THE TRUE AMERICAN by Anand Giridharadas


Murder and Mercy in Texas
Email this review


Well-crafted account of an act of post-9/11 vigilante violence and its long reverberations for its survivors.

New York Times columnist Giridharadas (India Calling: An Intimate Portrait of a Nation’s Remaking, 2011) meticulously reconstructs two lives that collided in horrific fashion. In the charged, angry days after 9/11, self-styled “Arab Slayer” Mark Stroman murdered two immigrants in Texas, while a third man survived being shot in the head during Stroman’s spree: Raisuddin Bhuiyan, a Bangladesh Air Force veteran, was working at a Dallas-area convenience store as he established himself in America. Stroman was quickly apprehended and sentenced to death; Bhuiyan not only recovered from this harrowing hate crime, but thrived, building a career in IT management. Following a pilgrimage to Mecca with his beloved mother, Bhuiyan decided to channel his sense of good fortune into a social statement, pursuing a late-stage effort to block Stroman’s execution and reach out to his children. Although Stroman’s sentence was ultimately carried out, Bhuiyan’s determination to break what he saw as a never-ending cycle of violence between cultures through an act of forgiveness caused a groundswell of media attention and admiration, even in conservative Texas. Giridharadas writes in a maximalist, descriptive style that allows him to hew close to both Bhuiyan’s open-heartedness and Stroman’s racialized resentment, which he appeared to relinquish in his waning days on death row, moved by the interest of Bhuiyan and others. In building a close, empathetic portrait of the murderer, which includes his troubled extended family, Giridharadas convincingly argues that the rage and violence embraced by Americans like Stroman often results from constricted heartland social environments, where hard drugs (and subsequent criminal records) are easier to come by than good blue-collar jobs and racial tribalism reigns. Bhuiyan and the author seemingly concur that Stroman’s legacy will be the similarly constricted lives of his children. 

A compelling, nuanced look at the shifting, volatile meaning of American identity in the post-9/11 era.

Pub Date: May 5th, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-393-23950-8
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Norton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 2014


NonfictionTHE SEA INSIDE by Philip Hoare
by Philip Hoare
NonfictionTHE SNOWDEN FILES by Luke Harding
by Luke Harding
NonfictionFORCING THE SPRING by Jo Becker
by Jo Becker
NonfictionTHE HUMAN AGE by Diane Ackerman
by Diane Ackerman


NonfictionINDIA CALLING by Anand Giridharadas
by Anand Giridharadas


NonfictionCOLD NEW WORLD by William Finnegan
by William Finnegan
NonfictionTHE UNWINDING by George Packer
by George Packer
NonfictionBREAKING NIGHT by Liz Murray
by Liz Murray
NonfictionTHE LION OF SABRAY by Patrick Robinson
by Patrick Robinson