Alert
Close

Top the Trizzle leaderboard by 5 p.m. Friday to win a $100 gift card! Learn more

Highlights

Open

FREE FUN!

AARP Games - Play Now!
AARP-iPad-ePub-app

FALL 2014 NATIONAL EVENT

Come to San Diego!

Sept. 4 - 6

Technology and Innovation

AARP TV

Watch episodes of AARP Live and other AARP broadcasts.

Most Popular

Viewed

Book Review: American Dervish

Author Ayad Akhtar's coming-of-age journey as an American Muslim

Does this mean American Dervish intends to condemn an entire faith? Not at all — but Akhtar is perfectly happy to expose its contradictions, and how easily it can be abused. Hayat is the perfect observer in that role, with Akhtar’s bright, fast-paced writing persuasively conveying a boy’s wide-eyed shock at adult behavior. When Naveed sets his son’s precious Koran ablaze — the father has finally had enough of the faith-based squabbling under his roof — Hayat’s emotions surge as if he’s witnessing a murder: “He flashed me a treacherous smile as he held the flame to the pages and waited. It wasn’t until the paper caught fire that I realized I was surprised. I had expected the pages not to burn.”

But if the hero of the story is Hayat, its emotional heartbeat is Mina, suffused with sensuality and intelligence but often culturally bound to suppress both. Later, after she falls into a new relationship as miserable as the one she just escaped, Mina will justify the wreckage by quoting a famous line from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Crack-Up: “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in the mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”

Is that a moral sentiment, or the avoidance of one? Akhtar doesn’t address the matter too closely, except to voice skepticism of fundamentalism of whatever brand. “Intention,” Mina tells Hayat. “That’s all Allah cares about.” On this point, American Dervish is wholly successful: Abruptly awakened to the complexities of faith, Hayat is forced to confront both the grace of a religion and the gazillion ways in which it can spark animosities among insiders and outsiders alike. Thanks to that accomplishment, American Dervish is a strong candidate for the title of the Great Muslim American Novel.

Mark Athitakis is a writer based in Washington, D.C. He blogs about books at American Fiction Notes (markathitakis.com).

You may also like: Stumbling Toward the Divine. >>

Topic Alerts

You can get weekly email alerts on the topics below. Just click “Follow.”

Manage Alerts

Processing

Please wait...

progress bar, please wait

Related
Video

Your Life Calling with Jane Pauley talks with Robert Rudolph, a former mortgage broker who left his career to pursue his first love: choir music.

Tell Us WhatYou Think

Please leave your comment below.

AARP Bookstore

Discounts & Benefits

From companies that meet the high standards of service and quality set by AARP.

Regal Cinemas movie theater

Members can save $3 on soda + popcorn combos at Regal Cinemas. Restrictions apply.

Tanger Outlets

Members can get a free Tanger Coupon Book with discount offers from top brand names.

Live Nation

Members save 25% or more when buying tickets in groups of four from Ticketmaster.

Member Benefits

Join or renew today! Members receive exclusive member benefits & affect social change.