…Ayad Akhtar's moving and confrontational novel
Homeland Elegies…deals in ambiguities that were beyond the pale of public discourse in the years after 9/11. The many unacknowledged failures of American policy and the coarsening of popular attitudes form the matrix in which Akhtar's stories grow. He has an unerring sense for the sore spots, the bitter truths that have emerged from this history.
The New York Times Book Review - Hari Kunzru
American Dervish) reckons with the promises and deceptions of the American dream in this wrenching work of autofiction. The narrator, Ayad, was, like the author, born in Staten Island to Pakistani immigrant parents and raised in Wisconsin, and wrote a Pulitzer-winning play. In eight well-developed chapters structured as musical movements, starting with an overture and ending with a coda, Ayad traces his often complicated personal, philosophical, and political stance toward an America in which he sees himself as “other.” In the process, Ayad responds to criticism of his past writings for rationalizing violence committed by Muslims; critiques capitalism while acknowledging how it benefits him; and confronts his own internalized conflation of race and sex. Most often, these issues are viewed through the lens of family, especially his parents. His mother is chronically homesick not only for her native Pakistan but also for her first love. By contrast, his father, a doctor slammed with a malpractice suit, finds his shortsighted optimism and eventual disillusionment with the American promise play out against the backdrop of the first two years of Trump’s presidency in a pair of stories—one broadly humorous, one heartbreaking—that open and close the book. Akhtar’s work is a provocative and urgent examination of the political and economic conditions that shape personal identity, especially for immigrants and communities of color. With an audacious channeling of Philip Roth’s warts-and-all approach to the story of an American writer and his family, this tragicomedy is a revelation. Agent: Julie Barer, the Book Group. (Sept.)
"Tour de force . . . a poetic confession of the agony of trying to articulate a nuanced critique of faith and politics in an age of shrieking partisanship."
Ron Charles, Washington Post "An immigrant saga unlike any other . . . singular in its richness, inventiveness, and braininess and the fiery candor with which Akhtar chars nearly every sentence. . . . For me, this is the book of the year." Junot Diaz, O Magazine "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.... Homeland Elegies is a very American novel. It’s a lover’s quarrel with this country, and . . . it has candor and seriousness to burn." Dwight Garner, New York Times
"Dazzling . . . a deeply personal examination of the American dream."
Entertainment Weekly "[A] moving and confrontational novel . . . Homeland Elegies deals in ambiguities that were beyond the pale of public discourse in the years after 9/11. . . . He has an unerring sense for the sore spots, the bitter truths that have emerged from this history." Hari Kunzru, New York Times Book Review "Masterful.... A symphony about America.... [Akhtar's] intellectual explorations of identity and self-presentation are coupled with deep emotional urgency.... With its insight and honesty, Homeland Elegies deserves to be read widely." USA Today "Incisive and masterful." Rafia Zakaria, Boston Globe "Gripping ... [a] fine and deeply moving piece of writing." Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune "Akhtar deftly weaves politics, family, friendship, capitalism, work and the eternal existential crisis of being American into a tapestry of form that includes essay, lyric passages and dialogue in its pattern (which, like America, is somewhat chaotic). . . . 'Ever the artist,' Akhtar writes, 'I trusted the mess.' And thank goodness he did." Sarah Neilson, San Francisco Chronicle "Scintillating ... Akhtar is an intrepid narrator." Anjali Enjeti, Minneapolis Star-Tribune "Outstanding.... [A] courageous and timely novel, deftly interweaving fact and fiction, memoir and history.... It’s hard to convey the breadth and brilliance of this work." The Guardian "Monumental . . . a globe-trotting tragicomedy." Elle.com "A family drama that spans the globe and asks big, unsettling questions about identity, patriotism, and the quest to belong." Town & Country "This tragicomedy is a revelation." Publishers Weekly "A searing work . . . profound and provocative." Kirkus Reviews “Achingly intimate . . . The personal is political in this beautiful, intense elegy for an America that often goes awry while still offering hope.” Library Journal “Akhtar confronts issues of race, money, family, politics, and sexuality in a bold, memoiristic tale . . . with an array of fascinating characters with different insights into the American character” Booklist "An unflinchingly honest self-portrait by a brilliant Muslim-American writer, and, beyond that, an unsparing examination of both sides of that fraught hyphenated reality. Passionate, disturbing, unputdownable." Salman Rushdie, author of Quichotte "An urgent, intimate hybrid of memoir and fiction, Homeland Elegies lays bare the broken heart of our American dream turned reality TV nightmare. The book…brilliantly captures how we got to this exact moment in time and at what cost. Stunning." A. M. Homes, author of This Book Will Save Your Life and Days of Awe "At the core of this flashing, kinetic coil of a story part 