Thursday, September 23, 2010

Literary Bite: The Reluctant Fundamentalist

My friends’ mom recommended I read this book almost a year ago and I finally got my hands on it. The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid is a super quick read – it’s a finish-in-a-weekend book, which was a nice change of pace after Anna K.

The writing style is interesting and different. A Pakistani man sits down at a café and begins telling his story to an anonymous American listener. It's a unique style, but it seems unrealistic. I don’t care how good the story is, who sits and listens to a stranger talk for 192 pages worth of words?

Stylistic choices aside, it is an interesting and thought-provoking book.

Changez, a very smart young Pakistani man, immediately sucks you into his story. The genius of this book is that you immediately like Changez. You sympathize with him. And even as his life takes a turn for the worse, you maintain that connection. Hamid humanizes a person that the CIA would consider suspect (at the very least) and lends insight into why someone would become anti-American.

And he leaves his readers with a very thought-provoking ending, but I don’t want to give too much away, so if you want more details you can click here, but I suggest just reading the book yourself.

The only thing that bothered me about the book was the title (because I’m a nit-picker when it comes to vocabulary). All too often people confuse “fundamentalist” with “religious extremist” at best, or “Islamic terrorist” at worst. I made that mistake once myself. My Niger homestay father was an imam, and I asked him if he considered himself a “fundamentalis.” He explained that yes, he was a fundamentalist because he believes in following the basic rules of his religion. Fundamentalism isn’t about politics or violence or even culture – it’s just the basics.

But I suppose that title-wise, The Reluctant Terrorist is too sensational and The Reluctant Activist is too boring.

Silliness pickiness aside, definitely read this book! And let me know what you think!