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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on September 21, 2008
This highly readable book has already been greeted with praise and enthusiasm in the UK, where it has been compared by many reviewers to the ever-popular diaries of Adrian Mole. However, although Unimagined uses an engaging and hilarious innocence to describe the confusions of adolescence and early adulthood, that's about where the similarity ends.

Because the author shows us what it was like to grow up as a Pakistani Muslim in London in the 1960s and '70s, the book has also been described as a touching account of overcoming racism. Yet, although social injustice is inevitably an occasional theme, the focus really isn't on personal hardship. Indeed, there are plenty of jokes at Imran's own expense as we see his own assumptions constantly overturned. Far from being an angry victim, he pokes fun at our common tendency to jostle for social acceptance by looking down at others, and to deny other beliefs as a way of cementing our own insecure understanding of life.

The real story of this book is a search for the truth about what it means to be human: our relationship with ourselves, with each other, and with God. Struggling to answer such questions logically, as would befit his scientific training, is a source of endless (and amusing) frustration: no sooner does Imran reach a conclusion than it is undermined by some new and unexpected piece of information. He finds that it is only through personal, direct experience that the answers to the Big Questions start to piece together - and these are revealed gradually, as surprising conclusions that the author can no longer avoid, even if they make him feel foolish for his earlier stance.

Many books describe a vision of unified humanity, but present this as an ideal concept without showing how we might ever reach such a goal. For hatred and war to be overcome in our world, we must first overcome fear and anger; and we cannot expect this of society without first achieving it within ourselves - which is not as easy as it sounds, as it requires a demanding honesty with ourselves and a readiness to examine our own egotism without flinching.

Imran Ahmad has made this journey, and in this book he has the courage, humility and insight to share it with us - presumably in the hope that if he can manage it, then so can we. With the media constantly fanning tension between Islam and the West, this book could not have come at a more crucial time. It may help to mediate for peace in ways that politicians seem unable to achieve - not least because peace is not a political issue but a spiritual one, for which we each share equal responsibility... starting right now.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on March 19, 2009
This author's life story weaves threads of cultural, religious and class differences while he was growing up in London. It was a time of extreme racism and class separations. He begins to wonder about why he is different, even when he feels like he is the same as his fellow students and friends. He has trouble understanding Christmas break at school and the importance of gift giving. He wonders about the fuss from his parents because he liked the Spam served at school lunch.

Now as an adult, he still wonders about differences in people's cultural or religious belief and what makes us all human and brings us together.

Imran tells his story with a dry wit and humor that shows how children are shaped and mature into their beliefs.

The author has grown up believing in Muslim's gentle way, while being immersed early in life into Western culture. He finds his balance with humor and understanding human behavior.

Imran's debut book was published in Great Britain in 2007. The book has now become available in the U.S. and the author is making his way across the country spreading the message within these pages of his memoir.

He has a daunting task of giving 40 talks in 50 days traveling from Michigan to New York, Florida and California and states in-between.

I had the good fortune to be the bookseller at one of his first talks. He tells the journey of getting published and how the publisher's rejection letters thought the story would be more interesting if he had turned out to be a "terrorist".

Another story was from his travels into America after 9/11. As a business executive he made many trips to the U.S. before 9/11 and afterward he always planned on a 4 hour delay because of background checks, until he arrived with a copy of his published book under his arm and could show them his picture on the book and that he really was the person who wrote it. Such are our fears and discriminations.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on February 4, 2009
Imran Ahmed's book Unimagined: A Muslim Boy Meets the West drew me in very slowly. It started with sweet remembrances of his early days as a Pakistani boy growing up in London and began to move more quickly as he made his way through school and into University and eventually graduate school and a career. His prose is very undecorated and straightforward. He makes you laugh with familiarity over awkward teen situations and seethe with anger over the travesties of racism and discrimination. Even though we are very different people, his story felt familiar and uplifting.

He creates tension over three main issues in his life: following his true calling as opposed to the career he thinks he should follow, understanding his faith in light of a backdrop of Western Evangelical Christianity, and meeting and finding someone to love.

As he got older and began to have a more nuanced understanding of career, faith and love I began to get more drawn into his struggles. I wanted for him to become enlightened and understand his life (The same way someone reading your memoir would wish the same for you.) and so it became a book I could not put down. Yes, a simple story about a Muslim boy growing up in the West became a page turner. Who would Imran Ahmed become?

