Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Children of Dust

There are plenty of books out there aimed, at least in part, at helping Westerners get a handle on Islam. Many are designed to whip up fear, uncertainty and doubt. Others, perhaps trying to offset the pernicious effects of the haters, refuse to acknowledge the harsh elements of religious practice. In his memoir Children of Dust, Ali Eteraz portrays Islam as a vast, complex tapestry with beautiful and terrible elements, just like every other religion in the world.

Eteraz, born in Pakistan and now living in the United States, is told early in his life that he is destined for Islamic greatness and spends much of his life pursuing the idea of how to be a Muslim. He studies in a madrassa, moves to the United States, becomes a fundamentalist, then unbecomes one and makes peace with the West. In the US, he trains as a lawyer and becomes a writer.

Eteraz's skills as a writer sets the book apart from similar works. He writing is lyrical, funny and evocative. He handles difficult material, including some occasionally disturbing sexual material quite well. He is best at describing his religous experiences. Far from being a mindless adherent, his relationship with the faith is constantly in flux as his understanding expands.

Although it is not the focus of the book, the early sections on Pakistan are especially valuable today. Despite it's massive importance to the world today, Pakistan remains little known to American readers. His stories of growing up in a small village will give readers a sense of what the life in this vital place is like.

2 comments:

Irving said...

A very good and thoughtful review. I am also reading the book now :)

123 123 said...

Cool article as for me. It would be great to read a bit more about that matter. Thank you for sharing this info.
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