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“[Eteraz’s] adventures are a heavenly read.” —O, the Oprah magazine “In this supremely assured, lush, and rip-roaring book, Eteraz manages to do the impossible, gliding confidently over the chasm that divides East and West. Wildly entertaining…memoir of the first order.” —Murad Kalam, author of Night Journey Ali Eteraz’s award-winning memoir reveals the searing spiritual sto “[Eteraz’s] adventures are a heavenly read.” —O, the Oprah magazine “In this supremely assured, lush, and rip-roaring book, Eteraz manages to do the impossible, gliding confidently over the chasm that divides East and West. Wildly entertaining…memoir of the first order.” —Murad Kalam, author of Night Journey Ali Eteraz’s award-winning memoir reveals the searing spiritual story of growing up in Pakistan under the specter of militant Islamic fundamentalism and then overcoming the culture shock of emigrating to the United States. A gripping memoir evocative of Persepolis, Reading Lolita in Tehran, and the novel The Kite Runner, Eteraz’s narrative is also a cathartic chronicle of spiritual awakening. Yael Goldstein Love, author of Overture, calls Children of Dust “a gift and a necessity [that] should be read by believers and nonbelievers alike.”


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“[Eteraz’s] adventures are a heavenly read.” —O, the Oprah magazine “In this supremely assured, lush, and rip-roaring book, Eteraz manages to do the impossible, gliding confidently over the chasm that divides East and West. Wildly entertaining…memoir of the first order.” —Murad Kalam, author of Night Journey Ali Eteraz’s award-winning memoir reveals the searing spiritual sto “[Eteraz’s] adventures are a heavenly read.” —O, the Oprah magazine “In this supremely assured, lush, and rip-roaring book, Eteraz manages to do the impossible, gliding confidently over the chasm that divides East and West. Wildly entertaining…memoir of the first order.” —Murad Kalam, author of Night Journey Ali Eteraz’s award-winning memoir reveals the searing spiritual story of growing up in Pakistan under the specter of militant Islamic fundamentalism and then overcoming the culture shock of emigrating to the United States. A gripping memoir evocative of Persepolis, Reading Lolita in Tehran, and the novel The Kite Runner, Eteraz’s narrative is also a cathartic chronicle of spiritual awakening. Yael Goldstein Love, author of Overture, calls Children of Dust “a gift and a necessity [that] should be read by believers and nonbelievers alike.”

30 review for Children of Dust: A Memoir of Pakistan

  1. 5 out of 5

    W

    What surprised me most about this book is that it did not ignite a major controversy.Religion is a very sensitive subject in Pakistan and the Muslim world,and this book is written in very controversial style. It is supposedly a memoir,but at times reads like a novel.The author studies in a madrassa (religious school) in Pakistan,then he migrates with his family to the US.He experiences culture shock,which also influences his orthodox religious views.His religious views keep changing with the pass What surprised me most about this book is that it did not ignite a major controversy.Religion is a very sensitive subject in Pakistan and the Muslim world,and this book is written in very controversial style. It is supposedly a memoir,but at times reads like a novel.The author studies in a madrassa (religious school) in Pakistan,then he migrates with his family to the US.He experiences culture shock,which also influences his orthodox religious views.His religious views keep changing with the passage of time,from conservative to atheist,to self-styled reformer. There are a lot of cultural references that a Pakistani audience can relate to,while readers outside Pakistan may struggle with it.A very unusual book,nevertheless.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    This was another disappointing read in my quest for a sensitive book which informs and entertains me about Islam. An OK read, I persisted through the low level of entertainment and information that was on offer through the time of Abir/Amir/Ali through his good boy years in Pakistan, and into his fine young muslim years in America through high school and uni, in the hope that when his disillusionment grew, some more feelings would be explained or intellectualised. But when I got to his anti-isla This was another disappointing read in my quest for a sensitive book which informs and entertains me about Islam. An OK read, I persisted through the low level of entertainment and information that was on offer through the time of Abir/Amir/Ali through his good boy years in Pakistan, and into his fine young muslim years in America through high school and uni, in the hope that when his disillusionment grew, some more feelings would be explained or intellectualised. But when I got to his anti-islamic phase, there was again no deep exploration of why the change happened, or how significant or difficult it was to change in this radical way, and turn away from Islam, so I decided not to persist. Not that the book is really garbage, it is reasonably well written, but somehow very much gives me the impression of a personality who is not particularly contemplative or thoughtful about the hows and whys of behaviour or the meaning of life and love. No insights here, and in the end, when you are writing about your turning away from Islam, for me a description of events and friends without the intellectual life or being much in touch with the whys of feelings just means that you don't really have that much to say. A string of descriptive events is not interesting.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Nathan

