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 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 PR 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 between Islam and the West, about how - or whether - we choose what we become.
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A deep look at a troubling hate crime and a detailed account of the complicated aftermath.
I came away thinking that the victim was a brave and honorable man and that the protagonist was given far more attention than he deserved by both the author and some of the other folks he writes about.
I am in no way a supporter of the death penalty, and I can sympathize with those that campaign to end it. But there seemed to be a disproportionate amount of compassion and attention given to the confessed perpetrator of these crimes, beyond the ending of the death penalty itself. The people that commit that amount of time and energy to such a person surely could better direct that energy?
Well written and professionally read (by the author). An important story worth telling, but I had mixed feelings about the subject matter.
But that's probably the author's objective though, right?
Challenge your thinking.
What an inspiring story in a selfish country