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HOME BOY by H.M. Naqvi

HOME BOY

By H.M. Naqvi

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-307-40910-2
Publisher: Shaye Areheart/Harmony

In this case the homies are Pakastani-Americans and Pakistanis who want to be American—at least until 9/11 upsets the cultural balance.

Shehzad (aka “Chuck”) and his homeboys Jamshed (aka “Jimbo”) and Ali (aka “AC”) have three different takes on life in New York City. Narrator Chuck is the most recent emigré, having come from Karachi to attend college; he breezes through in three years, majoring in literature and graduating magna cum laude. Jimbo, “born and bred in New Jersey” and hence a “bona-fide American,” is a “deejay slash producer” more or less engaged to a blue-blooded Mayflower descendant the three friends call “The Duck.” AC is the intellectual of the group, a graduate student with a green card who loves the freedoms of America and at the same time rails against cultural stereotypes. Chuck, who takes a job after graduation as a Wall Street investment banker, seems to be on his way to becoming an immigrant success story. But he gets laid off in July 2001, and in a strange professional leap links up with the owner-operator of a medallion cab who’s looking for a fellow Pakistani to split the work week. Driving a taxi suits Chuck fine, until 9/11 changes the perceptions of him and his pals. “We fancied ourselves boulevardiers, raconteurs, renaissance men,” he says; now for the first time they become outsiders. Following an anonymous tip about “suspicious activity,” police arrest all three men and then claim to have discovered “bomb-making manuals” in AC’s apartment. Chuck isn’t even allowed to make his phone call from prison; he’s not a citizen and thus has no rights. “Although I’d been listening to N.W.A. since I was a teenager,” he bitterly comments, “it was the first time I understood where they were coming from.” He’s released after 48 hours, but becomes more disenchanted, less exuberant, and eventually decides to return to his homeland.

A breezy, thoughtful and witty novel about the immigrant experience.