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