- Hardcover: 304 pages
- Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1st edition (April 24, 2002)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0374287570
- ISBN-13: 978-0374287573
- Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 5.3 x 1.1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 57 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,769,504 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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West of Kabul, East of New York: An Afghan American Story 1st Edition
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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
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
Top customer reviews
Basically shortly after the memoir begins , we see the author as a hippie college student-- a young adult living in San Francisco. His life is proliferated. Afghan Father, American Mother, upper class in Afghanistan, schooled in English as well as other languages, growing into his teen years in Afghanistan in a semi- cloistered environment. Then, he comes to live in America at age sixteen! Because he has one foot in Afghanistan and one in America, he feels conflcted, although he desperately wants to be an American kid.
Factor in the 1960s ethos, the exaggerated hippie lifestyle in San Francisco at his time, the excellent but "do it yourself" college he attended. Then add his close extended family here and abroad and combine this with outside muslim pressures.
The above is a recipe for his search to "find" himself. The book is about this journey-- rejecting extreme religiosity which is fomenting abroad, willingly losing his Afghan family (and roots) and coming to terms with this while achieving happiness, success and constructing a new family here as he matures.
Some of the best parts of Ansary's story detail the complete honesty of his feelings toward his very close original family particularly his Father, who stayed in Afghanistan. He is unapologetic about his rejection of his place of birth, the obvious all-consuming religion and culture of worship. He ultimately embraces his American life wholeheartedly.
This is powerful, simple in some ways, a quick read that reminds us that people are individuals first.