The American Dream 0.0

Three books with three substantially different takes on post-9/11 New York

01 September 2010
Home Boy HM Naqvi Harpercollins India 216 pages, `399
Home Boy HM Naqvi Harpercollins India 216 pages, `399

WHAT, EXACTLY—“right here, right now, today, in the twenty-first century US of A,” as the rap song goes in HM Naqvi’s Home Boy—is the American Dream?

Tania James offers us one version of it early in her novel—a display, for those deep in Kerala’s backwaters, of America’s desirability. Melvin Vallara, trying to explain to his daughter, Linno, why America is self-evidently good, remembers his friend Eastern Bobby who migrated to Normal, Illinois, and on a trip back home nailed a white mundu to a wall and projected a home video featuring the contents of his American fridge: “a giant jug of milk, a blue carton of twelve perfect eggs, a brick of yellow cheese, and a box with several sticks of butter. In the freezer: a slab of steak and a whole chicken, beheaded and plucked, sitting upright like the guest of honour.” This, in the minds of James’ characters, is America.

When the teenage Anju Melvin, Vallara’s other daughter, makes it to New York, she discovers that the dream is for real; on her first day in the city she licks a bar of kiwi soap because it smells good enough to eat:

Anjum Hasan is the author of several works of fiction. Her latest book is the collection of stories A Day in the Life. See more at

Keywords: Mohsin Hamid New York America Kerala Karachi Anjum Hasan 9/11 Tania James HM Naqvi Illinois Tribeca Atlas of Unknowns Home Boy Great Gatsby Hudson Rivers Twin Towers Malayali Third World The Reluctant Fudamentalist Rahul Mehta Quarantine Brooklyn Heights