Imagine that a terrorist tried to kill you. If you could face him again, on your terms, what would you do?
The True American tells the story of Raisuddin Bhuiyan, a Bangladesh Air Force officer who dreams of immigrating to America and working in technology. But days after 9/11, an avowed “American terrorist” named Mark Stroman, seeking revenge, walks into the Dallas minimart where Bhuiyan has found temporary work and shoots him, maiming and nearly killing him. Two other victims, at other gas stations, aren’t so lucky, dying at once.
The True American traces the making of these two men, Stroman and Bhuiyan, and of their fateful encounter. It follows them as they rebuild shattered lives—one striving on Death Row to become a better man, the other to heal and pull himself up from the lowest rung on the ladder of an unfamiliar country.
Ten years after the shooting, an Islamic pilgrimage seeds in Bhuiyan a strange idea: if he is ever to be whole, he must reenter Stroman’s life. He longs to confront Stroman and speak to him face to face about the attack that changed their lives. Bhuiyan publicly forgives Stroman, in the name of his religion and its notion of mercy. Then he wages a legal and public-relations campaign, against the State of Texas and Governor Rick Perry, to have his attacker spared from the death penalty.
Ranging from Texas’s juvenile justice system to the swirling crowd of pilgrims at the Hajj in Mecca; from a biker bar to an immigrant mosque in Dallas; from young military cadets in Bangladesh to elite paratroopers in Israel; from a wealthy household of chicken importers in Karachi, Pakistan, to the sober residences of Brownwood, Texas,The True American is a rich, colorful, profoundly moving exploration of the American dream in its many dimensions. Ultimately it tells a story about our love-hate relationship with immigrants, about the encounter of Islam and the West, about how—or whether—we choose what we become.
Endorsements & Reviews
“This is an enthralling real-life tale of murder and forgiveness and what it means to be an American. Brilliantly reported and powerfully told, this Texas drama personalizes the ethnic diversity that has always been the source of our nation’s strength and many of its tensions. It’s also a breathtaking account of how a crazed murderer came to know a Muslim immigrant he tried to kill.” — Walter Isaacson, author of Steve Jobs
“Exhilarating and deeply affecting, Giridharadas’s book is not only a captivating narrative; it reminds us of the immigrant’s journey at the heart of the American story and how, in the wake of violent tragedy, one new to our country can help us to see through to the best in ourselves, even when the law requires far less.” — Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Alphonse Fletcher University Professor, Harvard University
“Anand Giridharadas has written a book that is simply impossible to put down. Just when we thought that we had read everything we could possibly absorb about 9/11, The True American finds a new and compelling perspective, one that explores two sharply opposed dimensions of the American experience in a style that neither celebrates nor condemns. We readers become the jury, weighing what it means to be a true American today.” — Anne-Marie Slaughter, president and CEO of the New America Foundation
“An unforgettable story about two men caught in the jaws of history. In this compassionate, tenacious, and deeply intelligent book, Giridharadas casts brilliant new illumination on what we mean by ‘American.’” — Teju Cole, author of Open City
- Forthcoming May 2014
- ISBN 978-0-393-23950-8
- 6.1 × 9.3 in / 384 pages
- Territory Rights: Worldwide
An Intimate Portrait of a Nation’s Remaking
Published in the United States by Times Books, an imprint of Henry Holt and Company, in January, 2011. Order today from Amazon, Borders or Barnes & Noble. And available in India from HarperCollins and in Australia from Black Inc.
Reversing his parents’ immigrant path, a young American-born writer returns to India and discovers an old country making itself new
Anand Giridharadas sensed something afoot as his plane from America prepared to land in Bombay. An elderly passenger looked at him and said, “We’re all trying to go that way,” pointing to the rear. “You, you’re going this way?”
Giridharadas was returning to the land of his ancestors, amid an unlikely economic boom. But he was interested less in its gold rush than in its cultural upheaval, as a new generation has sought to reconcile old traditions and customs with new ambitions and dreams.
In India Calling, Giridharadas brings to life the people and the dilemmas of India today, through the prism of his émigré family history and his childhood memories of India. He introduces us to entrepreneurs, radicals, industrialists, and religious seekers, but, most of all, to Indian families. He shows how parents and children, husbands and wives, cousins and siblings are reinventing relationships, bending the meaning of Indianness, and enduring the pangs of the old birthing the new.
