Conditional Citizens: On Belonging in America

Pantheon. Sept. 2020. 208p. ISBN 9781524747169. $25.95. SOC SCI
Lalami (The Other Americans) explores what it means to be a naturalized citizen in the U.S. post 9/11 and post Trump. Lalami, a novelist and professor who was born in Morocco and educated abroad, provides anecdotes about her own life and experience. She is a Muslim who is married to an American, and her citizenship did not exempt her from scrutiny, bias, and suspicion. She delves into topics that concern not only Muslim Americans but all immigrants, which include faith, allegiance, and assimilation. She speaks movingly about her own mother-in-law, a Cuban-American woman whose moral support she deeply valued, even as she was overtaken by dementia. Traveling internationally and speaking to groups of people on book tours has given Lalami unique insight into some of the indignities that immigrants face, as well as the scope of misinformation that can spread across communities. She argues that, for some naturalized citizens in the U.S., citizenship will always be conditional, at least until we truly reckon with our white supremacist roots.
VERDICT Lalami’s conclusions are not groundbreaking and have been investigated in other works, but she is a gifted writer and her informative narrative shines when she shares her own experiences.
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