For my 1940s-Present Lit. Class we are currently reading Moshin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist. I know I am jumping the gun a bit here as I still have four chapters left to read, but so far I absolutely love this novel.
The way that Hamid sets up this novel is an interesting subject to broach. The protagonist, Changez, is talking to an unnamed, white American male and is constantly referring to him as “you”. My class discussed this in length today on what Hamid’s purpose was in writing the novel in this way. While many of my classmates thought it a bad thing, I did not. I think it gives us perspective to see how the rest of the world views us, even those who have spent years living in America. He is not telling us who we are, but he is allowing us to compare ourselves to the way in which we, as Americans, are stereotyped by others.
Hamid’s main character also deals with issues of identity and diversity. He is given a job right out of college and for the company everyone wants to work for. Hamid uses this instance to show us that we cut ourselves to fit a certain mold. He writes: “We were marvelously diverse . . . and yet we were not: all of us, Sherman included, hailed from the same elite universities-Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, Yale; we all exuded a sense of confident self-satisfaction; and not one of us was either short or overweight.” (38) I take this quote as something that should be thought about while reading the text.
This book is also placed in the time frame of 9/11 happening, which is still a touchy subject for most Americans, and rightly so. Changez finds himself not being able to identify with Americans when this happens. However, he is very much worried about his friend Erica. I like the viewpoint that America and Erica are representative of each other. Erica helps Changez feel at ease, as he states he is more of a New Yorker than an American. What’s the difference? Anyways, as one declines, so does the other, and so does Changez’s hope for the American Dream.
Anyways, those are my big points as of right now. I don’t want to go into too much depth of the novel, but it is really a great read. I also think that it helps us to think about who we are and what is important to us. Although this novel is told from the point of view of a Pakistani, we can still ask ourselves: What does America mean to us? And that is why I think this book is great.