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How to Be a Muslim: An American Story by…
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How to Be a Muslim: An American Story

by Haroon Moghul

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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This is one that I do plan to read, but when I made my first stab at getting into it, it didn't immediately grab me. I do intend to read it, because the story of the author's experience with his Muslim identity and various life problems seems like one that would be interesting, but I just haven't quite gotten into it. I plan to come back and revise this review when I've managed to finish the book.
  benruth | Jun 1, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I was disappointed in this book. I thought I would get a real insight about being a Muslim in NYC after 9/11. However, the book barely touched on the subject. Moghul gave more of an account of a paper he plagiarized from another student than he gave of any specific situation relating to 9/11.

It also seemed as though Moghul seemed to blame many of his difficulties growing up on his skin color and religion. This became most apparent to me (pg. 103) when he tells the story of his elementary school which had only one other non-white, and Italian girl. (I had always thought of Italians as white, but anyway) The Italian girl kisses every boy in the class on the cheek except Moghul and he concludes the reason she did not kiss him was that "Apparently she was a self-hating shade of mocha cappuccino." It never occurred to him, that maybe he elementary school kids disliked him for other reasons.

The book was also poorly written. For example on page 85 "A fancier student center was on the way. But we'd have no prayer space in my remaining three years, because previous sentence."

This was a very difficult book to get through. I think the story of Haroon Moghul's life sounds interesting and if he got a good writer to write his biography, it could make for an interesting book. ( )
  KamGeb | May 27, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This book turned up in my mailbox a few weeks ago, a surprise gift from the publisher. It was a nice surprise: an intensely personal spiritual memoir, authentic, ironic and redemptive, written in a conversational style that occasionally turns into poetry.

I have heard the violent story of 9/11 so many times – we all have – but never have I paid attention to the quieter story of how a group of students at NYU, led by the author, built up their Islamic student ministry from a tiny student club to a full-fledged chaplaincy. That alone is a great achievement, and a story that deserves to be told. But it’s the lesser story here.

The heart of this book is the author’s search for his own faith, how he learned to talk to God, and how a suicide attempt was prevented by a simple act of kindness. He succeeds, I think, in connecting to the dreams and the doubts experienced by every believer (unless they are lying). Thank you for this beautiful book.
  aquariumministry | May 24, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
In this short-ish book the author writes about how his life as a Muslim American before and after the attacks in New York on September 11. Haroon Moghul goes from being an ungdergrad to being seen as a leader and in the media defending and talking about Islam. The story centers around his identity formation and how it changed as a result of the changing American landscape. He also writes about Arabic language and the Muslim religion, a great first-person account into culture and religion. The writing isn't polished, but perhaps over time the author will develop into his own voice since this is his first book. ( )
  eo206 | May 21, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This isn’t a book about American Muslims in the context of current events or politics. (George W. Bush is mentioned only in passing, and there is nothing here about the 2016 presidential campaign or candidates.) Instead, this is a book about one American Muslim coming to terms with…his divorce.

I’d agree that Haroon Moghul has had an eventful enough life to justify a memoir at his youngish age, but he’s either a poor judge of what’s interesting to other people, or he was writing this entirely for personal therapeutic reasons. The accomplishment of having a novel published is dismissed in a sentence (in a paragraph about unrelated things). Ditto the time Moghul “got myself teargassed” in Istanbul. Seriously. He never mentions it again. Because obviously the reader would much rather hear all about his dreams* and his divorce and conversations he’s had with random attractive women?

* But it turns out dreams ARE (supposed to be) interesting. Moghul explains (much too late, however) that “In the Islamic tradition dreams have power.” My favorite section of the book is when a dream (someone else’s!) leads the author to consult “a prominent scholar,” whose interpretation of a dream of Moghul’s goes some way toward pulling together some of what has come before in the book.

The author has been (we’re told) a prominent speaker since his college days (“a professional Muslim”), but he tells the reader virtually nothing about the context and the content of these speaking engagements. What he gives us instead are paradoxical grievances: he was doing all this traveling in spite of being much too ill to do anything, and at the same time he resents being stuck in out-of-the-way hotels where there’s nothing to do. Of course it probably wasn’t “at the same time,” but many paragraphs in this book are unchronological to the extent of being utterly confusing.

The writing style is only intermittently accessible, between convoluted syntax, words not in my unabridged dictionary, and a broad range of unshared references (from pop culture to medical jargon to Islam) that make it pretty clear I was never the intended audience for this book anyway. ( )
  noveltea | May 3, 2017 |
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