Children of Dust is sort of “A Memoir of Pakistan” as the subtitle suggests, as we follow the author from Pakistan to the U.S. and back.
But the most appealing part of this story to me was the coming-of-age angle. I chuckled in recognition as the teen and young adult Ali Eteraz was always convinced that whatever viewpoint he held was THE right viewpoint and the one that everyone should hold.
It is also a religious memoir, and for that reason, I would think that a more telling subtitle would have been “A Memoir of Islam” (although, to be fair, the fact that he is a Pakistani Muslim is very important). Every decision that he makes — who to date, how to find the date, how to dress — is made in relation to his religion, and where he is on the spectrum at that particular moment. If the religion doesn’t drive it, the resulting guilt affects it.
His changes in philosophy are marked by changes in his name as well, as he goes from his given name Abir ul Islam (perfume of Islam) to the more American Amir, to Ali Eteraz (Noble Protest).
These topics may seem heavy-handed, but the tone of the book — not taking himself as seriously as his young-adult self did, is explained well in the prologue:
This book is about what happened when I loved Islam — with affection, with torment, with stupidity–more than anything else in this world. This book is about ardor bordering on obsession. This book is about a thoroughly Islamic childhood and about a boy’s attempt not merely to know his identity, but to assert his sovereignty (Some parts of it are about the girls he met along the way).
The book was interesting, thorough and well-written. Though this might seem like a sexist assumption, it seemed more like a “man’s book” to me. I have read books of this type and enjoyed them, but for some reason as a woman, I didn’t really relate to Ali Eteraz as he shared his life from early adolescence through young adulthood, told through the lens of a very-hormonal (aren’t they all) adolescent.
However, for those interested in the Muslim religion, Children of Dust is quite thorough and even-handed — with the author expressing his ups and downs as he delved into fundamentalism at times, became an activist, and shied away from his faith and roots at others.
Jennifer Donovan blogs at Snapshot, and even though she’s no longer a young adult, she often still comes across as being a know-it-all.