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Homeland Elegies (2020)

by Ayad Akhtar

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5803133,226 (4.08)88
"A deeply personal work about identity and belonging in a nation coming apart at the seams, Homeland Elegies blends fact and fiction to tell an epic story of longing and dispossession in the world that 9/11 made. Part family drama, part social essay, part picaresque novel, at its heart it is the story of a father, a son, and the country they both call home. Ayad Akhtar forges a new narrative voice to capture a country in which debt has ruined countless lives and the gods of finance rule, where immigrants live in fear, and where the nations unhealed wounds wreak havoc around the world. Akhtar attempts to make sense of it all through the lens of a story about one family, from a heartland town in America to palatial suites in Central Europe to guerrilla lookouts in the mountains of Afghanistan, and spares no one--least of all himself--in the process."--… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 30 (next | show all)
Very good writing and definitely worth the read. This book explores Muslim and Pakistani-immigrant experience in the US pre-an post 9/11. I really liked the beginning of the book, but he lost me a bit in the middle. I thought he did a better job exploring the character and motivation of his parent's generation than his own. ( )
  banjo123 | Mar 8, 2022 |
It didn't occur to me that it could be much easier for a writer to pen a (mostly?) true narrative and then stamp NOVEL on it. It would lead to much less trouble, wouldn't it? Even if every sentence of a book is true, labeled as "fiction", the writer certainly can't get into legal trouble, and because of some of the questions posed on his past work, I can see why it would be easier for him to label 'Homeland Elegies' a novel. I'm not sure if this readerly brain likes such blurry lines -- I want any book to be either full fiction or full truth. I realize that is a tough ask. It's definitely an interesting concept to me though. I can imagine labeling as "novel" gave Akhtar the freedom of honesty.... but maybe ALL of this is fiction - I don't know enough about Akhtar to really know. But I was expecting fiction and this reads like non-fiction, like a collection of essays, delving into being Muslim, American, the economy, money, family. But these "essays" very cohesively fit together here, to make the bigger picture very clear. ( )
  booklove2 | Jan 18, 2022 |
The story is well written and intellectually challenging. Akhtar writes in a form of meta fiction where the protagonist has his name and many reference points match those of the author, but cautions that this is a story and not autobiography. The narrative unfolds in various stories about his life, from growing up in Wisconsin with a father, a renowned heart specialist who once cared for Trump, to a mother who pined to go back to Pakistan and grieved over the murder of the man she truly loved. There are scenes of Akbar's own education from his aunt in Pakistan to college professors, one of whom convinces his to record his dream. We read of his economic understanding of the world according to Robert Bork’s contributions to the elimination of checks on private enterprise, and how he benefits from the insider market help of a friend. In addition there are personal stories about his experiences as Muslim after 9/11 and his ventures into romance. After reading the novel I happened upon an interview on a podcast called Tin House where the author further impressed with his sheer intellectual bounty of reflections and his ability to articulate how his reading and education shaped his writing.
NYT
For Ayad Akhtar, the Trump presidency has led to “Homeland Elegies,” a beautiful novel about an American son and his immigrant father that has echoes of “The Great Gatsby” and that circles, with pointed intellect, the possibilities and limitations of American life...
There’s a lot more in this novel. There is good writing about Salman Rushdie and Edward Said (one of the narrator’s aunts really wanted to get him into bed) and syphilis and hoof stew and Scranton, Pa., and screenwriting, among many other things...
Homeland Elegies” is a very American novel. It’s a lover’s quarrel with this country, and at its best it has candor and seriousness to burn.

I would highly recommend this book but only for the reader that will give it the attention it will need.
Lines:
I date my mother's intensifying anti Americanism to that summer, the summer when, in response to attacks on two US embassies in East Africa, Bill Clinton bombed a Sudanese medicine factory. When Mother-herself a doctor trained in the Third World-learned that the factory had been responsible for producing every ounce of Sudan's tuberculosis medications, she was particularly incensed. She already despised Clinton for his indiscretions with Monica Lewinsky, and the attack on the factory came three days after Clinton's disastrous address in which he admitted he'd been lying about the affair all along. She saw in this sequence a murderous cynicism: an American president under political siege distracts the nation by killing Muslims.”

It was from her that I first heard the analogy comparing love and arranged marriages to kettles of water pitched at different temperatures: the former already boiling, with no chance to get any hotter; the latter cold at the outset, requiring steady application to be sure but with ample room to heat up over the years.”

The established majority takes its we-image from a minority of its best, and shapes a they-image of the despised outsiders from the minority of their worst.”

Because being American is not about what they tell you—freedom and opportunity and all that horseshit. Not really. There is a culture here, for sure, and it has nothing to do with all the well-meaning nonsense. It’s about racism and money worship—and when you’re on the correct side of both those things? That’s when you really belong.”

Obama's victory had turned out to be little more than symbolic, only hastening our nation's long collapse into corporate autocracy, and his failures had raised the stakes immeasurably. Most Americans couldn't cobble together a week's expenses in case of an emergency. They had good reason to be scared and angry. They felt betrayed and wanted to destroy something. The national mood was Hobbesian: nasty, brutish, nihilistic-and no one embodied all this better than Donald Trump. Trump was no aberration or idiosyncrasy, as Mike saw it, but a reflection, a human mirror in which to see all we'd allowed ourselves to become. Sure, you could read the man for metaphors-an unapologetically racist real estate magnate embodying the rise of white property rights; a self-absorbed idiot epitomizing the rampant social self-obsession and narcissism that was making us all stupider by the day; greed and corruption so naked and endemic it could only be made sense of as the outsize expression of our own deepest desires-yes, you could read the man as if he were a symbol to be deciphered, but Mike thought it was much simpler than all that. Trump had just felt the national mood, and his particular genius was a need for attention so craven, so unrelenting, he was willing to don any and every shade of our moment's ugliness, consequences be damned. “ ( )
  novelcommentary | Aug 24, 2021 |
I learned a lot about attitudes toward the United States, and this was very illuminating. I did not care for much of the writing, nor all of the details of the author's life, but the education was worth it. I also may have enjoyed it as much as I did because I have seen some of the author's thooughtful plays. ( )
  suesbooks | Aug 21, 2021 |
Interesting tirade against the American social and economic mechanics that drive success-- that very thing, it should be said, Akhtar apologetically accepts in tones of contrition that sit like curdled milk in the reader's brain. The novel is smart and smartly written, but the reader must struggle through a morass of ego before gleaning an appreciation of Akhtar's skill. Although this reader did not enjoy Homeland Elegies as a novel, it does merit a reading should one desire to indulge in journalistic hijinks of the first degree. ( )
  karmambo | Aug 7, 2021 |
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"A deeply personal work about identity and belonging in a nation coming apart at the seams, Homeland Elegies blends fact and fiction to tell an epic story of longing and dispossession in the world that 9/11 made. Part family drama, part social essay, part picaresque novel, at its heart it is the story of a father, a son, and the country they both call home. Ayad Akhtar forges a new narrative voice to capture a country in which debt has ruined countless lives and the gods of finance rule, where immigrants live in fear, and where the nations unhealed wounds wreak havoc around the world. Akhtar attempts to make sense of it all through the lens of a story about one family, from a heartland town in America to palatial suites in Central Europe to guerrilla lookouts in the mountains of Afghanistan, and spares no one--least of all himself--in the process."--

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