‘Washington Post’ Reviews ‘Homeland Elegies’
Ayad Akhtar’s play ‘Disgraced’ won a Pulitzer Prize. Now ‘Homeland Elegies’ shows what that success cost him.
By Ron Charles
A decade after the attacks of Sept. 11, Ayad Akhtar staged a play called “Disgraced” that captured the paradox of being an American of Muslim descent. His one-act drama, which went on to win a Pulitzer Prize, takes place in the elegant Manhattan apartment of a Pakistani American lawyer named Amir Kapoor who’s married to a white artist. On the night we meet them, one of Amir’s colleagues drops by with her husband for dinner. Smart and sophisticated, they all talk about religion and politics, but the evening will eventually veer out of control and turn vicious — a kind of “Who’s Afraid of Osama bin Laden.” At a climactic moment, one of the guests asks Amir if he felt proud when planes smashed into the twin towers. Without hesitation, he answers, “If I’m honest, yes.”
When the other three characters blanch, Amir explains that he felt a sense of pride “that we were finally winning.”
“We?” his horrified colleague asks.
“Yeah . . . I guess I forgot . . . which we I was.”
The challenge of remembering one’s identity in a racist culture is also at the heart of Akhtar’s remarkable new book, “Homeland Elegies.” But here, Akhtar bounds far beyond the cleverly engineered drama of “Disgraced.” With its sprawling vision of contemporary America, “Homeland Elegies” is a phenomenal coalescence of memoir, fiction, history and cultural analysis. It would not surprise me if it wins him a second Pulitzer Prize. Read the full review at The Washington Post.
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