A secular Muslim searches for his place in America in this biting satire from first-time novelist Eteraz (Falsipedies and Fibsiennes, 2014, etc.).
As a teenager growing up in Alabama, M. saw Islam as “one of those things that foreigners did, like soccer, or kung fu, or Bollywood.” So it comes as something of a surprise to this second-generation American, now living in Philadelphia, when he loses his PR job after his new boss, at M.’s apartment for a work party, spots a Quran high atop a bookshelf and determines M. isn’t “democratic” enough for the “business-culture” of the company. A “protected” child of the 1980s and '90s who eats “the West, breakfast, lunch, and dinner,” M. feels particularly unequipped to fight discrimination. “The bespectacled gadfly from Chicago I had grown up with wasn’t Malik El-Shabazz but Steven Q. Urkel,” he laments early on. At the insistence of his wife, Marie-Anne, a white South Carolinian suffering a cortisol imbalance that's made her gain tremendous weight, M. becomes a freelance marketing consultant and “social-media maven.” Soon he's immersed in a diverse set of Muslim communities: creating a PowerPoint for a “playboy princeling” hoping to sell exercise DVDs to American audiences, partying with the members of a punk rock/rap group called the Gay Commie Muzzies, under the employ of the “Muslim Outreach Coordinator” at the State Department. Though at times in need of a trim (M.’s interior monologues can feel repetitive by book’s end), Eteraz’s narrative is witty and unpredictable. Marie-Anne, whose weight and domineering nature make her at first seem potentially cartoonish, becomes more complicated as the novel progresses, and the darkly comic ending is pleasingly macabre. As for M., in this identity-obsessed dandy, Eteraz has created a perfect protagonist for the times.
A provocative and very funny exploration of Muslim identity in America today.