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American Taliban: A Novel

3.21  ·  Rating Details ·  289 Ratings  ·  69 Reviews
An avid, near-six-foot-tall surfer, John Jude Parish cuts a striking figure on the beaches of the Outer Banks in North Carolina. When he isn’t on water, John lives on wheels, a self-described skate rat—grinding and kickflipping with his friends, and encouraged by his progressive parents. His hero is the great explorer Richard Burton, his personal prophet is Bob Dylan, and ...more
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published April 13th 2010 by Random House (first published January 1st 2010)
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(showing 1-30)
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Apr 27, 2010 Christine rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: No one
Recommended to Christine by: Book Page newsletter
Horrendous. Absolutely awful. SPOILER ALERT: Don't read this review if you are interested in reading the book and don't want to know about it.

The book starts off okay, but not great. John Jude is a laid-back surfer who is interested in studying the Arabic language. From Washington, D.C. he goes to Brooklyn to attend an Arabic school. Then he decides he needs to fully immerse himself in the culture in order to learn the language. He travels to Pakistan, immerses himself in not only the
May 15, 2012 Alexis rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
This was amazing. I heard of it when it came out and was turned off by the title. Not only did it seem motivated by shock value but I hate the ubiquitous use of "American" to modify titles, as thought it were significant. American Beauty, American Idiot, American Woman, American Psycho, etc. Overused. (Well, I sort of give American Beauty a pass because of the wordplay since it's the name of the cultivar of rose, but still...)
Anyway, and I wouldn't have liked it so close to the actual events of
Emer Martin
Jul 24, 2014 Emer Martin rated it it was amazing
Just finished this extraordinary book this morning. I haven't read anything so unpredictable and thought provoking in a long time. Pearl Abraham is a powerful and forceful writer in total command of her characters and her material.
I was transported with the young privileged surf kid John Jude from the shores of the Atlantic to Brooklyn and to the mountains of Pakistan and into the unknown. His story though hard to fathom is utterly plausible in Abraham's hands. She has the knack of creating fas
Jacob Andra
Jul 24, 2013 Jacob Andra rated it liked it
The author admirably attempts to tackle a thorny and controversial subject—the radicalization of a young white American—but the story craps out right as it is getting interesting. It's like, popularity, girls, surfing, blah blah blah for the first part (boring/bland), then adventure/shocking for the second, then a total flatline for the last bit.
Feb 09, 2011 Danna rated it liked it
This book starts off following John Jude Parish, the 18-year-old son of Barbara and Bill, hanging out with his surfer-girl friends in the Outer Banks (OBX) of Virginia. John is the product of an upper-class, loving upbringing, and is described as intelligent and well-adjusted. He has chosen to defer his acceptance to Brown University for one year in order to study different topics and really enjoy surfing and skateboarding. A skating injury throws a monkey wrench in his plans, and a series of ev ...more
Feb 14, 2011 Andrea rated it liked it
This is probably the longest review I have written so here is my summary: not bad, but I would not recommend either.

So I picked this up because I found myself in the "A" section of the library. I only glanced at the description because as soon as it started talking about surfing I rolled my eyes. Not sure why.

Anyway, at the beginning of the book I really wanted to relate to the main character. The author gives him a full birthday (including year) and so I knew he was almost exactly the same age
Tyler Stoffel
Jun 05, 2012 Tyler Stoffel rated it liked it
The story of an over-priveledged American teenager who turns Taliban fighter over the course of a year of study. The story, far-fetched as it may sound, is very believable, as are the characters Abraham creates. The downfall of the story is actually the title, because it gives away at first glance what my have been a great surprise if presented in a different way. John Jude Parish follows a very American patrh of self discovery that leads to join a war he knows zero about.

John Jude Parish is ver
May 20, 2014 Marisa rated it it was ok
I feel underwhelmed by this story of privileged John Jude who finds himself attracted to Islam and gets involved in terrorism, something so much bigger than he understands. Abraham had a good concept, and I liked how she never allowed John to fall into believing stereotypical images many have of Muslims and Islam. John is always receptive to what he learns.

