from a bad marriage in Pakistan, is devout, which makes sexual stirrings and the Qur'an go hand in hand for the young Hayat (aside from a framing device, the story mostly takes place when he's between 10 and 12). His rival for Mina's love isn't just a grown man, he's Jewish, so along with the roil of conflicting ideas about gender, sexuality, and Islamic constraint vs. Western looseness, first-time novelist Akhtar also takes on anti-Semitism. Though set well before 9/11, the book is clearly affected by it, with Akhtar determined to traffic in big themes and illustrate the range of Muslim thought and practice. This would be fine if the book didn't so often feel contrived, stocked with caricatures rather than people. Ultimately, Akhtar's debut reads like a melodramatic YA novel, not because of the age of its narrator but because of the abundance of lessons to be learned. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.