I don't want to spoil too much of this fine memoir. The joy of this book is in the evolution of Imran's thinking and the way he slowly comes to self discovery. He is a nice guy and you want him to figure it out so he can enjoy his life. He comes to some resolution in two of the three areas of his life, and the subject of his next memoir might be what happens to him in the third area. I will look forward to reading his next book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on December 3, 2008
Funny, engaging, funny, tear telling, funny, informing, funny, and above all, glued together with a sweet childlike perspective that ignores many of the adult psychological speed bumps. I thoroughly enjoyed it with big smiles, as well as, crocodile tears and have recommended it to several friends, particularly, as we try to understand a tolerance beyond our western culture. I live much of the time in Bali, engaged in conflict resolution and mediation - and though the culture is Hindu, it resides within Indonesia - a very large Muslim country. Imran's story gently carried me over the threshold of exploring the understanding of a people, a culture, and several sects of a religion that I very much want to engage and touch heart to heart. This friendly and comical familiarity has encouraged me to read more about Islam - a culture so very different from mine. Thank you, Imran for making this 1st step easy, fun, and absolutely a joy.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on January 8, 2009
Why do I call this 'the perfect book'? Because it is well written, original, wise, amusing, interesting, witty, friendly, endearing, meaningful, important, reasoned, considerate, topical, and refreshing. We are allowed into the head of a man we might otherwise treat with suspicion in different circumstances, and then we are enlightened, and delighted. It is a lovely suprise, and all the more enjoyable for being able to read about so much life in a brief but rich synopsis.
I'm not sure about the tag, because this contains various threads. You can enjoy it from different angles, and approach it with different attitudes.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on April 29, 2009
A really funny and entertaining coming of age story that would resonate with anyone, but the author also weaves in an interesting and gentle perspective on racism and religious intolerance. The point is that he did not have a miserable childhood, did not become a terrorist or any of the other things that make for flashy headlines. He is a regular person, and in telling his story lets us see that we all have more in common than we have differences.

I was lucky enough to meet the author in person at a book signing recently. He was just as self-effacing and funny in real life as he is in the book. Charming.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on April 21, 2009
Just had the pleasure of hearing Imran Ahmad speak at a recent book presentation - he's charming, witty, & relates the backstory to his book. 'Unimagined' is a wonderful book because it succeeds in humanizing Muslims who've somehow become the 'Other' after 9/11. More voices like his need to join this dialogue in order to dispel stereotypes.

As the author of 'The American Muslim Teenager's Handbook' - I encourage anyone who's curious to hear from normal Muslims to seek out books like these in order to put a human face on Islam - extremists do NOT represent us!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on January 14, 2009
'Unimagined' is an exceptional book which should be on everyone's `must-read' list. It is charming, poignant, funny, and full of sharp insights. Anyone who has ever struggled with issues of belonging, feeling an outsider and wanting to be accepted will find much that is lip-bitingly familiar.

Importantly, this book is a gift in a world being torn apart by religious difference and which too often portrays Islam as alien, primitive and violent. Lack of understanding and intolerance have bred the misconception that all Moslems are terrorists because a few of them have thrown bombs in the name of God. Imran Ahmad's 'Unimagined' is an eloquent argument for a more realistic and compassionate view; it is never polemical, simply a touching story deeply grounded in the stuff of humankind. His focus on what is common in human experience offers a key to a better and kinder world.

'Unimagined's' theme could be summarised by the familiar lines from the musical The King and I: "Getting to know you, getting to know all about you; getting to like you, getting to hope you like me". This popular musical is itself another tale about cultural difference, difference overcome by good will and the conviction that all human beings share the desire for love, peace and happiness.

Most people are interested in other people's stories. 'Unimagined' at its simplest is a delightful account of a Pakistani Moslem boy growing up in England and negotiating the strangeness of a white Christian world. In addition, it raises serious questions about claims to superiority and exclusivity by any religious tradition and the arrogance of claiming to know the mind of God with utter certainty.

As a Christian, and an Anglican (Episcopal) priest, I consider this a book for all peoples of all faiths in all countries. It's one you devour even though you want to savour every morsel--slowly. Unfortunately, it tastes too good to linger. Don't. Read it and read it again.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on May 18, 2009
I loved this book.

Imran writes with a great economy - it is a very easy to read this book - and you feel like you really are taking a ride inside the head of this growing boy. It is indeed funny, and also poignant - it reminded me of my pains of growing and learning about the world.

Powerfully, the book gave me insight into another religious background, and what that does and does not mean. To all of those that talk about "Muslim children" or "Catholic children" this book is a strong reminder that children are children, and come to their faith or atheism in our own way, as we all do. They are Catholic or Muslim or whatever when THEY say they are, not when their parents take them to church or the mosque for the first time. Technically Jewish children *are* Jewish by birth, but this is the only case where the label fits, and in every case religion, spirituality, and relationship with the world must be developed. I never really understood this until I read this book.

Imran provides what seems to be a totally uncensored account of his own pursuit of this and other truths. That he does this in a Muslim family, growing up in a variously secular, Muslim, mainstream protestant, and evangelical Christian environment is fascinating. His trials, tribulations, failures, and successes are notable and beautifully and humorously told.

I hope that there is a sequel.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on December 3, 2008
Imran has a big subject to discuss: if you move from one culture to another and try to blend in while holding to your roots, what sort of person do you become?

In Imran's case, you become a wryly amused and amusing spectator of the absurdities and stupidities of either side, without ever losing your love for both. Through the gloom of bigotry and racism, you find like-minded friends, share the same trials and tribulations, and make your way as best you can. Anything is possible, even obtaining the car of your dreams. But then nothing is ever as you expect, including the car of your dreams.

The book poses big questions: how come someone acts in a way I cannot imagine, yet claims to believe the same things I do? Yet it does so in such a gentle way that you might mistake his outrage as bemusement, or his humor as luck. That is clearly his charm, and it adds hugely to the enjoyment of this book.
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