Thursday, May 24, 2012

Review: American Dervish by Ayad Akhtar

Title: American Dervish
Author: Ayad Akhtar
Format: Hardback
Publisher: Little, Brown, and Company
Publish Date: January 9, 2012
Source: Library

Why You're Reading This Book:
  • You don't mind a book that covers heavy topics.
  • You like books about different cultures.
What's the Story?:

From "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."

My Two Cents:

Hayat is in the stage of his life where he is just beginning to understand adult relationships. In many ways, he was still a child. He doesn't understand that sometimes trying to get what we want and trying to help other people (if done in the wrong way) can have ill-effects for those that we are trying to help. Sometimes the bad outweighs the good. I think that a lot of times, it takes us a really long time to understand that and to really understand all of the implications that go along with those decisions.

I also liked the aspect of the differences and clashes of culture. It definitely made for a very interesting story. Hayat wants to totally memorize the Qur'an after Mina, his mother's best friend who comes to live with Hayat's family. He's learning it all in English as it is the language that he knows. This plays in heavily into the book (and that's all I'll say since I don't want to give anything else away).

Hayat also an All American boy. His parents have both embraced American culture and have opened that up to their son. Mina, coming straight from Pakistan where she is technically still married, is struggling in her own way and almost passes that on to Hayat in a way. It's a complicated web. Hayat is struggling with his identity in a big way. He's trying to find his footing between where his family came from and where his family is now.

I thought this was a great book about the struggle we all go through when we're pre-teens. We all just want to know who we're supposed to be.



  1. I've had this one on my rader for awhile. I think I'm going to read it, but I'm going to have to wait for the right 'reading mood'. Right now I don't feel like I have the attention span for it.

  2. I thought this book portrayed that struggle of adolescence well!

    1. Yes! That was definitely one of the strong points of the book!

  3. Being a teenage is hard enough so I can't even imagine adding cultural issues to the mix. I like that author plays with the idea of learning a sacred text in a 'foreign' tongue though.

    1. Yes, this book definitely covers some tough topics. I had no idea about the scholars who make it their work to learn the entire Quran by memory! Very interesting!

  4. Great review. It sounds really intreguing and I'll definately be on the look-out for it.

    1. It was good. There are so many things to think about in this book.

  5. This sounds absolutely fascinating. One of my English modules was all about the perception of children and how they understand relationships. It really interested me and I think this book would fit right into that!

    1. Definitely! It's interesting to see how relationships and your thoughts about them change as you mature.


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