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Ali Eteraz's Children of Dust is a spellbinding portrayal of a life that few Americans can imagine. From his schooling in a madrassa in Pakistan to his teenage years as a Muslim American in the Bible Belt, and back to Pakistan to find a pious Muslim wife, this lyrical, penetrating saga from a brilliant new literary voice captures the heart of our universal quest for identity.

Children of Dust begins in rural Islam at the lowest levels of Pakistani society in the turbulent eighties. This intimate portrayal of rustic village life is revealed through a young boy's eyes as he discovers magic, women, and friendship.

After immigrating with his family to the United States, Eteraz struggles to be a normal American teenager under the rules of a strict Muslim household.

In 1999, he returns to Pakistan to find the villages of his youth dominated by the ideology of the Taliban, filled with young men spouting militant rhetoric, and his extended family under threat. Eteraz becomes the target of a mysterious abduction plot when he is purported to be a CIA agent, and eventually has to escape under military escort.

Back in the United States, with his fundamentalist illusions now shattered, Eteraz tries to find a middle way within American Islam. At each stage of Eteraz's life, he takes on a different identity to signal his evolution. From being pledged to Islam in Mecca as an infant, through Salafi fundamentalism, to liberal reformer, Eteraz desperately struggles to come to terms with being a Pakistani and a Muslim.

Astonishingly honest, darkly comic, and beautifully told, Children of Dust is an extraordinary adventure that reveals the diversity of Islamic beliefs, the vastness of the Pakistani diaspora, and the very human search for home.

Published: HarperCollins on
ISBN: 9780062015150
List price: $10.99
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Normally, I'm opposed to young people writing memoirs, just on principle. Children of Dust shamed me. I was wrong to judge. It is so, so good: a remarkable story told with skill and charm, and uplifting in the best possible way.more
I try to read at least most of the books on the Chautauqua reading list each year, which led me to Children of Dust. This is a memoir of a man born in Pakistan who came to the United States as a child. It's a story of his quest to remain Muslim in Bible belt America and to understand his Islam faith all set to the background of his day-to-day life. According to the book jacket, Mr. Eteraz is a graduate of Emory University and Temple Law School. He was selected for the Outstanding Scholar's Program at the U.S. Dept. of Justice and later worked in corporate litigation in Manhattan. He has published srticles in Dissent, Foreign Policy, AlterNet and alt Muslim; and is a regular contributor to The Guardian UK. The book is well-written and a pleasure to read.more
This book spoke to me powerfully, disturbingly and eloquently. Although unique in its narrative style, it's early chapters invited me in with the graphic ease of, say, Mao's Last Dancer. The story of Abir ul' Islam is compelling from the first page, despite portraying a terrifying picture of a religious interpretation that appears to be based entirely on superstition and human power. The young Abir is portrayed as closely as possible as though the events are occurring in the present, without benefit of adult hindsight. Then, when he moves to America, the mood changes abruptly, and the story is penned with a retrospective bitterness against his parents. Later, his cynical irony is turned on himself, and then, finally, in the fifth "book", Abir-Amir-Ali begins a painful, unintentional and beautifully depicted journey into love and wisdom. The character of Ziad, his reluctant teacher, is wonderfully realised, and the language becomes poetic in its beauty in places. The brutal honesty, combined with the changing narrative voice and the seductive simplicity and beauty of the text combine to make this one of the more extraordinary books I have ever read. What a privilege.more
Typically, I enjoy books set in countries such as Afghanistan and Pakistan. I find the contrast between their cultures and American culture to be interesting and informative. The predominance of religion weighs heavily in the mix of course, and that will always distinguish a multitude of differences. Children of Dust by Ali Eteraz is a book that illustrates just how different our worlds truly are. Eteraz grows up stuck between these worlds, trying to understand his place and purpose. He’s the product of a convenant between his father and Allah—destined to do great and wonderful things by spreading the word of Islam. That’s a lot of responsibility to place on a child and as a result, Ali (originally named Abir) struggles with defining himself until a final revelation opens his eyes as to his mission in life.Unfortunately, I didn’t care much for this book. As Eteraz recounts his life story, all I came away with was the impression of a very egocentric man. Perhaps that is a product of his feeling of responsibility/indebtedness to Islam. His destiny you might say is his undoing, or at least until he achieves a measure of enlightenment about what it means. And he does of course, that’s what redeems him in the end…but for me it was too little, too late. I couldn’t help but think that this is yet another way his is reinventing his person. Trying to make himself to good guy, as opposed to the selfish hypocrite of his former years. Sigh, I had such high hopes for this book. In the end, I don’t think I understood Eteraz’s perspective well enough to enjoy his story. I’m sure there are plenty others who might appreciate the story more.more
Read all 13 reviews

