Capsule Review: Homeland Elegies by Ayad Akhtar

This is a very well written book and Ayad Akhtar has clearly come a long way from his debut novel (American Dervish) in terms of style and writing skill. The story is OK but did not really work for me. The book is said to be semi-autobiographical and I found that hard to get past. Is this his story or not? We are not supposed to ask that question, but somehow i kept getting stuck on it (perhaps because I have lived in Brookfield and have some vague notion of where he is from). But mostly I was disappointed by the narrator’s somewhat sophisticated but still very “inside the bubble wokeness”. He presents himself as someone willing to “go there” and talk about (and intelligently criticize/analyze) everything but it turns out that he is skeptical of everything but “super-elite wokeness”, which he seems to accept as just the not-so-simple truth about our world. I expect that well-off second generation desi kids will identify with a lot of what the narrator goes through (real or imagined) but that seems to be a rather narrow demographic. For the rest of us, the insights are less than advertised.
Still, he is, as you might expect from Ayad Akhtar, ready to get into hot topics (including Islam, oral sex, parent problems, racism) with all guns blazing, which can be fun. And his summary of partition and Pakistan is pretty good, and some of the other essay-like digressions (such as his explanation for the ills of late capitalism and what Robert Bork had to do with it) are also interesting; whether they are true (or useful) is not equally clear. if you are a second generation desi or are so intensely woke that think-pieces in “The Guardian” generally seem wise to you, then this is your book. But even if you are not, it is worth a quick read.


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