From the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of the play Disgraced and the novel American Dervish comes a new novel about a successful Pakistani-American writer and his family, a blend of fact and fiction that explores longing and dispossession in the Islamophobic world that 9/11 made.
... remarkable ... a phenomenal coalescence of memoir, fiction, history and cultural analysis ... One of the most fascinating themes of this tour de force is the sustained tension between memoir and invention that runs through any creative person’s life ... Akhtar’s portrait of the artist as a young Muslim exposes both his vanity and his capacity for obsequiousness, particularly around wealthy people ... Everywhere one can hear Akhtar’s award-winning ear for dialogue that conveys the unexpected rhythms of conversation and drama. But what’s surprising is his equally engaging mode as a lecturer. Personal episodes mingle effectively with engaging disquisitions on, say, the dilution of antitrust law ... paradox runs like a wire through this book, which so poignantly expresses the loneliness of pining for one’s own homeland.
... scampers between memoir and fiction ... Akhtar is not only a brilliant author but one who seems the presumptive legatee for what could be called the Rushdian tradition. Being a Rushdian means no simplistic mimicry of magic realism, of which Rushdie is a master, but rather a searing (and often sneering) dissection of the recurrent themes of our age: family, migration, religion, and capitalism ... Rendered through Akhtar’s deft cinematic telling, the characters are memorable and almost familiar ... does not have the fantastical stylish flourishes of Rushdie’s fiction, but it has a flavor that is rather similar to Rushdie’s own memoir, Joseph Anton ... a blurring and entangling of the real and the fictive such that the boundaries between the two disappear ... treads deftly through decades of historical ground ... can also be construed as an elegy for an America that no longer exists, a post-9/11 America, when only Muslims (rather than Blacks, Hispanics, and everyone else) were the singular enemy and systemic racism was far from being acknowledged as a problem by presidential candidates. The pulsing beat of Ayad Akhtar’s incisive and masterful work underscores this, as does his own transformation so aptly chronicled in the book.
Ostensibly a novel, Homeland Elegies reads more like a collection of essays, centering around a series of instructive scenes rather than a linear plot. Though it occasionally divulges in lengthy internal monologues, much of the argumentation is dressed down and dramatized in conversations ... What distinguishes Akhtar’s novel is the agency he assigns Muslims ... Impressively, the vital ideas presented here might be outshined by Akhtar’s talents as a writer. What could be a cumbersome read is made propulsive by his observant eye for character, rapier wit and indelible turns of phrase ... Akhtar is cementing his place as one of America’s most vital writers working today.