Go Back to Where You Came From: And Other Helpful Recommendations on How To Become American

Norton. Jan. 2022. 256p. ISBN 9780393867978. $26.95. MEMOIR
Ali, a lawyer, columnist, and playwright (The Domestic Crusaders), discusses his childhood in the Bay Area as the son of Muslim immigrants from Pakistan. He initially presents the book as a tongue-in-cheek instructional manual for achieving the “Amreekan dream.” Ali’s father, Zulfiqar, arrived in San Francisco from Karachi in the 1960s; here Ali notes that Muslim immigrants from the Indian subcontinent are often assumed to be Arab, and he explains that this lack of cultural understanding with regard to the South Asian diaspora has persisted in the U.S. since the time of his father’s arrival. His family settled in Fremont, CA, in the 1980s, where Ali came of age. He was a college student at Berkeley during 9/11, when the subsequent backlash against Muslim Americans spurred him to campus activism. Ali’s tone—witty and self-deprecating, with a canny instinct for comedic timing—becomes incisive when he discusses the scapegoating of his Pakistani community and other Muslims. He is more guarded when relaying his parents’ legal troubles, after they were accused of wire fraud. Ali writes that their plight disrupted his college years but also strengthened his resolve to find creative ways to advocate for Muslim Americans.
VERDICT A compassionate and insightful memoir full of hope and humor; recommended for all collections.
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