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Children of Dust: A Memoir of Pakistan Hardcover – October 13, 2009


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: HarperOne; 1st edition (October 13, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061567086
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061567087
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #362,164 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Eteraz opens his memoir with a vivid description of his father promising Allah that if God bestowed him with a son, that boy will become a great leader and servant of Islam. The rest of the book finds Eteraz, whose given name is Abir ul Islam (which translates as Perfume of Islam) trying to come to terms with his father's mannat, or covenant, and understand the role that Islam will play in his life as well as the role he will play for Islam. Born in Pakistan but raised in the U.S. from age 10, Eteraz moves easily between describing the holy history and tenets of his faith while exploring and explaining the differences between the Islamic world and Western society. As Eteraz's feelings for Islam change to fit his evolving personal, political and religious views, readers get a glimpse of all aspects of this hot-topic religion, from fundamentalism to reformism, salafism and secularism. A gifted writer and scholar, Eteraz is able to create a true-life Islamic bildungsroman as he effortlessly conveys his coming-of-age tale while educating the reader. When his religious awakening finally occurs, his catharsis transcends the page. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

[Eteraz’s] adventures are a heavenly read. (O, The Oprah Magazine)

Wildly entertaining, Children of Dust is memoir of the first order, as genuinely American as Muslim, unraveling the perilous mystery that is modern Pakistan as only memoir can. Unlike others, Eteraz has truly ‘been there,’ and we are all the better for it. (Murad Kalam, author of Night Journey)

The gripping story of a young man exposed to both the beauty and ugliness of religion. (Laila Lalami, author of Secret Son)

A love letter to one man’s fading faith, Children of Dust is a gift and a necessity, and should be read by believers and nonbelievers alike. Sure to deepen our collective conversation about religion and reason, loyalty and universality, and our geopolitical aims, it’s also just plain fun to read. (Yael Goldstein Love, author of Overture: A Novel and The Passion of Tasha Darsky)

“In Children of Dust . . . we follow the journey of a soul determined to reconcile the many worlds that live inside him. In a time rife with cultural misinterpretations and generalizations, sensitive accounts such as Children of Dust are invaluable assets.” (Laleh Khadivi, novelist, author of The Age of Orphans)

An astoundingly frightening, funny, and brave book. At a time when debate and reform in the larger landscape of the Muslim world, and in countries like Pakistan in particular, are virtually non-existent, Children of Dust is a call to thought. (Fatima Bhutto, poet and writer)

This elegantly written memoir traces [Eteraz’s] relationship with the religion of his birth, fromhis childhood in Pakistan, where he feared beatings at the madrassa, to adulthood in the U.S. . . . Thoughtful and wry, he offers glimpses of a changing Pakistan and a U.S. immigrant’s journey, too. (Booklist)

“A gifted writer and scholar, Eteraz is able to create a true-life Islamic bildungsroman as he effortlessly conveys his comingof- age tale while educating the reader. When his religious awakening finally occurs, his catharsis transcends the page.” (Publishers Weekly)

“A …complex story of a young man’s journey into the heart of his own faith.… Knowledgeable, humorous and personable, Eteraz is an engaging storyteller.” (San Jose Mercury News)

Compelling. (Washington Post)

“Eteraz’s memoir is a fascinating, elucidating account of Muslim mores and education. In these times when fears of Islam are high, it is well worth reading.” (The Providence Journal)

“Children of Dust is a coming of age story, filled with warmth and humour, but it also explores some very serious questions… a powerful and marvellous personal memoir.” (EnterStageRight.com)

“...Not only for people who are interested in Pakistan or Islamic issues, but for anyone looking for a compellingpersonal story. Because ultimately, this memoir isn’t about religion but about a fascinating quest for selffulfillment.” (PickledPolitics.com)

“Written with vivid descriptions, a smattering of urdu words and a very strong sense of nationalism... Children of Dust is an apt description of a thinking muslim.” (TheFourthArticle.com)

