A politically pointed immigrant success story mingled with equally pointed tragedy.
A native of Pakistan, Khan thought of America as a land of cowboys—when, that is, he thought of anything other than enduring homegrown oppression. “If you have lived half of your life under martial law and the rest in a swirl of political chaos,” he writes meaningfully, “Western ideals aren’t readily in your orbit.” Those ideals came to him in the form of an encounter with the Declaration of Independence and its profession of equality and inalienable rights. He found his way to America and Harvard Law, reveling in the civil order that he found nothing short of marvelous while rediscovering the Islam of his birth in its tolerant mode, not the “brutal theocracy” that interpreted the religion back home. Khan, in short, charts the nuanced evolution of an American patriot, one whose son was killed by a car bomb while serving as an Army officer in Iraq. Capt. Humayan Saqib Muazzam Khan was proclaimed a hero and posthumously earned the Bronze Star and Purple Heart for bravery in combat, to which his father characteristically adds a small wrinkle: “My son was dead because he was trying to make sure a stranger wasn’t killed by mistake. He stayed true to the shape of his heart.” So, it seems, did the father, who became an earnest critic of Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign, berating him for his anti-immigrant agitation and his penchant for “stirring the worst of human nature.” All those credentials, of course, explain why Khan was asked to speak at the Democratic National Convention, introduced by his son’s hero, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and elevated to national attention in the bargain. Self-effacing, the author writes movingly of the events leading up to that moment, which he feared, correctly, might expose him to direct attack on the part of Trump himself.
Khan’s aspirational memoir reminds us all why Americans should welcome newcomers from all lands.