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Stranger to History: A Son's Journey through Islamic Lands

3.63 of 5 stars 3.63  ·  rating details  ·  353 ratings  ·  41 reviews
“Indispensable reading for anyone who wants a wider understanding of the Islamic world, of its history and its politics.” —Financial Times

Aatish Taseer’s fractured upbringing left him with many questions about his own identity. Raised by his Sikh mother in Delhi, his father, a Pakistani Muslim, remained a distant figure. Stranger to History is the story of the journey he
Paperback, 352 pages
Published November 13th 2012 by Graywolf Press (first published November 2nd 2007)
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I came to Stranger to History, Taseer's debut work after being thoroughly impressed by his piece on Sanskrit where he bemoaned the loss of a whole body of linguistic structure and culture thanks to colonialisation. It was personal, curious and his sentences encased within them a quiet tragedy that had me in thrall at his talent.

In this unusual part-biography, part-travelogue, he turns a journey of meeting his politician father in Pakistan who had estranged him in his childhood into an odyssey th
Kumar Anshul
The Author has a Pakistani father (who had left) and an Indian Sikh Mother and he travels not only to Pakistan but also to Turkey, Syria and Iran. Why? To understand what is it actually to be a Muslim in the present world.

While he roams around the cities and countryside of these Islamic homelands, he experiences how these all are similar because of religion but different due to culture. From the fiercely secular Turkey, the new global centre of Islam which is Syria, the forced Islamic Republic t
Susan Ritz
This book was quite an undertaking for a young journalist struggling to reconcile his identity and heritage. Taseer, grandson of a famous Pakistani poet, son of a "cultural Muslim" Pakistani politician and an Indian Sikh journalist mother sets out on a journey to finally reconnect with his father and learn what it means to be a Muslim.Challenged by his father to learn more, he travels from Istanbul through Turkey, Syria,Saudi Arabia, Iran and finally, Pakistan, discovering along the way the how ...more
Sundarraj Kaushik
An autobiographical book by Aatish Taseer, the son of Tavleen Singh (an Indian Journalist) and Salmaan Taseer (a Pakistani politician who worked closely with the Bhuttos). Aatish Taseer himself is a journalist by profession.

Aatish had a Sikh upbringing as he was brought up by his mother. His mother did keep him aware of his father and the fact that he was Muslim and made it a point to take him to all the Muslim celebrations at the houses of the that she knew.

At an early age he writes a letter to
Ayesha U
My reason for reading this book was that I expected to know in depth about Aatish Taseer’s relationship with his father Salmaan Taseer and paternal relatives in Pakistan. The book does talk about it but not in detail. And I don’t think it is fair to expect much anyway since their relationship was anything but normal and cordial. And over a couple of decades they met only a few times.

The main thesis of the book is the journey that the author undertook through certain Islamic countries and his que
An interesting narration of a son's journey starting from Istanbul to Lahore to find out about what is to be a muslim. This book talks about the life, culture of people in the different Islamic countries and how it affects him as an individual and his relationship with his father, Salmaan Taseer.
Gary Shostak
Interesting story of a man attempting to establish a relationship with an absent father & fa's religion - Islam. Well worth reading for anyone interested in an insight into Islam as it is lived today & India-Pakistan relations.
Alan Cunningham
This book was simply amazing.

Taseer had the standing to interview and experience Islam from within, and I loved hearing about the honest motivations of Jihadists, Wahabbists, Fundamentalists, everyday Muslims, and disaffected Muslims trapped in faithless theocracies, fighting for their right to party.

The stories of his father and partition, who gave him entry to these stories, were at first a revealing accent to the minute-by-minute playbook of times in Turkey, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Iran, but
Looked interesting and a topic I want to know and understand more about. A young man who never really knew his father - a Muslim and therefore he is a Muslim (religion through the father) who wants to understand more about Islam. Grew up in India but later schooling in Britain and particularly interested in the phenomenon of 2nd generation Muslims being jihadists. I think I could have got through more with a bit of patience, but when it started getting into heavy religious issues I couldn't hack ...more
Ryan Murdock
Raised in India by his Sikh mother, Aatish Taseer’s Pakistani father existed only as a fading photograph in a silver frame. Even after contact was finally made, their relationship remained distant.

