ETHNIC CITY by Said Yama Ahmadi


Email this review


An Afghan refugee’s account of his attempts to understand himself, his history and his homeland as he makes his way in a world he perceives to be hostile to his heritage.

The author fled Afghanistan with his family, only to fail to find the happiness and freedom he anticipated in India and then Germany, where he went to study architecture. Ahmadi delivers an account of continually facing prejudice, hatred and a loneliness that, in his mind, resulted from his “ethnic” status in an unenlightened, ignorant society. Ahmadi is well read, ambitious and clearly intelligent. Yet it’s hard to know how much of his negative experience is hyperbole and how much stems from his own actions. The story he paints is one of a victim constantly persecuted and belittled by nearly everyone, unfairly denied the grades, housing and even female companionship he’s due because of cold German society’s hatred for his ethnicity. Yet Ahmadi’s behavior often seems self-righteous, pugnacious and, by his own description, aggressive. Hung on a thin plot that serves as a framework for pages of ideological and political discussions, the narrative is complicated by convoluted verbiage: “But I then often wonder whether this retrospective saddling of environment to explain the twofold delusion of boundless euphoria and expansive amnesia is as tenable a notion as I would like it to be, even if at its face value the thesis seems to explicate marvelously the mysterious lull of normalcy which all of a sudden appeared to have befallen my personal life.” Further hampered by confusing homophones—“that chili evening” and “one’s piers in school”—litanies of questions and exclamations and overuse of italic and boldface text, the story is often exhausting to read.

An attempt to share personal experiences of discrimination and prejudice hampered by a distancing style.

Pub Date: May 23rd, 2012
ISBN: 978-1468594713
Page count: 280pp
Publisher: AuthorHouse
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:


FictionTHE KITE RUNNER by Khaled Hosseini
by Khaled Hosseini
FictionA THOUSAND SPLENDID SUNS by Khaled Hosseini
by Khaled Hosseini