In Homeland Elegies, Ayad Akhtar's impressive whirlwind of a second novel and a Shelf Awareness Best Book of 2020, the author turns his own phenomenally successful American story inside out, eloquently exposing fault lines that persist for those viewed as outsiders in their country of birth. Taking the literary form of a reality drama, Homeland Elegies explores the socio-economic upheavals that created Trump's America through the astonishing family saga of an American Muslim playwright of Pakistani ancestry.
A narrator named Ayad, born in New York and raised in Milwaukee with a firm belief in American exceptionalism, struggles to reconcile the complicated truths behind the United States' obsession with wealth as holy pursuit and its fanatic consumerism. His Islamic heritage bears the traumatic aftershocks of 9/11, when living in New York became an act of provocation for Americans like himself, the beginning of his "deepening travails as a Muslim in this country." Through profoundly intimate vignettes, Ayad shares the distorted American dreams of a father who served as Trump's physician in the '90s and an uncle whose conversion to Christianity is a misguided effort to feel safe in the U.S. Meanwhile, his dying mother pines for an idealized version of Pakistan, the same country that learned terror-as-tactic at the feet of the CIA.
True to the legacy of his Pulitzer Prize-winning play Disgraced, Akhtar (American Dervish) dissects themes of Muslim self-identity with incredible precision. Homeland Elegies will appeal intellectually to readers secure in their sense of belonging as well as those who, like Ayad, wrestle with feelings of otherness. --Shahina Piyarali, writer and reviewer