This distance prompted the author to set out on an eight month journey through Turkey, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Pakistan in an effort to understand his father’s worldview and to bridge the gulf that divided them. His travels forced him to grapple with a series of questions: Why did his irreligious
Though nominally a Muslim because his father was one, author seeks to establish in his mind just what Islam is all about. He journeys from Turkey, through Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iran to Pakistan is effort to satisfy his curiosity. He finds that Islam is for the most part a rigid culture, not particularly open and searching. It’s not a religion, but politics, and his confusion about that got him into trouble in Iran. The most absorbing pages of the book are those that relate his three-hours of inte ...more
Interesting travelogue covering Turkey, Syria, Saudi-Arabia, Iran, India and Pakistan. The author speaks with people about religion and politics, describes the differences and the similarities of the modern Muslim countries, which he visits and tries to determine his own feelings and attitudes relating to Islam (his father, whom he never really got to know, was a Pakistani Muslim, his mother was an Indian Sikh and he spent his youth in a Christian boarding school, so he is not quite sure if he b ...more
lovely writing that vividly brought to life the scenes and images of his travels through turkey, Syria, Iran and pakistan, and the cast of characters he meets along the way. It wasn't entirely clear where he was going with the content on Islam, Pakistan etc. but I enjoyed reading it and admire him for his courage!
A fascinating trip through Islam- political, geographic and most importantly, cultural. I'd recommend this book to anyone who wants to gain a nuanced perspective on Islam through any of the above lenses.
The idea of the book is interesting. It is interesting to discover the religion of your father, which you really did not know. Aatish's journey went through Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Syria, Iran and Pakistan: an interesting mix of cultures and ways of living religion. However, I did not like in the book the analysis of the writer on many issues that he faced. It took us a life time to understand the interlinks between religion and culture, what Islam is and how it is used by different groups to take ...more
Gauri Parab
Interesting read. A personal journey, narrated with sensitivity and open-mindedness. Insightful and enjoyable.
Raka Majumdar
This book has been on my wishlist for ages. The reason i really wanted to read this book was to explore and understand how an kid having mixed parentage,belonging to very influential and public life grew up to be strong independent individual. Who at a prime of his life would embark on a journey of self discovery and in search of a father he has grown up without. Brilliantly written and very poignant this book is a must read. It also highlights and talks about Pakistan as a nation.
Taseer combines a personal journey, travelogue, socio-cultural review in this book. He asks some difficult quustions and tries to find answers. What does it mean to be a Muslim? what is the brotherhood of Muslim? is it a shared history, a political uprising? There are no right or wrong answers, but its the journey, not the destnation, that makes this book intriguing
Interesting concept but the two strands don't come together. There is no sense that he is sincerely interested in exploring Islam or able to unwind his relationship with his father. Towards the end he some interesting observations and comments about the partition of India and Pakistan - but it wasn't worth slogging though the whole book to get to them.
An intriguing account of a journey through the various Islamic countries undertaken by the author when rebuffed by his estranged father for his utter lack of Islamic ethos. Also provides a vivid insight into Salman Taseer's secular psyche that eventually led to his cold blooded encounter for challenging the Blasphemy law in Pakistan.
this is a wonderful book which takes its author on a journey to turkey, syria, saudi aurabia, iran and then to is an attempt by a son to understand his father's faith and thereby perhaps his own relationship with is a very insightful book with very persipicuous analysis of modernity and the old reading of islam.
An interesting book and very easy to read. It was interesting to read it especially after the tragic shooting of Taseer's death. Could have done with more detail and less generalisation although I agree with his conclusions about the main problems afflicting the Islamic lands.

Although seemingly anecdotal, they only form the beads of the great West Asian 'Mala'. The connecting thread is much more of the 'essence' and not 'form'; the former's power holds this book together and allows us to pray for a better West Asia and the Worlde.
Shagun Gupta
Overall... it is a very thoughtful and well written book.
However... somewhere down the book the writer loses the plot in commenting on Islam vis-a-vis his relationship with his father and it becomes just a narration of the events happening in Pakistan
Truly a journey, one goes through a gamut of emotions while experiencing the journey through the authors eyes. It may seem 2 dimensional to people strange to the Asian demography. As an Asian I can relate and identify the humor and tragedy in the prose.
Part memoir, part travelogue and part introspective musings - Stranger to History is a very insightful, brilliantly written book about Islam in today's world.

A highly recommended read for all.
Gunmeet Singh
Story of a journey that a son makes to discover his father and his faith. This book is a honest attempt to discover a country as an outsider. Beautifully written and gripping. A must read
Nasim Marie
An interesting read, I found the sections on India and Pakistan the most compelling. However, I felt the narrative dragged a bit, here and there and I wanted to skip parts, though I didn't.
Rahul Agasti
Left a very empty feeling because the book leaves us with a sense of what the author wanted to narrate in the end.............but having said that it is a superb narrative
Bhupesh Vashisht
The story missed sync a lot, Got tempted from its title 'stranger to the history'. It Ends abruptly. Nothing to take away from it.
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Aatish Taseer has worked as a reporter for Time Magazine and has written for the Sunday Times, the Sunday Telegraph, the Financial Times, Prospect, TAR Magazine and Esquire. He is the author of Stranger to History: a Son's Journey through Islamic Lands (2009) and a highly acclaimed translation Manto: Selected Stories (2008). His novel, The Temple-Goers (2010) was shortlisted for the 2010 Costa Fir ...more
More about Aatish Taseer...
The Temple-Goers Noon The Way Things Were The Temple - Goers Manto: Selected Stories

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“A cultural Muslim: a term my father gave me when I asked him the same question. I used it now, not fully knowing what it meant, more as an out than as an honest answer to Kareem’s question. I had learnt from my experience with my father that the term meant more than just a lax approach to religion: it contained political and historical allegiance to other Muslims.” 0 likes
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