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HOMELAND ELEGIES by Ayad Akhtar Kirkus Star


by Ayad Akhtar

Pub Date: Sept. 15th, 2020
ISBN: 978-0-31649-642-1
Publisher: Little, Brown

A playwright and novelist, the son of Muslim immigrants from Pakistan, explores his conflicted place in U.S. society in a searing work of autofiction.

The narrator of this novel, like its author, is named Ayad Akhtar. The real Akhtar achieved acclaim—and notoriety—with his 2012 play, Disgraced, winner of the Pulitzer Prize. The fictional Akhtar, too, has written a controversial drama in which an “American-born character with Muslim origins confesses that as the towers were falling [on 9/11], he felt something unexpected and unwelcome, a sense of pride.” Over the course of eight chapters—some narrative, some nearly essaylike, all bookended by an “overture” and a “coda”—Akhtar explores family, politics, art, money, sex, religion, and prejudice in vivid, bracingly intelligent prose. Along the way, the reader encounters a range of memorable characters: Akhtar’s father, an immigrant doctor who supports the presidential campaign of Donald Trump, a former patient; his mother, a melancholy woman who pines for Pakistan and the medical school classmate she wishes she had married instead of Akhtar’s father; and Riaz Rind, a Muslim hedge fund manager who takes Akhtar under his wing and offers an education in the cold realities of capital. One comes to this book not for the pleasures of conventional narrative fiction (though Akhtar certainly can spin a tale); this is a novel of restless exploration that finds no pat answers about what it means to be a Muslim American today.

A profound and provocative inquiry into an artist’s complex American identity.