    This isn't a memoir of Pakistan; it's the journey of a boy from religious orthodoxy to unbelief to zealotry to moderate universalism. With the cluttered, clunky prose made ubiquitous by "The Kite Runner", Eteraz relates his life as he receives his childhood education in the madrassas, grows rooted in the Islamic traditions, and quickly loses his faith upon moving to the West. Nothing in particular seems to account for that loss; I'm left with the distinct impression that he left the faith out of This isn't a memoir of Pakistan; it's the journey of a boy from religious orthodoxy to unbelief to zealotry to moderate universalism. With the cluttered, clunky prose made ubiquitous by "The Kite Runner", Eteraz relates his life as he receives his childhood education in the madrassas, grows rooted in the Islamic traditions, and quickly loses his faith upon moving to the West. Nothing in particular seems to account for that loss; I'm left with the distinct impression that he left the faith out of pure asshattedness. He then comes back, for no real reason, as a puritanical Islamic reformer, before that gets old and he settles on a 'God is everywhere, we are all brothers under the Cosmic Papa' sort of kumbayah-ism. Along the way, we are left to follow as he fornicates his way through life (the sexual episodes seem to serve no other purpose than to display what a player Eteraz thinks he is), throws tantrums at his parents, defends the faith whose every tenet he has broken, and finally, at long bloody last, stumbles to the tired realization that the God Within is expressed in transcendent moments of "flying kites on a mountain", taking "hi-res pictures of insects", and "saving Bedouin boys in the desert". There's nothing wrong with wrestling with questions of faith. There's nothing wrong, on the whole, with changing religions after serious thought and consideration. These are vital questions, and they are often the stuff of the most timeless books ever written. Eteraz just doesn't approach the issue with anywhere near the amount of respect it deserves. That made his book, beyond the surface issues of style, hard to respect itself.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Mikey B.

    I have to confess that I found this a little confusing for a memoir because so much is written in dialogue form, even when the author is a young child. It reads more like a novel than an autobiography, but the reading is very understandable and fluid. The first part is the most engaging as it discusses his upbringing in Pakistan – which is most Dickensian with the poverty, the teachers who force memorization of religious texts (the Koran) and beat their students at a whim. I suppose the passages I have to confess that I found this a little confusing for a memoir because so much is written in dialogue form, even when the author is a young child. It reads more like a novel than an autobiography, but the reading is very understandable and fluid. The first part is the most engaging as it discusses his upbringing in Pakistan – which is most Dickensian with the poverty, the teachers who force memorization of religious texts (the Koran) and beat their students at a whim. I suppose the passages on sodomy are beyond Dickens though. After the age of ten the author, with his parents, departs for life in the U.S. At this stage the book becomes somewhat claustrophobic as everything is seen through the prism of religion. There are only a few outlets to the greater culture via T.V. and the internet where decadent apostasy is observed. The author and his family are enmeshed within a religious cult and all behaviour is regulated by ancient scriptural texts from the Koran. One senses through-out that this person requires de-programming – much like people stuck in the “Moonie cult” during the 1960’s and 70’s. Towards the end he becomes an Islamic representative at the college he is enrolled in and experiences this as being a charade – a role he plays where he can gratify his ego and attract girlfriends. The author slowly breaks through this; but it is only in the last few pages of the book that this is alluded to so I am uncertain as to his next step. There is also a distancing from his parents, but the actual nature of this is also murky. The author uses a number of alias names during his different transitions – which begs the question of who the author really is?

