By Ayad Akhtar
Back Bay Books, 2012
Hayat Shah is a Muslim-American boy growing up in Milwaukee when his mother’s close friend, “aunt” Mina, and her son Imran, come to live with Hayat and his parents. Mina brings with her a deep respect for the Koran and Islam, and she teaches Hayat about his faith. Initially Mina and the study of the Koran bring purpose and joy to Hayat, but the second year she lives with his family, Mina falls for a Jewish colleague of Hayat’s father’s and everything changes. Hayat sees life and religion in with a new lens, and acts in ways he would not have before meeting Mina.
The novel is close look at one year of Hayat’s life, when he is 11 – 12, with bookending chapters from his adulthood. I found Hayat to be an enjoyable narrator. The story builds on the page and presents a unique look at what it means to be Muslim American. Hayat’s parents are Pakistani immigrants. While Hayat is interested in his Koranic studies, his father, a neurologist, has rejected the local Pakistani community and disdains Islam. His mother takes a neutral stand with most topics.
Akhtar is a novelist, screenwriter, playwright and actor. His play, Disgraced ran at Lincoln Center and is premiering in London at the Bush Theater in May 2013. He spoke to the New York Times about his writing process.
This book was given to me by a friend.