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The Reluctant Fundamentalist

Oct 24, 2013
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Lahore, Pakistan; photo by Jamil

This is a tale by Mohsin Hamid, set in Lahore, Pakistan, in which a charming local named Changez tells a story of immigration, assimilation, disillusion, and emigration in the course of a single afternoon and evening. His “guest” at the table in the bustling market restaurant might be a CIA operative, but is most certainly a rather nervous American whom he puts at ease with his intimate familiarity with the characters, cuisine and customs of his country.

Changez has attended an Ivy in the U.S., landed a great job as a consultant in Manhattan, and is falling in love with a fragile, beautiful WASP when 9/11 turns his world upside down. The state of unbalance and subtle menace faced by the “guest” in the restaurant—the narrator is forever reassuring his guest that their large, bearded waiter means them no harm—is echoed by the uncoupling of a dark-skinned South Asian immigrant’s aspirational American world—personal, professional, and spiritual—in the months following 9/11.

Moshin Hamid’s books (which also include How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia) are a witty, sly, and marvelous window into a world most Americans—CIA operatives, tourists, or just plain folks—know (and think) far too little about. They take a long afternoon to read, but create a huge impact.

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Editor’s note: In 2012, The Reluctant Fundamentalist was released as a feature film, directed by Mira Nair (Salaam Bombay! and New York, I Love You), starring Kiefer Sutherland, Kate Husdon, Liev Schreiber, and Riz Ahmed.

To read Mel’s review of How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia, click here.

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“Shakespeare every day for a year: Starting April 23, 2013, I am going to read, listen to or watch Shakespeare, posting and Tweeting daily.”

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