  5. 5 out of 5

    else fine

    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.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Irving Karchmar

    Ali Eteraz is a thoughtful, intelligent, and at times, bitingly funny writer. His very popular, now defunct blog, in which he wrote both comic and serious essays about Pakistani politics, Islamic sexuality, and extremist militancy, led to his eventually becoming a contributor to The Guardian UK and writing articles for such mainstream venues as Dissent, Foreign Policy, and The Huffington Post. In Children of Dust: A Memoir of Pakistan, Eteraz reveals his true gifts as a storyteller. It is a delig Ali Eteraz is a thoughtful, intelligent, and at times, bitingly funny writer. His very popular, now defunct blog, in which he wrote both comic and serious essays about Pakistani politics, Islamic sexuality, and extremist militancy, led to his eventually becoming a contributor to The Guardian UK and writing articles for such mainstream venues as Dissent, Foreign Policy, and The Huffington Post. In Children of Dust: A Memoir of Pakistan, Eteraz reveals his true gifts as a storyteller. It is a delight to read and utterly charming, lyrically written with exuberant good humor and insightful remembrances. It is also a brave book, driven by a keen and sardonic intelligence, and as he grows and gropes for personal and cosmic answers, one cannot but admire his daring. We root for him to succeed. The book is broken into five parts, each signified by a different name he takes for himself, each identity a stage of his coming to terms with Pakistan, Islam, America, and his place in each. The first part of the book, The Promised – Abir ul Islam, (literally, Perfume of Islam), evokes his parents’ hopes for him of a pious life; his father made a mannat, a Covenant with God, before he was born:“Ya Allah! If you should give me a son, I promise that we will become a great leader and servant of Islam.” His mother then went on Hajj with him as a baby and rubbed his chest on the wall of the Ka’ba in Mecca, so that Allah might bless him with reverence and resolve for his religion. And this covenant did indeed guide his life for the next thirty years. As a boy growing up in a Pakistan desert village, he joyfully embraces the sweetness of his youth and young manhood among his mother and father, Ammi and Pops, with all the love and strictness of a Muslim family in a Muslim country, surrounded by various grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. I especially loved his descriptions of life in rural Pakistan and of his wonderful mother Ammi, weaving lessons from the Koran with folk stories of Islam and the Jinn into daily living, which inhabited both reality and imagination in his young world. After a short and rather brutal madrassa education, that part of his life ends when his medical doctor father, Pops, gets a visa to work in America, and the family departs for every immigrant’s dream destination, Alabama. In the second section, The American – Amir, the family moves repeatedly seeking opportunity, finally settling in the Bible Belt. In Alabama (Allahbama) he enters High School and decides to legally change his name to Amir to distance himself from his parents’ growing fundamentalism amid his teenage shyness and sexual angst. It is the shortest section in the book, but beautifully captures the growing tension between him and his family and him and his loins. In book three, The Fundamentalist – Abu Bakr Ramaq, he is off to college in Manhattan, his name changed once again after discovering he is descended from Abu Bakr Siddiq, the truthteller, a companion of the Prophet and the first Caliph of Islam (peace and blessings be upon them both). This revelation spurs his own fundamentalism, and he becomes Abu Bakr Ramaq (“spark of light”), representing the passion he now feels for Islam. One of the most intriguing parts of this section is his exploration of his faith, and confronting two of its greatest opponents – extremism and secularism. He dismisses Osama bin Laden as an opportunist and another in a long line of messianic pretenders. And his reading of Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses juxtaposed with Islamic thinkers such as Zaid Shakir, who claims that secularism is un-Islamic, convinces him that the real battle is between Islam (and by extension all religions) and reason. The liberating freedom that reason gives is a curse that separates the here from the hereafter, the creation from the Creator. After growing a scanty beard, and following a series of truly hilarious misadventures with the opposite sex, he finally journeys back to his desert village in Pakistan with his mother and younger brother to find a pious Muslim wife and trace his noble lineage. But he finds out that he is not only unrelated to Abu Bakr, but is in fact descended from a Hindu convert that changed his name from Savekhi to the close sounding Siddique. He is then threatened by Taliban-style thugs just for being an American, and the family must be hastily escorted out of town and out of the country by his uncle’s military unit. The fourth book, The Postmodern – Amir ul Islam, (literally, Prince of Islam), a combination of the his assumed and given name, suggests that he is reclaiming Islam only so that he can internalize it into something more manageable. He is crestfallen at his failure in Pakistan, blaming its backwardness and close mindedness on not being recognized for the pious Muslim he thinks himself to be. He willfully transfers to a Christian university in Atlanta and sets out to study Philosophy, especially Postmodernism, the bane of Islam and religion in general. He is admirably honest in exposing his failure as the result of his own ego trying to impress others with his piety, a common young pretension, concluding that Islam and its most ardent followers in the mother country have failed him. Postmodernism is his revenge. And sex. Yet he still carries the weight of the covenant made before he was born, so to accomplish this double and conflicting task, he strives for and becomes President of the MSA, the Muslim Students Association. He becomes BMOC, Big Muslim on Campus. Leading the Friday prayer, lecturing and give advice as an imam, taking up the Palestinian cause at the start of the second Intifada, he desperately tries to convince himself and everyone else of his Islamic credentials. In still seeking his own Islamic reflection in the mirrored approval of other Muslims, his religion becomes not a sacred obligation between himself and Allah, but a status conscious mirage between himself and every other Muslim on the planet. Finally, he has had enough. After graduation, he moves to Washington DC, having obtained a fellowship for aspiring lawyers with the US Department of Justice. A few months later, the planes hit the Pentagon and the Twin Towers on 9/11. At last we come to The Reformer – Ali Eteraz, the fifth book, wherein he takes his final name, which means “Noble Protest”. After 9/11, he ignored his work as a legal associate, and wrote, researched, and formed friendships on the internet in preparation of his obsessive drive to save Islam from it “idiots.” In the process, he loses his job, his apartment, his money and his family. He abandons his faith and moves to Las Vegas, Sin City, an almost perfect metaphor. After a few months of despondency, the reenergized reformer travels to Kuwait to convince Arabs to be part of the reformation of Islam. While staying with his friend Ziad, he plans an Islamic think tank of brave and accomplished Muslims to combat the loud militancy of the extremists; he schemes to reinvent Islam as a religion of equality, peace, and justice to fulfill his covenant. Ziad is a modern Muslim who couldn’t care less about such reformist ideas, and acts as his alter ego. Their brotherly back and forth finally breaks through the cycles of transformation and allows him to start over. While visiting his mother back in California, Ali Eteraz comes full circle: “My little Abir,“ she say. “You grew up all these years, just to become innocent again.”

