Fictional Portrait of an American Teenager who Joins the Taliban
2010-06-21 19:14:10 Posted By: Becky - Circ
John Jude Parish decides to postpone attending Brown and focus on surfing, skateboarding and exploring his own academic agenda. His mom, Barbara, helps him develop a reading list as a compromise. By August, he is already behind, choosing focus on surfing and skateboarding. An accident changes everything. John spends time exploring religions and finds himself corresponding with an Islamic girl from Brooklyn. He decides to attend school to study Arabic which leads him on done a path unlike anything he or his parents planned or imagined. Pearl Abraham writes a thought provoking story about decisions that seem insignificant at the time but when combined together change the course of one young man's life.
Why I was Interested: I was in the mood for something different, so I decided to deviate from my to be read list and browse the shelves at the library. I was drawn to the title and cover art on this book. The cover combines a patriotic color scheme with both American and Islamic symbols and icons. Charles Bock's, author of Beautiful Children, blurb on the back cover also spoke to me. In the end his blurb summed up the book perfectly:
When I glanced at the title of this book, I thought I knew what I was getting into. I had no clue. American Taliban is so much more than just the story of an American kid who ends up joining the Taliban. John Jude is a superb literary creation: the smart, generous, open-minded teenager that every parent would be proud to raise. Well-written to the point where you can't put the damn thing down, American Taliban is empathetic, enlightening, and frightening all at once, a story that not only opens your eyes but gives you ideas to learn from, viewpoints to argue with. it is a rare delight to be given a novel that actually makes you think, rarer still to have a book utterly rip open your heart. American Taliban is that rarest of accomplishments, one that does both at the same time.
~from the back cover, Charles Bock, author of Beautiful Children
Why I finished it: Admittedly I almost stopped reading American Taliban because I was beginning to feel intellectually inferior to John. He was so motivated to learn and always chose options to challenge himself and learn. But instead of giving up on it, I decided to take the challenge of this book and learn from John.
I'd share it with: People looking for a contemporary fiction book that will challenge the way they think. I think everyone should read this book, but fear that not many will and may even find it intimidating. I think this book would be great for discussion, maybe even a community or campus read. I also think this would be of interest to older teens (17+).
Other books to try: While this is very different from The Kite Runner, I think people who liked it would also like American Taliban. It is similar in that readers learn about Islam and Afghan and Pakistani culture.