Books in Brief: September 2021

Homeland Elegies: A Novel, by Ayad Akhtar (Little, Brown & Co.; 368 pp., $28.00).

Mark Twain wrote in his 1897 travel book, Following the Equator: “Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t.” That saying came in handy as I read this book, described on its jacket as “part family drama, part social essay, part picaresque novel.” I couldn’t distinguish truth from fiction as I read this saga of the roller-coaster relationship between an immigrant Pakistani cardiologist and his American-born literary son. If reality limits fiction’s realm of possibility, then this book must be truth, despite its title’s contrary claim.

Let’s look at the evidence. Incest remains one of the last sexual taboos in the West. Akhtar, however, nostalgically recalls his native Pakistani mother’s lifelong sadness after her youthful crush married his second cousin. Later while living in Houston, the father of Akhtar’s girlfriend tried to arrange her marriage to a first cousin in Pakistan. Following Twain’s maxim, it’s because these scenarios stretch credibility that they ring true.

The American elite preach that only whites commit racism....

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