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Hayat Shah is a young American in love for the first time. His normal life of school, baseball, and video games had previously been distinguished only by his Pakistani heritage and by the frequent chill between his parents, who fight over things he is too young to understand. Then Mina arrives, and everything changes.
Mina is Hayat's mother's oldest friend from Pakistan. She is independent, beautiful and intelligent, and arrives on the Shah's doorstep when her disastrous marriage in Pakistan disintegrates. Even Hayat's skeptical father can't deny the liveliness and happiness that accompanies Mina into their home. Her deep spirituality brings the family's Muslim faith to life in a way that resonates with Hayat as nothing has before. Studying the Quran by Mina's side and basking in the glow of her attention, he feels an entirely new purpose mingled with a growing infatuation for his teacher.
When Mina meets and begins dating a man, Hayat is confused by his feelings of betrayal. His growing passions, both spiritual and romantic, force him to question all that he has come to believe is true. Just as Mina finds happiness, Hayat is compelled to act -- with devastating consequences for all those he loves most.
American Dervish is a brilliantly written, nuanced, and emotionally forceful look inside the interplay of religion and modern life. Ayad Akhtar was raised in the Midwest himself, and through Hayat Shah he shows readers vividly the powerful forces at work on young men and women growing up Muslim in America. This is an intimate, personal first novel that will stay with readers long after they turn the last page.
Drew Durham (Ace Reach And Teach book reviewer/researcher) Says:
A moving story about how the protagonist Hayat Shah, the only son of Pakistani Muslim parents were living together on the outskirts of Milwaukee wehn Hayat was beginning to learn about his heritage, ancestral culture and about the different interpretations (sects) of Islamic beliefs. This is a strength of the novel, its well rounded and realistic approach to the interpretations if Islam. After the difficult and upsetting living situation and eventual death of his aunt, Mina, Hayat, finds himself near the end of the novels as a college student, reflecting for most of the novel, on his troubling youth and challenging childhood. Ayad Akhtar, the author of the 356 page novel, speaks of many topics from some of the anti-Semitic and patriarchical factions of Islam, to the lies inherent in dogmatic, fanatic and fundamentalist religion, to God's (or Allah's) role in the daily lives of humans, to disappointment, to trauma, to abuse of all types.
The novel is written in a genuinely descriptive style with plenty of thoughtful dialogue which carefully describes the inner life and personality of each character. Many memorable quotes abound through out the novels entertaining yet dramatic pages.
None more thought provoking than the final quote from Mina on her death bed, the final quote before the brief but essential epilogue "...everything, everything is an expression of Allah's will. It is all. His glory. Even the pain...' She paused. "That is the real truth about life." (page 343)
It seems as if the take home message of the book is to understand, embody and live with the reality of impermanence the ideal of the Sufi's and hence the dervishes like the famous Poet Rumi, and all the American Dervishes) Impermanence if put into practice in this life, is: "to depend on nothing, want nothing. to be nothing." (page 274) If we do this, life may well be easier, with less suffering, enabling us to live with more enthusiasm and for us to embody more joy. As the book proves it will be difficult and serious struggles are inevitable on the path if we wish to become our own kind of American Dervish!!
Copyright January 2012
publisher= Littlem Brown and company
meant for young adults and elder