Sadly, I came away from the book pretty disappointed (and not, I think, because my expectations were too high).
It felt like the sort of book that I should like, or maybe that I am supposed to like. Akhtar is a technically gifted writer, and both the stories he is telling as well as the perspective he has on life in contemporary America are compelling.
However, something felt off about the entire book.
Part of my what I struggled with was the mix of autobiography and fiction. Maybe it would have been better had I not read the synopsis on the cover flap and gone into the book imagining it was either straight-up fiction or entirely autobiographical. As it was, though, I found that, as I read it, I kept getting hung up on which bits were true and which were fictional. It shouldn’t matter, but I found it distracting.
Through many passages of the book, I found myself thinking “This is private stuff and I shouldn’t be reading it.” That’s not something I would ever think about a purely fictional narrative, but it kept cropping up here.
My usual rule is that if a book has not grabbed me by the 100-page mark, I stop reading and move on to something else. I broke that rule with Homeland Elegies, because I kept thinking Akhtar would eventually pull all the piles of stories together. That never happened, and maybe that was the point. He keeps returning to the idea that while Muslims have a different perspective on what it means to be an American, there is not a unitary notion of what it means to be a Muslim in America.
That makes sense, and maybe that’s what he was trying to do with the structure and style of this book. “Here’s a bunch of fractured stories about one person’s experience as a Muslim American.” Maybe had I not also been struggling with he fiction/nonfiction question, it would have worked better for me, but it didn’t.
It’s similar to movies that start with explanatory on-screen text or voiceover. I mean, I love the Star Wars movies, and I know Lucas was deliberately referencing old serials in the first one, but I feel like Ep. IV would have been a better film without the opening crawl.
I liked Attack On Memory and listened to it a lot back when it came out in 2012, but then they sort of fell off my radar, even though they kept putting out albums. I blame my kids.
Somehow, I either never knew or knew and then entirely forgot that the band hails from Cleveland, and that the founder went to Case Western.
I fully support raising the minimum wage and I agree that Democrats should vote for it. It is the right thing to do. Republicans should vote for it as well, for that matter.
But I also feel like a lot of pundits and activists need to acknowledge that “It polls well” does not equate “Voters will reward you for doing it.” In fact, given the rampancy of negative partisanship, there are a bunch of voters who will happily punish you for supporting a position that they like in principle simply because that position is, in practice, associated with the opposite party.
It sounds like a really great idea in theory, but I can’t help but imagine all the ways such a system could go wrong. Smart meters, more complex routing and switching, more efficient use of line capacity, lots more interconnection and dependencies between the various systems… it sounds like a lot of new place and ways for things to break and fail in unexpected ways. It also seems like a situation that introduces a lot more vulnerabilities to bad actors and troublemakers.
During the past year, it’s often felt like the pandemic has come for all but the closest of my close ties. There are people on the outer periphery of my life for whom the concept of “keeping up” makes little sense, but there are also lots of friends and acquaintances—people I could theoretically hang out with outdoors or see on videochat, but with whom those tools just don’t feel right. In my life, this perception seems to be largely mutual—I am not turning down invites from these folks for Zoom catch-ups and walks in the park. Instead, our affection for each other is in a period of suspended animation, alongside indoor dining and international travel. Sometimes we respond to each other’s Instagram Stories.
Other than the bit about Instagram (I don’t use it), this article rings pretty true for me.