  7. 5 out of 5

    Barbara

    I am not really sure what I feel about this book. First, I may know a bit more about Pakistan, its people and religion than the average American. I have been married to a Pakistani for almost 26 years. I have been to the country many times and so I am looking at this from a different angle than most Americans. Certainly the part about living in Pakistan as a young boy rang true. We don't know where he lived, but we know it's not a large town and I know that there are people like he describes. It I am not really sure what I feel about this book. First, I may know a bit more about Pakistan, its people and religion than the average American. I have been married to a Pakistani for almost 26 years. I have been to the country many times and so I am looking at this from a different angle than most Americans. Certainly the part about living in Pakistan as a young boy rang true. We don't know where he lived, but we know it's not a large town and I know that there are people like he describes. It may be hard for people to understand, but for many within Pakistan, this is their life. Mostly in the towns removed from the big cities like Karachi, Lahore & Islamabad. Plus the early section of the book takes place years ago. Things are more advanced in some ways, but in others the advancement has only affected some things and so there's much incongruity there. So, I was comfortable with this part of the book. I am also somewhat comfortable with the part where his family comes to America. Much of what he describes I have witnessed first hand. People come from another culture/religion and sometimes the pendulum swings very far in one direction, only to come back to the extreme the other side. His mother embraces the American culture at first, a kind of new found freedom, but inevitably goes back to her culture/religion and becomes even more strict. Of course the young boys are going to struggle, they want to fit it, yet the strict teaching they have had keeps ringing in their head. I thoroughly enjoyed the bits about his dating online and encounters with girls. Again, the whole thing rings true. It's so awkward at times. I felt myself cringing at how real it was! I struggled with the "Fundamentalist" section. Again, I know many people who have gone through the exact same things - going deeper into their religion, but I guess I just could not stand the person the author was at this point. If I met him in real life at that time, I would not want to be around him. I would actively dislike him. I know he was practicing his religion, but he was so overzealous. I guess in a a sense he wrote well and true, because the personality came across very strongly. I wish the ending was different. I know the author was out to reform Islam, but I still didn't like him at that point.I felt that the author approached his religion in a sort of cold, calculating, systematic way, silver crescent pendent (check), beard (check), green colored clothes (check), and it troubled me that even though he professed to be this religious person, he had in fact, lost the essence of the religion. I kept wondering where he was going with all this. He goes back to the Middle East and thank goodness for his friend Ziad! That guy almost had to take heavy object and hit the author over the head. The best part was when Ziad is listening to Abida Parveen singing Punjabi poetry and the author translates it (page 305 in my paperback). That part is the true essence of Islam. I was a bit unsettled at the end of the book, because I could not be certain if the author finally "got it", so to speak. I hope he did. I feel if more people like the author and Ziad can make people understand that what we identify with Islam, by what media shows us and uneducated people continue to teach as "Islam" is not the truth, then there will not be so much mistrust and hatred of Muslims.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Trupti Dorge