Reviews

Normally, I'm opposed to young people writing memoirs, just on principle. Children of Dust shamed me. I was wrong to judge. It is so, so good: a remarkable story told with skill and charm, and uplifting in the best possible way.more
I try to read at least most of the books on the Chautauqua reading list each year, which led me to Children of Dust. This is a memoir of a man born in Pakistan who came to the United States as a child. It's a story of his quest to remain Muslim in Bible belt America and to understand his Islam faith all set to the background of his day-to-day life. According to the book jacket, Mr. Eteraz is a graduate of Emory University and Temple Law School. He was selected for the Outstanding Scholar's Program at the U.S. Dept. of Justice and later worked in corporate litigation in Manhattan. He has published srticles in Dissent, Foreign Policy, AlterNet and alt Muslim; and is a regular contributor to The Guardian UK. The book is well-written and a pleasure to read.more
This book spoke to me powerfully, disturbingly and eloquently. Although unique in its narrative style, it's early chapters invited me in with the graphic ease of, say, Mao's Last Dancer. The story of Abir ul' Islam is compelling from the first page, despite portraying a terrifying picture of a religious interpretation that appears to be based entirely on superstition and human power. The young Abir is portrayed as closely as possible as though the events are occurring in the present, without benefit of adult hindsight. Then, when he moves to America, the mood changes abruptly, and the story is penned with a retrospective bitterness against his parents. Later, his cynical irony is turned on himself, and then, finally, in the fifth "book", Abir-Amir-Ali begins a painful, unintentional and beautifully depicted journey into love and wisdom. The character of Ziad, his reluctant teacher, is wonderfully realised, and the language becomes poetic in its beauty in places. The brutal honesty, combined with the changing narrative voice and the seductive simplicity and beauty of the text combine to make this one of the more extraordinary books I have ever read. What a privilege.more
Typically, I enjoy books set in countries such as Afghanistan and Pakistan. I find the contrast between their cultures and American culture to be interesting and informative. The predominance of religion weighs heavily in the mix of course, and that will always distinguish a multitude of differences. Children of Dust by Ali Eteraz is a book that illustrates just how different our worlds truly are. Eteraz grows up stuck between these worlds, trying to understand his place and purpose. He’s the product of a convenant between his father and Allah—destined to do great and wonderful things by spreading the word of Islam. That’s a lot of responsibility to place on a child and as a result, Ali (originally named Abir) struggles with defining himself until a final revelation opens his eyes as to his mission in life.Unfortunately, I didn’t care much for this book. As Eteraz recounts his life story, all I came away with was the impression of a very egocentric man. Perhaps that is a product of his feeling of responsibility/indebtedness to Islam. His destiny you might say is his undoing, or at least until he achieves a measure of enlightenment about what it means. And he does of course, that’s what redeems him in the end…but for me it was too little, too late. I couldn’t help but think that this is yet another way his is reinventing his person. Trying to make himself to good guy, as opposed to the selfish hypocrite of his former years. Sigh, I had such high hopes for this book. In the end, I don’t think I understood Eteraz’s perspective well enough to enjoy his story. I’m sure there are plenty others who might appreciate the story more.more
I have always been fascinated by religion; probably due to my experiences as a child. I was raised Catholic but lost my religion as they say long, long ago. But not my interest. So I read. I have covered several Christian branches and a fair bit on Judaism and now am reading about Islam. Mr. Eterez's book is a memoir of his life from his childhood to adulthood reared in Islam. At first I was disconcerted by the lack of a narrative. The chapters seemed like independent stories with nothing much binding them together except for Mr. Eterez. But his writing style is easy and I soon forgot the lack of a traditional structure and truly enjoyed the book. His tales of his passion for his religion are funny, heartfelt and at times morbid. Mr. Eterez truly bares his soul and his life to the reader. As he mentions in his acknowledgments - he didn't expect to gain friends in writing the book.I think anyone curious about Islam and life in Pakistan would find this book very enjoyable. It also mildly explores the immigrant experience for Muslims in the United States. I found it sadly comical how Mr. Eterez and his family were perceived when they went back to Pakistan for a visit. Assumptions are so very dangerous and we humans make them all the timemore
This is the story of his journey to find himself and his place in his world. It is full of information about Middle Eastern culture and Islam. Although there were a few places where the language could have been cleaned up, overall the book was a great informative read and one of the best memoirs I've ever read. I would recommend this to anyone who is a fan of Ali Eteraz or is interested in the Middle East culture or Islam.more
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