However, I think Abraham had difficulty creating unique and believable characters. I seriously could not stand John ignoring his gut feeling
Bart Vanvaerenbergh
Boeiend boek uit 2010, maar nog steeds zeer actueel.
De Engelse titel "American Taliban" zegt beter waar het over gaat.
John Jude is een Amerikaanse tiener die verzot is op skaten en surfen. Via het schoolvak "wereldgodsdiensten" raakt geïnteresseerd in Arabisch en de islam.
Pearl Abraham verplaatst zich schijnbaar moeiteloos in de wereld van een skatende en zoekende tiener. Zeer vlot geschreven !
Jun 22, 2013 Katherine rated it really liked it
A novel to leave you fascinated, shellshocked, confused, and heartbroken. Abraham deconstructs misconceptions and diffuses predispositions, leaving any mind reeling at the complexity of the Middle East, and curious as to how American patriotism parallels a larger narrative of Muslim faith. A stunning read.
Jan 14, 2011 Adam rated it did not like it
What did I think? What did I think?
This book sucked. The transitions that John (the protagonist) made in this novel were so confusing. The ending is really confusing but I'm not going to give it away. How can he just get interested in Arabic from a chatroom? This book just sucked..... miserably!
Oct 22, 2011 Ken rated it liked it
John Jude Parish is the scion of a wealthy,loving,and educated family who seems to be headed for a life full of only the best accouterments that the western world can offer. However, this college aged 'truth seeker' becomes attracted to the tenets of Islam, and makes a pilgrimage to Pakistan right before the tragic events of September 11, 2001. Abraham's central character, John Jude Parish is modeled after John Walker Lindh who actually did join the Taliban in 2001. However, John Jude is much mo ...more
Jul 11, 2015 Katie rated it liked it
Well, this book got three stars because the subject matter is interesting. Based on the writing alone, I would have given it two stars. The writing is needlessly sensational at times. She uses far too many sentence fragments. The big problem I had with it was the progression. I understand the protagonist's interest in the Arabic language. I understand how he went from that to submitting to Islam. I understand how he wants to submerge himself in the culture and explore Sufism. I lost track when h ...more
Joseph Sverker
It was a very interesting read and a unique perspective on the question of extreme religiosity. I am somewhat doubtful to the believability of the story (even though it of course could be true, since reality can triumph fiction at times in unbelievability). having said that the character of John feels real and his relationship are portrayed in a fascinating way. He is certainly a developed character and Abraham has been able to capture how a person can be very divided, or at least appear so from ...more
Jan 06, 2011 Sarah rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobooks, fiction, 2011
I wasn't too excited about this book while listening to it. I didn't feel for the character, I thought that he was too cliche. I didn't like that he was supposed to be a 'typical' just graduated from high school American. He wasn't. The character is sooo smart at well versed in many types of literature. This didn't mesh with his lack of understanding of political climate in the Middle East.

However, I finished this book almost a week ago. I still am thinking about it. I'm still trying to pick apa
Jun 11, 2011 Nicki rated it really liked it
The novel is somewhat engrossing, since the protagonist is SO flaky you really don't know what he will do next.

But I am about 75% through the book now, and almost every single page of the book I wanted to jump in and kick his ass for being a flaky dummy. Lol. So...I'm not sure I'm in it for the right reasons.

However, I must admit I remember being a young leftist and being open to many experiences, TOO many experiences. And perhaps if all of this had come together sort of accidentally for me as i
Aug 23, 2010 Blair rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
In a quest for purpose it is those left behind that bear the burden. This book takes a strong look at what is the attraction of Islam for the youth culture of America. In an American culture where detraction from the beauty of religion is rampant it would seem easy to dismiss the importance of self-realization through dogma and ritual. In my opinion the beauty and poetry of Islam is truly remarkable. The sense of oneness with the spiritual is something that could easily capture the wayward souls ...more
Jul 10, 2010 Jo rated it it was ok
This is fiction! Written by a woman! To get a more honest reflection of youthful male angst it would be better to read a true story like "Into the Wild." Liberal parenting gone horribly awry. Be careful what you wish for as you bring your children up they might actually take you up on it. I guess this could tell you how such a thing happens but first you have to believe that the author knows what she's talking about.
A plate of tandoori chicken cooked over an outdoor fire, preferably while campi
Jun 12, 2010 Olympia rated it it was ok
I love a book with good characterization. If I feel a connection with the characters I care what happens to them and can really immerse myself in their story. This book did not have that. Rather than feeling like I was getting to know the main character and the people of his world, I was just reading about some guy and stuff that he did. The ending, in a better written novel, could have been filled with emotion and introspection. As is it was written, though, I just shrugged and tossed it aside.
Aug 24, 2010 Sabrina rated it liked it
This was a good book in that it remained on my mind when I was doing other things and throughout the week after I finished it. I thought the beginning was way to slow for me, but it was weaving the story of a boy who was lost, looking for guidance he did not get from his liberal parents. He, unfortunately, found that substitute family in the taliban. I certainly learned more about the arabic language. A good read. The end was somewhat rushed. I did like how the end was left wide open for you to ...more
May 19, 2010 Lexie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
John, an 18-year-old surfer dude with a deep contemplative streak, explores religion ... and feels increasingly drawn to Islam. The novel begins in the late summer of 2000 ...