    I almost feel inadequate reviewing this book because I’m sure I haven’t understood everything the author wanted to convey. But I loved what I grasped from it. That’s not to say the book is a difficult read, far from it. Children of Dust is not merely a “memoir of Pakistan”, although the time the author spent in Pakistan, up-to the age of 10, was a large part of what constituted his religious outlook. The book is divided into parts. The first part, when the author is a child, takes place in Pakista I almost feel inadequate reviewing this book because I’m sure I haven’t understood everything the author wanted to convey. But I loved what I grasped from it. That’s not to say the book is a difficult read, far from it. Children of Dust is not merely a “memoir of Pakistan”, although the time the author spent in Pakistan, up-to the age of 10, was a large part of what constituted his religious outlook. The book is divided into parts. The first part, when the author is a child, takes place in Pakistan. Here he describes living in a small town in Pakistan and going to a Madrasa which was a very traumatic experience. His parents were very religious and they wanted him to be a follower and a servant of Islam. When the family migrates to the US, the author starts to neglect Islam and concentrate on issues more important to teenagers-like fitting in, sexuality and finding ways to watch ‘Boy meets World’. It was refreshing to read first hand how a Muslim boy had to struggle with fitting in and also trying to follow his religion. When he went to college far from home, although he struggled with same things he did before, he does become more friendly with people from his own community and gradually acquires a fundamentalist outlook. Without getting into too many details, he returns to Pakistan to find a pious girl and also to find out more about his ancestors. But instead of finding what he expected, he finds his ideas of an Islamic nation shattered. Here’s what he has to say after his visit to Pakistan. I was sneered at by the very ones who were supposed to embrace me. I was rejected by the ones who were supposed to be purer-in character, in culture, in chivalry-than Americans. The brilliance that I’d associated with Islam just a few months earlier had now turned black. After a period of mourning and melancholy, I craved vengeance. I sought to undermine all that the presumably purer Muslims held sacred. I found his shift in religious opinions very unsettling. It could be the result of blindly following what he had heard from his childhood and then finding out that not everything is what it is supposed to be. You would think a book about the authors religious journey will be boring, but it’s not, far from it. It’s fascinating, interesting, funny and most of all entertaining. And honest-very honest. ‘Children of Dust‘ is definitely unlike any memoir I have read before and I have read quite a few. Highly recommended.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Abbe

    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 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.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Kimm

    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 pr 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.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Saeed

    I found the entire account fascinating. The author's experience growing up in Pakistan is almost frightening -- and the drastic contrast from his later years makes it all the more haunting. He's not the best writer and the prose isn't too polished but the substance of his transformations make up for it. Well worth reading for those who want a perspective on how "religious" people can vacillate from one extreme to te other at times.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Pritika

    beautiful!! Loved the seemingly effortless beautiful writing!! Can't wait to read more works of this author! Such deep insight into Islam. Thank you.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    Amazing book. This is how it is and the author is very honest. Sad in some parts but I couldn't put it down!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Tina

