The 100 Must-Read Books of 2020
November 11, 2020 8:36 AM EST

The narrator of Homeland Elegies may seem familiar: His name is Ayad Akhtar (like the novel’s author); he is the Wisconsin-raised son of Pakistani immigrants (also true of the real Akhtar); and he writes a controversial, Pulitzer Prize-winning play about post-9/11 Muslim-American identity (as the author did in 2013, with Disgraced). This framing achieves the intended effect: by blending memoir with fiction, Akhtar leaves readers constantly questioning what is real—a sense of uncertainty similar to that of learning real-world information today. Did Akhtar’s cardiologist father truly treat Donald Trump for a heart scare in the ’90s? Did Akhtar actually become rich by letting a charismatic hedge-fund founder invest his money in a scheme later investigated by the feds? But the questions the novel seeks to answer about financialization, his father and acceptance are far bigger. One looms largest of all: How can a person feel at home in an America that questions his existence, even though America is his home?

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