About the Book:
Hayat Shah is a young American in love for the first time. His normal life of school, baseball, and video games had previously been distinguished only by his Pakistani heritage and by the frequent chill between his parents, who fight over things he is too young to understand. Then Mina arrives, and everything changes.
Mina is Hayat’s mother’s oldest friend from Pakistan. She is independent, beautiful and intelligent, and arrives on the Shah’s doorstep when her disastrous marriage in Pakistan disintegrates. Even Hayat’s skeptical father can’t deny the liveliness and happiness that accompanies Mina into their home. Her deep spirituality brings the family’s Muslim faith to life in a way that resonates with Hayat as nothing has before. Studying the Quran by Mina’s side and basking in the glow of her attention, he feels an entirely new purpose mingled with a growing infatuation for his teacher.
When Mina meets and begins dating a man, Hayat is confused by his feelings of betrayal. His growing passions, both spiritual and romantic, force him to question all that he has come to believe is true. Just as Mina finds happiness, Hayat is compelled to act — with devastating consequences for all those he loves most.
American Dervish is a brilliantly written, nuanced, and emotionally forceful look inside the interplay of religion and modern life. Ayad Akhtar was raised in the Midwest himself, and through Hayat Shah he shows readers vividly the powerful forces at work on young men and women growing up Muslim in America. This is an intimate, personal first novel that will stay with readers long after they turn the last page.
About the Author:
This was an excellent book. As a coming of age tale of a young Muslim boy (Hayat) it tells the story of a first crush and that boy’s learning about love. His parents’ marriage is shaky at best and his mother talks to him about the most inappropriate things; he is only 12 and yet she shares with him of her husband’s affairs. The household is refreshed when Mina enters – Mina is Hayat’s mothers dearest friend from Pakistan. She is escaping an abusive father and an embarrassing divorce. She brings a breath of fresh air into Hayat’s life and he promptly falls in love with all of his 12 year old heart.
If one reads deeper though, this is a tale of the harm that untutored religious zeal and child neglect can cause a family. Not child neglect in failing to feed and clothe but child neglect in failing to nurture, teach and keep from children that which they are too young to know. Add in some harsh religious stricture with no balance and a young brain can come to some very dangerous conclusions.
It was a book I found hard to put down and I read it over the course of two days. The writing is compelling, the characters fascinating and the story universal. Love and regret are found no matter the race or religion. Not to mention the sacrifices a woman will make for the sake of a child. A truly fascinating look into a lifestyle so very different in some ways and yet so very similar in others to our own.
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Disclosure: I received a copy of American Dervish gratis from Little Brown and Company. Any opinions expressed are my honest opinions and were not impacted by my receipt of the free book. I received no monetary compensation for this post.