Children of Dust is about the evolution of the author from Abir, Amir, and then finally, into reformist blogger Ali Eteraz. In his first book, this former blogger takes the reader through his childhood from a village in Pakistan to his life in the United States.
His father had promised Allah (swt) a servant in the form of his son if he and his wife were granted a boy. Born with that covenant hanging over his head, Abir Ul Islam, now known as Ali Eteraz, did strive to be the best Muslim he could be while growing up in Pakistan.
In the United States, he tries his best to fit in, even changing his name upon excessive teasing from classmates – Abir= “A Beer”, etc. Ah, the creativeness of classmates when it comes to foreign names. I know that pain so well. Second graders can be so cruel.
But I digress…
In college he focuses back to religion. He dodged non-Muslim girls until he came to the realization that he needed to find himself a nice, pious Muslim girl which ultimately leads him on a trip back to Pakistan. His trip to Pakistan becomes a defining event. Due to events detailed in the book, he came back a different person.
That episode is what fuels another part of Eteraz, the part that slides away from Islam. This part was … interesting to say the least. Here is a guy with a lot of knowledge about Islam who stopped believing while giving the outwards appearance that he was, in fact, a pious Muslim brother. Out of all the less than stellar acts he shares in his book, this is the one that really made me wary of Ali Eteraz. I mean, he was pretending to be a good Muslim, even going as far as getting himself elected president of his college’s Muslim Student’s Association. He only seemed to do things to get attention, for people to notice and respect him.
Due to the aforementioned, I couldn’t really decide how I felt about the author. I didn’t appreciate the kind of person he described himself to be. However, I did appreciate his honesty. We can clearly see his motivations in his life and what drives him to do what he does. You may not agree with his actions but either way, Eteraz is a gifted writer. He could have sugar-coated events and periods of his life but instead he writes a memoir that I could respect even if, at times, I didn’t really respect the man himself.
This is not necessarily a memoir of Pakistan like it says on the cover, but more like a memoir of a Pakistani- American. Read Children of Dust with an open mind to find about how Eteraz coped with too-strict imams at the madrasas in his village in Pakistan, how he escorted the Tablighi Jamat around the United States much to his embarrassment, the intense situation he found himself in while in Pakistan, and how after 9/11, Eteraz’s life took yet another turn. This book is by no means the end of the story that Ali Eteraz and so it will be interesting to see what his future writing projects entail.