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Review: Children of Dust: A Memoir of Pakistan by Ali Eteraz

[ 7 ] February 4, 2011 |

Reviewed by Criston M.

Children of Dust, a memoir by Ali Eteraz, is set in rural Pakistan and is the story of Abir ul Islam (Ali’s given name), which means perfume of Islam.  When they were choosing a name, Abir’s parents had grand hopes for their child. They thought he would be a religious man, spreading the teachings of Islam; even as a small child, Abir went to Mecca and was found praying with Bedouins and debating the Muslim teachings of sin and the sinner.

Although Children of Dust is heavy on religion, and particularly Islam, it is also the story of a boy constantly uprooted from his home. Abir ul Islam’s father moved his family from Pakistan to Saudi Arabia, to the Dominican Republic and finally America in his attempt to make a living as a doctor. Unfortunately, he failed every time.

I wanted to root for Abir and hoped that he would find himself in whatever he decided to do.  However, Ali Eteraz’s writing made it at time difficult to empathize with the character. One minute he wanted to be very religious and the next he would yearn for social acceptance, even considering changing his name.

I found Children of Dust to have a weak plot and expected to learn much more about a foreign culture than the book delivered. It was interesting at times, but I was not enthralled by the story – it was more of a story about a typical American teen with angst than anything else.  Abir’s progression from a child to a teenager and finally to an adult was slow; his battles night have been different, but his wounds are the same for all immigrants trying to make it in America.

Rating: 2.5/5

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by HarperOne. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Category: Memoirs, Nonfiction

Comments (7)

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  1. 5
    Amber Stults says:

    This is one of the books I wasn’t able to finish last year. Some parts are lyrical while others seem more straight forward – as though two different people wrote it.

    It’s nice to know I’m not the only person who wasn’t crazy about this one.
    Amber Stults recently posted..Mailbox Monday – January 31st

  2. 4
    Freda says:

    I totally disagree with you and found it to be a wonderful story. You have to leave what you know about Islam, and your bias at the door before reading it. It is a book that should be talked about.
    Freda recently posted..Quote It Saturday

  3. 3

    It sounded good in the beginning, too bad it sounds like it didn’t live up to what it could have been.

    But it actually sounds like pretty much anyone’s coming of age story. Any parent is going to have aspirations and goals for their child when they are born. I know I did for my child so I can understand that part of the story.

    All parents think they know what their child is going to grow up to be, even if that never happens for them.

    Again, like so many children everywhere, this boy is uprooted by his family and moves so his father can try another job only to fail. This happens so often to families that’s it’s actually really sad.

    It sounds like a story that most people could relate to, because we all yearn for social acceptance at some point in our lives and have families that do things to us that make our childhoods difficult even if it’s not uprooting us from our friends.
    Mary Kirkland recently posted..Winner Announced!

  4. 2
    Carol Wong says:

    That is so disappointing that this book seems more of a coming of age book. Personally, I am drawn to books from the Middle East that focus more on the culture of the area or the country than Islam. I wonder what this story would have been like had it been written about a girl growing up in Pakistan.

    Carol Wong

  5. 1
    Colleen Turner says:

    Awww…this started out sounding really good! One of my best friends growing up was Muslim and, while she was born and raised in America, her family was from Egypt. I learned a lot about the Muslim culture and religious practices from being around her and her family for so many years (even if I didn’t always understand the why/how of some aspects of it) and really enjoy learning more about different religious practices and cultures. I have read plenty of American-teenager-angst books in my day and am not all that interested in reading another one just for the sake of it. With so much to work with it is a shame the author dealt so much with trying to fit in with his surroundings inside of highlighting what made him unique. Thanks for the review!

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