Book Review: An American Family by Khizr Khan

‘An American Family’ is literally one of the few Advanced Reader Copies or ARCs that I finished reading within days of receiving it via NetGalley.

I was curious to read the story of Khizr Khan. He is the Pakistani-American man who stood proudly at the Democratic National Convention in 2016 to take Donald Trump to task for his criticism of John McCain and Muslims during the U.S. Presidential Campaign.

Not only does Khizr describe his own struggle to achieve ‘the American Dream’, from sleeping on park benches to working multiple jobs, he also manages to become a voice of the 2nd or 3rd wave of original Pakistani men who had to leave the newly-minted nation to find work and stability in the Arabian Gulf countries and beyond. This entire generation or two, both men and women born in the early 1950’s to late 1960’s, all chased a better standard of life for their families and themselves, often by being exploited as skilled and unskilled labor in the Middle Eastern nations like the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and the Kingdom of Saudia Arabia.

I highly recommend this book for millennial Pakistanis and Pakistani-Americans to read to understand life from the perspective of our parents, aunts, uncles and mentors.

 “I wasn’t leaving so much as I was going forward”

“The billionaire’s playground that Dubai would become was light years away, but it was obvious even then that the emirate was making a frantic leap forward.”

Read my book review on Goodreads.

 

Book Review: Generations by Flavia Bondi

Flavia’s simply-drawn characters leave room for the momentous topics being discussed in her graphic novel ‘Generations’. She skilfully tackles familial estrangement, conservative attitudes towards homosexuality, and even the main protagonist’s quarter-life crisis – all while enveloping the reader into the folds of Matteo’s family.

Read this for one reason, if nothing else: the remixing of the classic analogy of the apple & the tree.

Taking a page from Edhi’s Book

A few years back I set upon reading Abdul Sattar Edhi’s autobiography, A Mirror to the Blind*, with my highlighter and black pen in hand.  As a Pakistani who has witnessed the extent of Edhi’s humanitarian efforts in action, from fast-responding ambulances to the ever-present cradles at the donation centres, I thought there was little about him that hadn’t become folklore.

13590326_1010126859037163_8249178195416169058_nI was mistaken.

To learn about Edhi, in his own words, is to learn about Pakistan and Karachi with new eyes. His sleeping on the bench outside the very first Edhi Centre, a simple room in Mithadar to his tireless devotion to his mother ; at times such immense acts of humility were casually remarked upon by Edhi that it made me feel ashamed.  Ashamed that the rigmarole of everyday life has taken me so far away from the basic tenets of my religion, that which is based upon community service and peace, that I only take part fully every year in Ramadan. It is during Ramadan that I sense at least some degree of satisfaction, ‘yes, I have given my all to my community’, yet even that is illusory and I know it.  True service is constant, sustainable and hidden.

One of my favorite quotes shares Edhi’s mother’s advice about giving charity explains the hidden concept best:

 “In the holy month of Ramadan she collected other Memon ladies and made bundles of foodstuff, which she sent me to drop through the windows of poor people or needy relatives. All the while her soft whispery voice echoed behind me, “It is charity only when your left- hand does not know what the right has given. When the respect of the receiver is foremost.” 

When news came of Edhi Sahib’s passing, it was a shock. Not only because it seemed that his guidance will always be there but also because in some ways his service had made him larger than life. In life, Edhi had become a legend.  In death, Edhi has become a template for  human development and selfless social work. 

It feels as if we have been given an opportunity, as Pakistanis, to give back to our communities without the shackles of prejudice and intolerance.  The next time a living being is in need, ask yourself, What would Edhi do? and set forth without a moment’s hesitation. I will do the same.

*(This book is meant to read and re-read.  I can not do justice to it with a hurried review. If you haven’t put it on your ‘to-be-read’ pile, do so now.)

 

Book Review: Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

4/5 Stars

notebookdeskLove,love, LOVE how Elizabeth Gilbert gets what’s f*cked up with our perceptions around creativity! This is an engaging read, without the ‘holier-than-thou’ overtones most guides have. In fact, it reads more like journal entries than a ‘self-help’ book, and that’s perfect. Those guides are last things we need crowding our bookshelves.

Yeah, so do read this. You might hate it, but it’ll get your backburner on overdrive and kick you out of complacency.

Are you on Goodreads? Let’s “connect”. *grin*