Thursday, September 23, 2010

Review by JD: Children of Dust ~ A Memoir of Pakistan by Ali Eteraz


An extremely interesting book that sheds light on many aspects of Islam and on the complex country of Pakistan.

Etaraz was brought up in rural Pakistan, where he was given the name Abir ul Islam, meaning perfume of Islam. Despite their lowly status, his parents tell him that his destiny in life is to become a leader and servant of Islam; he was born to spread Islam as if it were a beautiful fragrance. And so his journey begins - taking him from a poor village in Pakistan; to school, college and life in the United States; interspersed with a difficult trip back to his native Pakistan and a sojourn in the Middle East, where he is forced to re-assess his driving ambitions.

It’s not an easy journey for him. Along the way he has to attend a strict madrassa, tries to maintain his strong Islamic principles while living in the United Sates, tries to cope with his parents becoming fundamentalists, becomes a fundamentalist himself, explores anti-Islamic ideas, and becomes an activist seeking to reform Islam. There are various turning points for him, one of the most difficult being a trip back to Pakistan where he finds that much has changed in the country, including the rising influence of the Taliban in the rural villages. Eventually, in common with many Muslims, he is horrified at what terrorists are doing, supposedly in the name of Islam. This helps to drive his reformist zeal, but he remains conflicted on many issues.

I too am a little conflicted about this book. I found many parts of it fascinating, particularly his description of life growing up in Pakistan. Some of it was humorous, especially reading about the conflicts of being a strict Muslim teenager in the liberal United Sates and how he dealt with it. I found much of it educational and I learned a lot about Islam and the competing ideologies within it. Some of the material is important, particularly as it differentiates between truly Muslim ideals and the twisted views of terrorists who abuse and debase Islam. However, this isn’t always the easiest read - Eteraz is a religious scholar, and some of the more intellectual discussions on Islam left me a bit cold.

Nonetheless, this was an interesting book and I’m glad that I read it. I’d rate it 4 stars. I’d highly recommend this to anyone who enjoys finding out about different cultures. I’d also recommend it to anyone seeking a more balanced view of Islam than the one that is all too often found in Western media.

  • Children of Dust: A Memoir of Pakistan
  • by Ali Eteraz
  • 352 pages
  • HarperOne (October 13, 2009)

For more information link to Layers of Thought’s preview post of Children of Dust. And for purchasing links for US/UK/Canada.

As always John/JD will be addressing your comments for this book. Please don’t forget to check the follow up box to get his response. 

Thanks for reading!


logankstewart said...

I read a book once, called Tea with Hezbollah, that sought to understand what different Muslim leaders thought about Christianity and Jesus, as well as their opinion on Islam. It was quite an enjoyable book, shedding light and breaking hearts. This looks interesting, too. Thanks for the review.

John D said...

Hi Logan,
Thanks for commenting. It can be a real eye-opener reading books like these - it's all too easy to get a blinkered view on other cultures and religions.

Tea with Hezbollah? It's funny - one of the things I love about the local regional cultures (one of the many things I should say) is their fondness for tea. I guess that must strike a chord with my Englishness!

logankstewart said...

Aye, it's hard to beat a good cup of hot tea. My first experience with hot teas came a few years back in college when my friend from Iran brewed some Iranian tea. The stuff was fantastic. Since then, I've loved to drink the stuff, especially on cold winter days or late nights.

John D said...

Good to hear and I couldn't agree more! There are times when a good cup of tea is just unbeatable. I have managed to convert Shellie into a tea-aholic.

Is the tea your Iranian friend drank available over here?

DCMetroreader said...

I read this awhile and found it to be a fascinating memoir of an area that I have little knowledge. I also like the humorous side of the author during his teen and college years.

Nice review!

John D said...

Hi Kim,
Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I thought it was fascinating from the first page to the last. In terms of it being a fun read, I realy enjoyed the first 2/3 of the book, whle the last 1/3 was kind of hard going - still interesting but a tough read.

Mystica said...

I have seen reviews of this book and since my knowledge of this area is scanty I would like to read this. Thanks for the post.

John D said...

Hi Mystica,
I hope you enjoy the read. We'd be curious to hear your thoughts after you've read it.

logankstewart said...

@John: I'm not sure if he bought the tea locally or if he brought it from Iran. It's a loose Ceylon tea, with a simple glass jar is and a lid covered in Arabic. There's also a tin of cardamom seeds (again, covered in Arabic writing) that you're supposed to crush and mix with the tea. Overall, it's a wonderful drink. I'd recommend it if you can ever find it.

John D said...

Thanks for the info - that does sound wonderful.

Our standard tea at the moment is Yorkshire Tea from Taylor's of Harrogate. Very simple, excellent taste. Then we'll sometimes have Ginger tea from Yogi when we fancy something a bit lighter with a different flavor.

Blodeuedd said...

Great review.
Dunno if the book is for me, but then the books I really enjoy are those I didn't think I would

John D said...

Hi Blodeuedd,
Thanks for the nice words. I know what you mean, and I find that the opposite also happens sometimes - books I'm sure I'll like that disappoint. There is probably a good blog post in there somewhere - the biggest surprise reads of the year; both nice surprises and not-so-nice.

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