2017 - The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid
Below is an excerpt from the letter written by the students in the Honors Read Tutorial who selected the 2017 Honors Read.
In their letter presenting the Honors Read to the first-year cohort, the Honors 309 class describes the story of the protagonist and narrator, Changez, a Pakistani who returns home after being educated at Princeton, working on Wall Street, and experiencing the backlash of the 9/11 attacks. The Reluctant Fundamentalist offers a relentlessly first-person account in which Changez tells his own story to an American stranger who invites to join him in a Lahore tea-shop. The narrator’s voice dominates, even restating his interlocutor’s questions. Thus the novel has the quality of a monologue.
Hamid’s novel, with its undertone of menace, is timely in its treatment of the cultural conflict of Islam and the West, the nature of identity, and the choices that are driven by cultural attachment. Associate Dean Ladenheim nominated the book for consideration and her nomination brings up important themes from the book that are central to our Honors discussions: “power and alienation, faith and free will, cultural and political hegemony, justice, and how we should live.” It sparked interesting discussions in the preceptorials, and a student and faculty panel conducted a lively discussion of the book in the lecture portion of the Honors 111 class just last month.
In their transmittal letter to the new students, the members of the HON 309 tutorial class that chose the book, wrote that in this time, “…a real, substantive dialogue about the relationship between Islam and the United States is lacking. We hope that this book will give you a new perspective on these issues and perhaps inspire you to reach across the divide, make friends with someone from the other side of it, and prove that what unites us is far greater than what divides us.”