What do you think?
Rate this book
368 pages, Hardcover
First published September 15, 2020
as the towers were falling, he felt something unexpected & unwelcome, a sense of pride, which he explains in the play's climactic scene, made him realize that, despite having been born here, despite the totality of his belief in this country & his commitment to being an American, he somehow still identified with the mentality that saw itself as aggrieved & "other".In Homeland Elegies, Ayad Akhtar explains his approach to answering questions & accusations regarding 9/11, by commenting that "art's power, unlike journalism, has little to do with the reliability of its sourcing." And in this respect, Akhtar quotes D.H. Lawrence: "Never trust the artist, Trust the tale."
This is a mind-set he spent much of the play despising & for which he continually uses, to the chagrin of those onstage (& many in the audience), the term Muslim. The play's only other character of Muslim origin refers to the 9/11 attacks as something America deserved & a harbinger of more to come.
We lived in a Christian land but did not understand Christianity. We didn't understand it & we didn't respect it. We thought it a makeshift, misbegotten offspring of the Judaic creed. We had to adopt Christian ways that befuddled us & that we disdained, ways that we saw reflected in almost every aspect of American life.But, Akhtar also sensed an unwillingness on his part to find his place in America, "a spiritual defiance repaid in rejection, a rootless, haunting sense of having foundered in my life as an American." He was a victim but had somehow participated in his own exclusion, even as a non-practicing Muslim with a distinctly secular bent.
Where some might see modernity or individualism or mercantile democracy or the heritage of the Enlightenment or a complex & endlessly heterogeneous nation, we saw (only) Christianity.
In our era, Muslims were just the minor premise of the social syllogism that formed our American nation's outraged theory of the downtrodden, for you were either for or against the victim & Muslims were the victims. Every utterance, every expressive gesture was read as a pledge of allegiance to some discernible creed.In spite of some clear distractions, there are a great many things to like in Ayad Akhtar's rather amorphous book, including his relationship with a professor, Mary Moroni & his valiant attempt to understand both his dreams and his father but in sum total, the composite elements within Homeland Elegies that include essay, autobiography/memoir, a scripted trial venue, eventually seemed to me discordant & incongruent.