Through their stories, and his own, he paints an intimate portrait of a country becoming modern while striving to remain itself.
Reviews of INDIA CALLING
“India Calling is a fine book, elegant, self-aware and unafraid of contradictions and complexity. Giridharadas captures fundamental changes in the nature of family and class relationships and the very idea of what it means to be an Indian.”–The New York Times Book Review
“Capturing the monumental changes sweeping India is a feat many attempt but few manage. . . . In India Calling, Giridharadas has written the best of this now established genre. . . . A finely observed portrait of the modern nation.”–Financial Times
“[A] readable, intriguing book. . . . [Giridharadas is] a marvelous journalist–intrepid, easy to like, curious. . . . India Calling connects us to a new India, and an engaging new voice.”–Cleveland Plain Dealer
“A beautifully written, intelligent look at the cultural history and changes of India. . . . The book [is] worth reading because of [Giridharadas's] skill as a writer. . . . Giridharadas publishes sentences and paragraphs that are exquisitely worded, to the point of becoming downright memorable, and certainly quotable.”–Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Giridharadas successfully uses his first-hand account of self-discovery to illustrate a larger picture of empowering change.”–Christian Science Monitor
“In this fresh, clear-eyed account of his stay, the author writes eloquently of how he came upon a very different place from where his parents grew up.”–Kirkus Reviews
“Well thought out . . . Like a morality play, each chapter reflects a different inner quality, while woven together in the narrative are bits of the author’s family history. The portraits . . . show the myriad ways in which India has changed and yet remains the same.”–Library Journal
“Rarely has an author deciphered the Indian enigma the way Anand Giridharadas does in India Calling. By lucidly portraying the country’s real locomotive–its vast and populous youth–he provides the most timely and elegant guide to perhaps the most important next generation in the world.”–Parag Khanna, author of The Second World and How to Run the World
“Anand Giridharadas is more than just a widely admired journalist; with India Calling he has transformed into a fluent, witty, and intelligent writer. His very personal and perceptive look at the new India is a memorable debut, full of insight and diversion.”–William Dalrymple, author of Nine Lives: In Search of the Sacred in Modern India
“Anand Giridharadas has become one of the finest analysts of contemporary India. In India Calling, he has produced an engrossing and acutely observed appreciation of a country that is at once old and new–an enormously readable book in which everyone, at home in India or abroad, will find something distinctive and altogether challenging.”–Amartya Sen, Nobel laureate in economics
“The emergence of a more dynamic India has been widely observed. Less well understood are the myriad reinventions that make the New India so exciting. In India Calling, Anand Giridharadas renders this change on an intimate scale with a tapestry of keenly observed stories about the changing dreams and frustrations of all walks of Indians–and his own. Savvy and often moving, India Calling is for those who prefer the view from the ground than from thirty thousand feet.”–Edward Luce, author of In Spite of the Gods: The Rise of Modern India
An excerpt from INDIA CALLING:
India was erupting in dreams.
It was the dream to own a microwave or refrigerator or motorcycle. The dream of a roof of one’s own. The dream to break caste. The dream to bring a cellphone to every Indian with someone to call. The dream to buy out businesses in the kingdom that once colonized you. The dream to marry for love, all the complicated family considerations be damned. The dream to become rich. The dream to overthrow the rich in revolution.
These dreams were by turns farsighted and farfetched, practical and impractical, generous and selfish, principled and cynical, focused and vague, passionate and drifting. They were tempered by countervailing dreams and, as ever in India, by the dogged pull of the past. Some were changing India palpably; others had no chance from the beginning. But that was never the point. It was the very existence of such brazen, unapologetic dreams, and their diffuse flowering from one end of India to the other, that so decisively separated the present from the past – and separated the India my parents had left from the India to which I had now returned.
The Indian revolution was within. It was a revolution in private life, in the tenor of emotions and the nature of human relationships. The very fabric of Indianness – the meaning of being a husband or wife, a factory owner or factory worker, a mother-in-law or daughter-in-law, a student or teacher – was slowly, gently unraveling by the force of these dreams, and allowing itself to be woven in new ways.