    This was an interesting read and what I loved about it was that I had no idea where it was going. What I didn't love so much was where it went. The author grew up in Pakistan and tells a very amusing and interesting tale of growing up Muslim and the various phases he went through as he came to the US in his teen years and tried to fit in. Eventually he becomes an activist for the Palestinian cause, but then retreats when he sees how politics detract from his beliefs. After 9/11 he commits himself This was an interesting read and what I loved about it was that I had no idea where it was going. What I didn't love so much was where it went. The author grew up in Pakistan and tells a very amusing and interesting tale of growing up Muslim and the various phases he went through as he came to the US in his teen years and tried to fit in. Eventually he becomes an activist for the Palestinian cause, but then retreats when he sees how politics detract from his beliefs. After 9/11 he commits himself to becoming the voice of moderation and spends his time trying to make moderation the dominant strain of Islam. It obsesses him until he loses everything he had. Still he continues and appears to be on the verge of achieving the goals he set for himself, and abandons everything. Honestly I didn't quite understand exactly why he retreated, and did it so completely. Apparently he had a revelation from a relative who demonstrated that he was using Islam as an idol and not really aspiring to please God in the original way the Quaran demanded. It was shocking to the author who ends the book almost like he began it - with his mom who is telling him stories. I was excited to read about his activities in trying to moderate Islam - he seemed to be the kind of Muslim we are looking for in this country. Apparently that's over now, and he's happy with a simpler existence - or at least thats how it sounded in the book. Anyway, I truly did not like the ending, but this was a good read!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Aneesah

    I would definitely get another book of Ali Eteraz if and only if he decides to write a book on non religion subject. Story begins with Ali’s childhood in Pakistan with a lot of ingenious humor which I extensively connected with and recalled many similar occasions as a child who grew up in a Muslim country. The subject becomes heavy when Ali grew up and moved to US with his family. His opinion and views about Islam at his teenage years, is something most Muslim teenagers would comprehend. I am af I would definitely get another book of Ali Eteraz if and only if he decides to write a book on non religion subject. Story begins with Ali’s childhood in Pakistan with a lot of ingenious humor which I extensively connected with and recalled many similar occasions as a child who grew up in a Muslim country. The subject becomes heavy when Ali grew up and moved to US with his family. His opinion and views about Islam at his teenage years, is something most Muslim teenagers would comprehend. I am afraid a lot of non Muslim readers would find the subject too heavy. Nonetheless, it is a book worth reading for Ali’s remarkable prose. More often than not, I found myself reading the lines over and over just to admire his interesting style of narration and his simple way of perceiving things around him. Children of Dust is certainly a deep title most of us would be left baffled when the meaning is excellently explained by Ali in his book. It definitely impressed me. His extensive knowledge in Islam at a young age is notable. Simply get this book to enjoy Ali’s voyage. As for his analysis and message about the religion, is too subjective. I would make no comment, but it definitely it would bring a certain level of diverse understanding among the readers individually. It is not a subject to be debated over, but a story of Ali and the sole purpose of his existence is explained in his own words and own book.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Diane

    This was kind of a sleeper. I saw the author's name on Facebook, commenting on a friend's post, got his book and began reading it as a way of learning about Pakistan - in keeping with a thread in my reading life to do with learning about other places and times through fiction. I had it in mind I was reading a work of fiction and it took awhile for it to dawn on me that the subtitle - A Memoir of Pakistan - was meant to be taken literally. That's not just because I'm that obtuse, but because the This was kind of a sleeper. I saw the author's name on Facebook, commenting on a friend's post, got his book and began reading it as a way of learning about Pakistan - in keeping with a thread in my reading life to do with learning about other places and times through fiction. I had it in mind I was reading a work of fiction and it took awhile for it to dawn on me that the subtitle - A Memoir of Pakistan - was meant to be taken literally. That's not just because I'm that obtuse, but because the book is so skillfully written in a directly presented way and the author's view of his younger self so refreshingly wry, his storytelling so deft - he had me fooled. In a good way. The focus of the story is the relationship of Ali (to use his most grown-up name - he has several in the book for stages of his life and development) to Islam, the evolution of his relationship to this defining context of his youth, upbringing and understanding of the world. If you have any cliches in mind of young Muslim immigrant in America at the turn of the 21st century, put them aside. You will not encounter them in this book. What's more, it's highly likely you'll enjoy the lively, funny companionship of Abir ul Islam/Amir/Abu Bakr Ramaq/Amir ul Islam/Ali Eteraz from Mecca to Monterey. A Good Read.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Tuscany Bernier

