From Publishers Weekly
Any carping about this being an instant book should be quelled when readers actually encounter Ansary's considered prose prose he himself contrasts to the e-mailed commentary he fired off on September 12 that found its way to millions of readers around the world (including FSG editorial). The e-mail, printed here in an appendix, included such comments as "When you think `Taliban,' think `Nazis.' When you think `Bin Laden,' think `Hitler.' And when you think `the people of Afghanistan,' think `the Jews in the concentration camps.' " Ansary, the son of a Pashtun Afghan father and Finnish-American mother, lived as a Muslim outside of Kabul until the early '60s, when he left on scholarship to attend an American high school, eventually going on to college and becoming an educational writer ("if you have children, they have probably read or used some product I have edited or written") with a family of his own in San Francisco. This book chronicles, with calm insight and honesty, Ansary's feelings at all points: his childhood spent within his "clan" ("our group self was just as real as our individual selves, perhaps more so"), a narrative of his often fascinating 1980 trip ("Looking for Islam") throughout the Muslim world that makes up the bulk of the book, and dissections of the differing paths taken by his sister, brother and himself. While Ansary's political insights can be detached or perhaps purposefully aloof his descriptions of having lived in and identified alternately with the West and the Islamic world are utterly compelling.
From Library Journal
Some books are timely by accident, some through a prescience that conveys mystique upon their authors; either makes a writer's reputation. This book is a consequence of specific events last September, intended and only understandable within that recent, collective, and perhaps forever unfixable knowledge. Stripped of that context, this would be an insightful but somewhat plodding autobiography. Ansary, who was raised in pre-Russian-client Afghanistan, the son of an exemplar of that nation's civil elite and of an American his father met while studying abroad, moved to the United States in time to live out college and urban cool in the Sixties and Seventies. But this Afghan American, writing in response to one awful day and in fact extending to book-length some of the notions he posited in a widely read e-mail on September 12, 2001, tells truths about dislocation, heritage, home, family, and religion that both affirm life and profoundly sadden. Ansary's account of how his brother chose to stay "east of New York," of his travels through Muslim communities at the time of the Iranian hostage crisis, and of his personal collision with conspiracy theory are particularly unsettling and worth any reader's time. Recommended for high school, public, and academic libraries of all stripes. Scott H. Silverman, Bryn Mawr Coll. Lib., PA
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