Monday, April 15, 2013

Finally Done: "American Dervish" by Ayad Akhtar

Finally Done: American Dervish by Ayad Akhtar, 2012, 9780316183314.

Committee book.  Spoilers await.

12-year-old Hayat lives in a Milwaukee suburb in the early '80s.  Hayat is the American born son of Pakistani parents.  Hayat has religious awakening and emotional trauma.  Hayat grows up.  Hayat tells neat little epilogue at the end.
Hayat is overly protected by his mother.  She has not intergrated into American culture like Hayat's father.  His father is a research neurologist and serial philanderer.  His mother is almost always angry with the dad and shares way too much information with Hayat.  She tells Hayat of his father's "white whores" and how awful Muslim men act towards women.

Mom's best friend Mina lives in Pakistan and is recently divorced with a 4-year-old son.  Mom convinces Mina to come over to the U.S.  Hayat falls in tweener love with Mina.  Hayat does not know about sex.  Hayat's feelings are confused.  Hayat is lonely.

Mina starts telling Hayat about Muhammed, reading from the Koran, and tells tales about religious devotees and their religious bliss.  Mina is a progressive Muslim but still devoted.  Hayat's religious fervor builds and he wants to become a Hafiz - someone who has memorized the Koran.  Hayat's father has completely rejected Islam and he thinks it is dangerous foolishness. Mom is not religious but has not purposefully so like Dad.

Things happen.  Mina meets Dad's research partner, Nate.  Mina and Nate hit if off.  A very chaste, South Asian-style romance and courtship begins.  Nate decides to convert to Islam and grows a beard.  Dad says, "You don't want to go the Mosque, man."  Dad, Nate and Hayat go to mosque.  Local iman is fat and much disliked by Dad.  Local iman gives sermon on how Jews are evil.  Nate, born a Jew, stands up and speaks out.  Dad, Nate, and Hayat beat feet.

Nate and Mina's romance falls apart with that and Hayat's sabotage.  Hayat wants everything to stay the same with Mina giving him lots of attention and living with his family.  Hayat sends a telegram to her family in  Pakistan saying Mina is engaged to an unbeliever.

Mina is courted by local Pakistani's cousin.  Dad hates the local Pakistani.  Cousin is a weaselly looking dude but good to Mina's son.  They marry.  Wedding is a eye-opener for Hayat as he hears about sex from a couple older kids and walks by a bar where his Dad is sucking face with some woman.

Mina's husband is abusive.   Mina moves with him to Kansas City.  Mina has to secretly communicate with Mom.  Mina gets cancer when Hayat is older.  Hayat confesses to her about the telegram.  Mina has been through an awful difficult life but is still religious and easily forgives Hayat.  She wants him to be happy.  Mina accepts life as God's decision.  Hayat quit religion a while ago.

1.  Not for me.  The topic of tweener issues and family turmoil usually creep me out. 
2.  Things did not pick up for me until Mina dumps Nate and starts dating the Weasel.  The interactions between Dad and the local Pakistanis was most interesting.  The wedding was interesting.
3.  The cover photo was a good catch with a kid the same age as Hayat riding a bike in the suburbs.
4.  Akhtar shaved his head.  Where was this guy from, Elm Grove or something?

No comments: