June 9, 2010

Children of Dust: A Memoir of Pakistan by Ali Eteraz

"...hold on to the rope of God."
She meant Islam."

Ali Eteraz has led a fascinating life: he was schooled in a madrasssa in Pakistan, he lived as a Muslim American teenager in the middle of Bible Belt Alabama, he becomes the target of an abduction plot back in Pakistan when he is suspected to be a CIA agent. Ali's life is anything but ordinary.

Especially to me. I have met few Muslims in my life and my first real connection and understanding of Islam came on 9/11 when the whole world was thrust into radical fundamentalist Islam. It was hard for those who knew nothing about the religion to understand that these were radicals and that true Islam is a peaceful religion. Ali learns this in his own life. Where does he stand as a Muslim? Is there a middle ground?

Probably the most interesting part of Ali's story was when he returned to Pakistan to find a wife and found himself a target of the Taliban, who thinks he is an undercover CIA agent. I learned a lot about Islam. Some of the traditions and rules made sense to me.

Other aspects were harder to understand, like Zina. Zina is a term in the Quaran that refers to the sinful act of adultery. So this woman, Amina, had this unusual problem and didn't know what to do. She and her husband fought a lot. While they were fighting he said 'I divorce you!' three different instances. In Islam if you say it three times than, boom, you are divorced. She then had to deal with the fact she had been an adulteress with 'her husband' for sixteen years because technically they had not been married. That was a hard concept for me to grasp. But there were few instances in which I felt it hard to understand a concept in Islam.

I enjoyed reading about Ali's life and learning more about Pakistan, Islam, Muslims living in America, and the Taliban's effect on Pakistanis and Muslims. The book was a little long for me and I had trouble keeping focused sometimes, but overall it was worth staying with the book.

Have you read Children of Dust? What did you think?

BOOK #: 37
RATING: 3.5 Stars
FOR CHALLENGES: World Religion Challenge, Countdown Challenge, Memoirs Challenge, 100+ in 2010
GENRE: Memoir
PUBLISHER: HarperCollins
FORMAT/PAGES: Hardcover/333
HEY, FCC!: I have no idea who sent me this book for review and I apologize for not writing it down people!


  1. I liked this book. I found it sad though, because of all the (what I saw as) cruel manipulation of young kids, both at home and in the madrassas. Not that there isn't manipulation of kids in every society, but to me, it seemed like there was a lot of cruelty involved - at least for Ali, both at home and at the madrassa.

  2. I agree. It was a cultural thing, to be sure, but the guilt trips were hard to read. Thanks for your comment, Jill!

  3. I haven't heard of it but it sounds right up my alley. It is heartwrenching to know of the bias and bigotry that exists in the world - that holds the actions of a few against an entire religion. If people held the actions of a few Christians against the whole religion - just imagine the trouble Christians would have to put up with.

    I love to read about the experiences of people who suffer from prejudice.

    If you liked this you might also like to try A Case of Exploding Mangoes by Mohhamed Hanif. I reviewed it recently. It is also about Pakistan and the dictatorship of General Zia, but it is a satire.

  4. I've heard of this one and I do want to read it. I've only read one book set in Pakistan--Shabanu, a YA novel. I have from the library right now Haveli, the sequel. Maybe when I'm done with that one, I'll check this one out--it sounds interesting.

  5. I have read very few books either set in Pakistan or by a Pakistani author. Time this was corrected. Thanks for this.

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  7. Oh, you know what you should read? Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali--she's one of the leading critics of how women are treated in Islam. She's a very interesting person.

  8. I had no idea he lived in Alabama. I actually knew more Muslims when we lived in Alabama than I have any other place we've lived. I'll have to try to get to this soon.

  9. I really enjoyed this one...his life has been so different from mine, and it was interesting to read how much his beliefs have changed over the years.

    And it's that first Jill's fault that I read this! Her review was the first mention I ever saw of this book.

  10. I have this book sitting on my TBR shelf and hope to get to it this summer! I've been to the Middle East a few times, but not to Central Asia (Pakistan, Afghanistan, etc)

  11. This sounds really good. Why did he move to the Bible Belt? That seems really weird.

  12. Jill, from Fizzy Thoughts, sent me her copy of this a while ago and I really want to get to it soon. I find that area of the world fascinating.

  13. I thought this was really good, very informative and powerful. Great review

  14. I feel lucky to have met and known Muslims before 9/11. I never associated the attack with religion at all, just with fanatacism, which is bad no matter which religion it's for.


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