1001 Nights, part Reality TV is a passionate, wrenching portrayal of Americans exiled into 'otherness'." Jennifer Egan, author of Manhattan Beach and A Visit From the Goon Squad "With Homeland Elegies, Ayad Akhtar has found the perfect hybrid form for his exuberant, insightful, and wickedly entertaining epic about Muslim immigrants and their American-born children. A deeply moving father-and-son story unfolds against tumultuous current events in a book that anyone wanting to know how we as a nation got where we are today and into what dark wood we might be heading tomorrow should read." Sigrid Nunez, author of The Friend " Homeland Elegies is the astonishing work of an absolutely brilliant writer. With exquisite prose and lacerating honesty, Ayad Akhtar reveals the intersections of art, finance, race, religion, academia, and empire, and in the process, shows us a troubled reflection of our country in the twenty-first century." Phil Klay, author of Redeployment "A triumph. Akhtar rages, he sings, he indicts, he falls in love, he sorrows, he dreams, he mourns, he transcribes!-and finally, he transmutes injustice into the sublimest art." Joshua Ferris, author of The Dinner Party "Ayad Akhtar offers up his heart and life with an honesty that astonishes. Never have I experienced such a reading thrill. I put down this novel trembling at the courage it took to write it, and determined to be a better American for having read it." Maria Semple, author of Where'd You Go, Bernadette " Homeland Elegies is urgent, lacerating writing of the first order from one of our finest playwrights. A sensation of a book." Suketu Mehta, author of This Land Is Our Land: An Immigrant's Manifesto "A novel as brave as it is brilliant, as exciting as it is disturbing. This book captures our American moment with a power and depth that left me thrilled and shaken. One of our greatest playwrights establishes himself as a great novelist." Oskar Eustis, Artistic Director of The Public Theater " Homeland Elegies is a beautifully written and unflinching meditation on the American “Dream,” in a moment of Islamophobia, economic crisis, and the unmasking of national rot the Trump years have given us. Playful, daring, unapologetically smart, rejecting the constricting frames within which Muslim-American writing and art are often presented, the novel exposes debt peonage and racial othering as fundaments of our national condition with ruthless clarity." Sadia Abbas, author of At Freedom's Limit and The Empty Room
This achingly intimate novel-cum-memoir from Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Akhtar (
Disgraced) searingly explores the existential questions consuming immigrants in the United States, a task he began with his debut novel, American Dervish. They're asked where their loyalties lie and told "Go back where you came from," even if, like our narrator, they are born here. Raised in a Milwaukee suburb by Pakistani parents, both physicians, he reflects upon his father's unadulterated pride in his Americanism and his mother's more muted adjustment to her adopted country. He credits a college professor with opening his eyes to the myth of American exceptionalism and his decision to immerse himself in a writing career. But while he was living in Harlem, 9/11 happened; brown-skinned men became suspect and Islam no longer a culture or a religion but an epithet. Still, the narrator's career takes off. He's wooed by a billionaire philanthropist, a Pakistani American who supports the right charities in a bid for acceptance, and mourns his mother's death and the end of a love affair. But the beating heart of this novel is his complex relationship with his father and with his homeland. VERDICT The personal is political in this beautiful, intense elegy for an America that often goes awry while still offering hope. [See Prepub Alert, 2/24/20.] —Sally Bissell, formerly with Lee Cty. Lib. Syst., Fort Myers, FL
A playwright and novelist, the son of Muslim immigrants from Pakistan, explores his conflicted place in U.S. society in a searing work of autofiction.
The narrator of this novel, like its author, is named Ayad Akhtar. The real Akhtar achieved acclaim—and notoriety—with his 2012 play,
Disgraced, winner of the Pulitzer Prize. The fictional Akhtar, too, has written a controversial drama in which an “American-born character with Muslim origins confesses that as the towers were falling [on 9/11], he felt something unexpected and unwelcome, a sense of pride.” Over the course of eight chapters—some narrative, some nearly essaylike, all bookended by an “overture” and a “coda”—Akhtar explores family, politics, art, money, sex, religion, and prejudice in vivid, bracingly intelligent prose. Along the way, the reader encounters a range of memorable characters: Akhtar’s father, an immigrant doctor who supports the presidential campaign of Donald Trump, a former patient; his mother, a melancholy woman who pines for Pakistan and the medical school classmate she wishes she had married instead of Akhtar’s father; and Riaz Rind, a Muslim hedge fund manager who takes Akhtar under his wing and offers an education in the cold realities of capital. One comes to this book not for the pleasures of conventional narrative fiction (though Akhtar certainly can spin a tale); this is a novel of restless exploration that finds no pat answers about what it means to be a Muslim American today.
A profound and provocative inquiry into an artist’s complex American identity.