“Ali’s story is long and heart-rending, sometimes funny, sometimes frustrating, and his willingness to share it makes us all better off in the telling and re-telling as we reflect on our covenants and baggage.” (Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies)

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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 31 people found the following review helpful By amba on November 28, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I think it's a pity that this book is being marketed as a memoir of Pakistan. That's far too limiting. Yes, it gives an inside glimpse (and sniff) you won't find anywhere else of life in a desert town in Baluchistan before and after the region began to be terrorized by militant fundamentalists. But you must realize that when he was sent to a harsh madrassa in that desert hometown of his relatives by uprooted parents seeking the anchor of piety, Ali Eteraz had already lived in Saudi Arabia as an infant and in the Dominican Republic, where his father attended medical school, as a small child. This is really a memoir of the postmodern condition of displacement, the quest for a home and a self through multiple identities, the diametrically opposed temptations of absolutism and absolute freedom. It is as much about America, an America seen through the looking glass of Islam -- a stew of opportunity and spiritual danger, from Wallah Wallah to Allah-bama -- as it is about Pakistan or about Saudi Arabia, where Eteraz's life's trajectory is conceived at the beginning and movingly consummated, in a way he himself did not expect, at the end.

While this book will give you a very particular, unsparing, sometimes very funny inside look at Islam, it also takes on universal issues: the antagonism between religion and sex; the secret collusion between zeal and ego; the profound difference between a top-down intellectual synthesis and an upwelling spiritual unity. What may be most unusual about this book is that rather than mainly satirize the follies of others, Eteraz flays himself first, mercilessly anatomizing the mixed motives that powered his precocious achievements as a scholar, lawyer, activist, writer, and reformer.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Debra Saturday on October 17, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Enchanting. Thought provoking. Sad and yet hopeful. Roller coaster.

Those words come to mind when I think of Children of Dust by Ali Eteraz. I enjoyed reading this book. From the first pages, to the last...I was not sure where Ali was taking me. And trust me it was a journey.

The enchanting part...the descriptions of his life in detail...the colors, the shabbiness of the old clothes, the scents surrounding his life...the language...took me into his world and I felt a part of his life. His child's eyes saw everything and with his eyes, I saw a life of poverty and yet full of love and joy at times. Ali's eyes also saw great sadness and horrors that we in the West cannot imagine and gratefully so.

Through Ali's eyes, I saw Islam. Ali saw both the Islam that is peaceful and an Islam that can be brutal. To read of a child learning Islam (the faith) was inspiring. To read of a child learning Islam (the religion) was saddening. I have to say some of the more violent parts were hard for me to read. In fact, I had to set the book aside and meditate. No one wants to read of abuse. However, read I did and I learned the difference between faith and religion.

Ali writes with a sense of humor and such an openness that it is hard to believe he has seen many acts of violence in his life. He gives everyday people another reason to believe ...to know they have a voice and have a right to live in peace.

During his metamorphoses, the book was hard to follow. It seemed Ali had lost his focus. Yet wouldn't you and I lose some focus while changing? We would. The one thing that remained was his love for Islam.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Jennifer Donovan TOP 1000 REVIEWER on November 10, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I give this 3.5 stars.

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, he was quite thorough and even-handed -- 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.

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).

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.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By M. Haq on October 26, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Ali Eteraz's Children of Dust is an enjoyable, interesting memoir. The book's beginning focuses on his childhood in Pakistan, which is some of the best writing I have read from this author. Eteraz deftly makes use of magic realism to bring the culture and myths of Pakistan alive. For those whose only exposure to Pakistan is headlines regarding Taliban and nuclear weapons, the perspective brought by this memoir will be an eye-opening experience.

Eteraz's dark humor is subtly woven into the text, and there were several places where I found myself laughing out loud. The honesty with which Eteraz explores his development and efforts to make sense of his relationship with Islam is striking. His willingness to be open about this struggle, combined with his signature lyrical and humorous writing, is truly what makes this memoir a thoroughly enjoyable read.
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