... a sampling of the relentless, systematic, state-sanctioned (and often state-perpetrated) hatred and violence inflicted upon communities of color from the earliest moments of America’s conception. Good Country is primarily positioned as the memoir of a social justice lawyer, centered on Ali-Khan’s experiences as a Pakistani American born in Florida and raised in Pennsylvania, but in practice, it’s a history text with a predominantly academic tone and rigorous research that eclipses much of the personal ... Admittedly, it’s nearly unbearable to sink into a book like this right now, when its litany of old horrors looks and feels a whole lot like the new ones carried out daily. Ali-Khan favors italics to underscore the blatant nature of everyday cruelties, which can feel unnecessary and heavy-handed, but I likewise have to admit that there is a level of shock in discovering the malevolence behind a perceived mundanity that only italics can express ... The events in these pages are immense and likely triggering for many, and the attempt to trace an individual’s perspective within the maelstrom doesn’t always land. A large section late in the book devoted to the sudden rupture of Ali-Khan’s first marriage after a disturbing discovery feels somehow unrelated to the wide lens of history that precedes it.
Far from being confined to the pages of history books, American racism is mapped out in our roads, in our churches, and in our cities, schools, and strip malls...Attorney and activist Khan, the daughter of Pakistani immigrants, weaves together her own coming-of-age with the stories of exclusion and violence that created the twelve American towns she has called home...The desire to settle in 'good neighborhoods' speaks to a history of redlining and racial terrorism against Black homeowners; the exclusivity of the Ivy League recalls Princeton’s efforts to preserve American whiteness by resettling Black Americans in Africa; and the suspicious glares Khan receives on bus journeys in the Dakotas are a reminder of the ongoing violence and bigotry against Native people...The past is deeply, sometimes painfully, present in this honest and insightful book.
In her first book, the attorney and activist describes the long, incremental process of disenchantment with the misleading American promise of freedom and equality for all...As part of one of the few Muslim families in her neighborhood and schools growing up, Ali-Khan felt keenly the sense of being 'other'...Later in life, she learned that Bucks County, Pennsylvania, where her hometowns of Yardley and Fallsington are located, marked the early Quaker communities of William Penn, who owned slaves and was double-dealing with the Lenape people, whose land he purported to protect...In an overlong yet astute narrative, the author examines the innovative postwar housing development of Levittown, Pennsylvania, and its systematic 'exclusion of Black Americans from home ownership'; the underlying wealth exploited from Black labor by the Ringling Brothers circus family in Sarasota, Florida, where the author went to college; the presence of the Jerome and Rohwer War Relocation Centers, 'the last two concentration camps to be built in America during World War II,' outside of Little Rock, Arkansas, where the author worked after college; and the brutal racist legacy of former Philadelphia mayor Frank Rizzo...An effective demonstration of how nearly every area of the U.S. continues to be infected by racism and inequity.
An American Muslim confronts the horrors of white supremacy in this poignant if overwrought memoir...Ali-Khan, a public interest lawyer and daughter of Pakistani immigrants, recaps histories of racist oppression in places she has lived: colonial slavery and contemporary housing segregation in Pennsylvania, where she grew up in the 1970s; the Seminole Wars against runaway slaves in Florida, where she went to college; violence during school desegregation in Little Rock, where she worked in the 1990s with a community organizing network; and the dispossession and massacre of Native Americans in Arizona, South Dakota, and elsewhere...Ali-Khan’s explorations of these episodes are powerful and made deeply personal when she bears out the microaggressions she has weathered as an American Muslim, including people inquiring about her ethnicity and a gym teacher insisting that she run laps during Ramadan...Ali-Khan’s look at the way the past bleeds into the present makes for an affecting portrait of a nation yet to come to terms with its checkered history.