... I'm reminded a little of Ann Patchett's *Bel Canto* -- There's a sudden shift in atmosphere, a moment when one sentence becomes the pivot around which John's nascent Islamic cosmology spins beyond his reasoning ...

It's most interesting that this novel begins about a year before 9/11 ... and from the perspective of a cur
Jun 16, 2012 Louisa rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2012-summer
I got swept up in the book like the surfers on their waves that start the story. A good beginning with an ambiguous ending, and a lot of thought provoking prose in between. Following the process of how this young American skater-surfer-dude ends up training with the Taliban in the mountains of Afghanistan leaves me with a lot of questions. I suppose that goes without saying, for even though it is fiction, it borrows heavily from the reality of a young man named John Lindh, who really did join th ...more
Carston Curd
Dec 16, 2015 Carston Curd rated it did not like it
Overwhelmingly bad. This narritive defies coherency and literary convention for the sake of being flashy and over dramatic; this should've been expected given the emotionally charged title. Regardless, it reads as a poorly written fan fiction of an account of homegrown terrorism, and is unbelievable and fails to interest its audience. It relies on stereotypical YA tropes and dull style choices, and is a huge letdown for such a great idea for a story. I have never been this bored with a book, and ...more
Amanda R
Sep 29, 2010 Amanda R rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Bob Buchan
Jan 08, 2011 Bob Buchan rated it liked it
"A thought provoking story. In American Taliban we follow the journey of John Jude Parish an 18 year old American surfer, skater and philosophy student from the Outer Banks of North Carolina as he develops a fascination with the Arabic language and culture, and the philosophy of Islam. A year later he's in a Taliban training camp in Pakistan, where his journey of self discovery intersects with the hard reality of a post 9/11world."
Oct 19, 2010 Skip rated it really liked it
I was up until nearly 2 a.m. finishing this novel....
Not sure what I was expecting to get at the end... I can't really say more without giving away some plot spoilage.

What's interesting about John is he never really morphs into any of those westernized cliches we have of extreme Islam. He doesn't embrace misogynistic or polygamy-like views. He doesn't seem opposed to Western culture.
His interest seems much more academic.
Angie Fehl
Jan 06, 2014 Angie Fehl rated it it was ok
I was underwhelmed with this one. The synopsis led me to believe it would be a good "food for thought" type novel but the characters were too flat for me. There was potential to be a really powerful novel, not sure what went wrong for me exactly. I'm not typically a fan of novelists who decide to not use dialogue, or leave off the quotation marks, which was done here... that probably didn't help my opinion. It just didn't grip me the way I thought it might.
Feb 28, 2012 Kay rated it liked it
A really fascinating story. The author paints a believable picture of a boy seduced by the Taliban. I originally felt cheated by the ending and yet I couldn't stop thinking about it. After reflection and a few epiphanies I came to understand the brilliance of the ending. I highly recommend this although one of the sexual situations was a little too disturbing for me.
Sep 21, 2010 Renee rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 29, 2014 Mary rated it it was ok
I'm considering having my students in the History of Terrorism class because it explains how a person might be led into terrorism. The first 3/4 of the book are pretty interesting. I hesitate to use it because the final section is just bad. I don't understand why the author switched focus from an interesting character (John) to a whiny annoying character (his mother).
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Pearl Abraham is the author of the novels The Romance Reader and Giving Up America, and the editor of the Dutch anthology Een Sterke Vrouw: Jewish Heroines in Literature. Her work has appeared in Brooklyn Noir, The Michigan Quarterly, Religion in America, Dog Culture: Writers on the Character of Canines, and Forward.
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“He was still undecided. It depended on how you thought of God. If God is nature, then God doesn't care, since nature doesn't care. But if, as the mystics understood, God is the best of man and within man, then God cares, since man does.” 2 likes
“And again the news offered no news: On CNN, a rerun of Larry King interviewing the widowed and the suffering. On CNN2, a rerun of Larry King interviewing a fatherless son. On CNN3, a rerun of Flight 11 flying toward the first tower, in slow motion. On CNN4, a rerun of the tower collapsing, in slow motion, and again the towers fell, again people jumped and died. On CNN5, a rerun of Larry King interviewing a motherless daughter, a daughterless father, interviewing the motherless, fatherless, wifeless, husbandless, childless, shameless--disgusted, Bill pressed POWER and beheaded King, exiled CNN, and the world went dark. They sat relieved in the silence and dark. Not much road traffic now, but somewhere in the distant overhead the honk and flap of southbound geese, instinct bound, in vees for victory. The turkey was still on the table; the sides were still out. Let all who are hungry come and eat. Let all who are tired come home.” 2 likes
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