    This novel was extremely captivating. You follow the author through his life in four sections. One sees the protagonist change his mind over and over again about his relationship with Islam and his heritage as a Punjabi-American. How he travels from the extremes of super conservative to staunch reformer... As a post 9/11 convert, some of what talks about drives me crazy, like his insistance that having converts in his family tree as a let-down and how he thinks the way to piety is through arabizi This novel was extremely captivating. You follow the author through his life in four sections. One sees the protagonist change his mind over and over again about his relationship with Islam and his heritage as a Punjabi-American. How he travels from the extremes of super conservative to staunch reformer... As a post 9/11 convert, some of what talks about drives me crazy, like his insistance that having converts in his family tree as a let-down and how he thinks the way to piety is through arabizing himself. How his old friends from Pakistan were actually unintelligent enough to believe Osama Bin Laden was somebody worth following like he was a scholar or something. How his old friends believed that America didn't allow Muslims to grow beards and that being in America auto-invalidated his Islam. I loved his sense of humor though and that he was always cracking me up. Many of his conversations were raw and honest with people. As a reader, it felt like I was just sitting in the room with them. Overall, I really enjoyed reading about hus lifetime of experiences. We need more diverse authors. :)

  18. 4 out of 5

    Zineb

    I could never put into words the process I had undergone myself, vis-à-vis my relationship with Islam, my zealous religiosity to the gradual lack thereof, to the consequent attempt to detach Islam from my life, from my various cultural expressions. As a writer, I had tried to convey how I felt in an attempt to justify my state, to build a case. My father, an avid reader would read my account and understand me, empathize and perhaps forgive. To no avail, my frustration grew as the ideas couldn't I could never put into words the process I had undergone myself, vis-à-vis my relationship with Islam, my zealous religiosity to the gradual lack thereof, to the consequent attempt to detach Islam from my life, from my various cultural expressions. As a writer, I had tried to convey how I felt in an attempt to justify my state, to build a case. My father, an avid reader would read my account and understand me, empathize and perhaps forgive. To no avail, my frustration grew as the ideas couldn't be written down. I wanted to be heard, understood, be "relevant". I pushed the project aside for a few days and suddenly it was buried in a pile of other unfinished projects. I feared potential backlash, I feared being accused of "Ayaan Hirsiness". Then came a friend who suggested I read 'Children of Dust'. It was relatable, it was relevant. I could relate to bits and pieces of each individual. Ammi, Zaid, Ali...it all culminated to something bigger than myself, or what I think I can offer to the world. My review of the memoir is as followed: Thank you.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    Why is this called Children of Dust? The book is interesting, but it seems inauthentic, Ali is writing for a western audience, and their appears to be no real soul-searching here. There is nothing to offend the mullahs here, but neither is there any feeling of compassion for the victims of Islamist violence. Is that the author or the Islam? There are a couple of insights, but this is definitely a book by an alienated outsider. Some events and things don't ring true, his father is a doctor and ca Why is this called Children of Dust? The book is interesting, but it seems inauthentic, Ali is writing for a western audience, and their appears to be no real soul-searching here. There is nothing to offend the mullahs here, but neither is there any feeling of compassion for the victims of Islamist violence. Is that the author or the Islam? There are a couple of insights, but this is definitely a book by an alienated outsider. Some events and things don't ring true, his father is a doctor and cant find work in Pakistan?? Come on, it's just not believable. Would educated essentially middle class people send their son to a madrassa and not a normal school? It's called a memoir of Pakistan - but its really some self -indulgent navel gazing that manages to simultaneously sneer at Pakistan, Islam (reformed as he would have you believe), and the West. Really. Where is Salman Rushdie when we need him!!

