Book Review: Welcome to Americastan by Jabeen Akhtar

Title: Welcome to Americastan
Author: Jabeen Akhtar
Publisher: Penguin India
ISBN: 9780670085316
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 280
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

Welcome to Americastan was a great read for me and the reason I mention it at the onset, is for you to know how good read it was. While it talks about serious issues at hand, it also does that in a manner so funny that you can’t help but laugh out aloud. Welcome to Americastan talks about identity and what it means to be a Pakistani in America in a candid and tongue-in-cheek manner and yet skillfully done.

Samira, a Pakistani-American, returns home to her parent’s house in North California after being taken by a ride and dumped by her boyfriend of eight years. But that’s not where her troubles begin. There are more but of course. Samira tried running over her ex, so now she is on the FBI terror watch list, and of course she has been fired from her job (that I found a little predictable, however will let it pass) for landing in jail. Her life is full of problems and she is home where things can only get worst.

Her father is all for the Pakistani American council (the arguments he offers are hilarious), her mother spikes the punch with rum, her cousins are living double lives and amidst all this Samira is trying to make sense of her existence and mend her broken heart.

The Pakistani community of America is vividly described in this book. From traditional to the modern – almost every aspect is touched upon. The way news spread about families to what is being cooked in whose house – the trivial details make this book what it is – a funny read. At times while reading the book, I could feel the drama playing out in my book – that’s the tone of the book – real and stark.

As a reader I was and to a certain extent still am under the impression that this book is semi-autobiographical in some ways – may be because Jabeen just like the narrator is a Pakistani American; however I am assuming that that is where the similarity ends. The dichotomy of a Muslim community in America is brilliantly portrayed throughout the book. Like I mentioned, the want to stick to a culture whose significance in another nation is not completely understood to the need to adapt to a culture that is not fully known to your family.

Welcome to Americastan is a fast read and yet it touches on issues of stereotypical Muslim-Americans and their lives led sometimes with doubt and sometimes with great confidence. The wit is biting and refreshing. The plot never fails to edge you further into the book and the characters literally speak to you. At one point, I also compared the book to The Buddha of Suburbia because of the writing. I cannot recommend it enough.

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