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Stranger to History

Aatish Taseer

Average Review Rating Average Rating 9/10 (1 Review)
Book Details

Publisher : Canongate Books Ltd

Published : 2009

Copyright : Aatish Taseer 2009

ISBN-10 : PB 1-84767-071-7
ISBN-13 : PB 978-1-84767-071-7

Publisher's Write-Up

When Aatish Taseer receives a challenging letter from his estranged father in Pakistan, he decides to set off on an expedition across the Islamic world in search of his own Islamic heritage, as well as to discover how other young people across the Middle East felt about theirs. In a post-9/11 world Aatish is forced to confront himself and his relationship with the religious and secular worlds he moves in, as one of many 'crisis children living on the faultline of Islam and modernity'. He explores issues of identity and religious self-discovery with a fascinating cross-section of people ranging from transvestites in full hijab in Istanbul, and Norwegians considering conversions in Damascus, to Hare Krishnas in Tehran. As he travels, Aatish tells the story of his own family over the past fifty years. It is an absorbing and thought-provoking journey which culminates in an emotional reunion between Aatish and his father in Lahore, on a day that brings home the stark reality of attempts to reconcile old belief systems and liberal reform in a divided region where East meets West.

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Reader Reviews

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Review by Jessica (270909) Rating (9/10)

Review by Jessica
Rating 9/10
Aatish Taseer is Indian, his father a Pakistani and a Muslim, and his mother a Sikh. Aatish sets out on a journey to find his father who he only knows from a photograph. Aatish wants answers to many questions such as why did his father describe himself as a "cultural Muslim". Why do Muslims see the modern world as a threat? His journey is to end in Lahore on the night that Benazir Bhutto is killed.

Aatish grew up as a Muslim surrounded by Sikh cousins. His realization that he was circumcised made little sense to him until much later. While visiting Beeston, in Leeds where the British Pakistanis who bombed the London bus and train came from, he talked to many people and realised that the young men growing up there had a hatred of Britain and America. They rejected their father's migration to England and they were bored and hadn't the work ethic their fathers had. Aatish then wrote an article but his father was annoyed and upset even though he himself didn't follow tradition and dress. The author wondered why his father still called himself a Muslim. This all prompted him to travel to Iran, Pakistan, to Istanbul and then to Mecca ending at his father's doorstep.

The descriptive and colourful writing in this book is a joy to read. It is so atmospheric you almost feel you are there, you can smell the spices and perfumes. The customs of each country are studied and complied with and I also consider this book an excellent text book and travelogue. It is a comprehensive manual of details relating to the Muslim faith and its society and family values plus its dress and food. The author steeped himself in all this.

He also discovered brutality wrapped in Godliness and found some places quite menacing, especially during a frightening interrogation.

We travel with Aatish on his journey to find his father as he tries to become closer to him, we feel his passion and his hurt but did he really find his father in the end? You must read this book which is brilliantly written and answers many questions you may have considered yourself. It is a balanced thoughtful consideration of every fact and facet of Aatish's journey to discover his father. A compelling narrative from a very perceptive man.
Jessica (27th September 2009)

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