  20. 4 out of 5

    Mona Bomgaars

    Easily read book about a Pakistani boy and his focus on living a righteous Islamic life. Not easy. This book was chosen as the book and author for the 2012 Chautauqua week on Pakistan. The in person presentation by the author went well, his introductory comments include conversations between humankind and God with many quotes from Pakistani poets. Personally a very charming young man.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Yaqeen Sikander

    A very beautifully and well written memoir. I loved the way Author writes and narrates various accounts. But for a common reader this book might create anti-Islamic sentiments. The book portrays the thought of Islam being so backward which is actually the problem with rural Pakistani culture where the Author grew up. He seems to be frustrated sexually balancing between Islam and girls. By the end it becomes better.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Molly

    I read books because otherwise I wouldn't know the experiences of others. This book is no exception. Growing up in Pakistan, Ali Eteraz' life is and was so different from my own, and reading this I had a glimpse of what it was like to be him. There were many parts that were hard to read, being both quite dramatic and distressing, and I wish I had a reading group to discuss the themes and stories in this book.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Marie

    I found this book so interesting I ended up emailing the author looking for other books on Muslim/Desert life. I asked if there are any happy family stories out there. I'm not sure that there is. This book shows the human strength and fragility associated with strong religious beliefs, it can be observed in any major religion not just this one. The book is witty and easy to read.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Lindsay

    I had to read this book for a world religion class and found it very interesting. The books' author is the young boy in the story and he tells about his life as a Muslim. He also describes his transition to America and how things were very different compared to how he grew up back home. There were some situations that were tough to read, such as, a situation that happened at the school he attended and how some of the kids were treated. Also how when he came to America it was all about his sexual I had to read this book for a world religion class and found it very interesting. The books' author is the young boy in the story and he tells about his life as a Muslim. He also describes his transition to America and how things were very different compared to how he grew up back home. There were some situations that were tough to read, such as, a situation that happened at the school he attended and how some of the kids were treated. Also how when he came to America it was all about his sexual urges. It is an interesting book to read though.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Alina Karapandzich

    Pretty good book. Super detailed and yet very readable and entertaining. The author is very honest about his life, including some not so cool things he's done in his past which made me shake my head at all men but hey, at least he was being honest. I think his struggle with religion and his faith is something anyone from any background can relate to. He also really humanizes Islam in a very personal and beautiful way.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Pamela

    I thought I'd enjoy another memoir--one of my favorite genres, but this was a disappointment. It didn't really feel like a memoir. I also thought I would learn more about Pakistan and Islam, but that didn't happen much, either. I was confused a bit with this story. There are changes that take place in his life, but I just couldn't follow. Skimmed through some of the book--just to get it finished.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Priyanka

    The book is different and I guess that was what the author intended.. It is well written and sort of lags only in the end. I was very happy to read the idea of Ali Etiraz as it raises hope for the future of Islam... the religion of peace that seems to be getting a lot of bad name lately due to extremists... I wish all the best to Ali Etiraz and hope he be successful.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Ming

    I read 64% and DNF'd this book. A friend asked "why a memoir?" She meant what about him deserves a published memoir. I don't know and I found his story and perspective to be simplistic, judgmental and preachy. The mechanics of the writing was solid but what's the point of that?

  29. 5 out of 5

    Kim

    The writing is wonderful but I struggled with the author consistently seeing himself as the sun rather than the movement he was part of. In each phase of life; he was looking for major public acknowledgment rather than hope that the movement he was part of was a success.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Katie

    Fascinating, intimate and highly-detailed portrait of how Eteraz's life has been highly shaped by Islam. Includes his upbringing in Pakistan & life in the U.S. (including college years), and eventual return to the Middle East. Fascinating, intimate and highly-detailed portrait of how Eteraz's life has been highly shaped by Islam. Includes his upbringing in Pakistan & life in the U.S. (including college years), and eventual return to the Middle East.

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