"Gives you new eyes on your nation, makes you wonder about both the recent South Asian immigrant behind the counter at the food mart and the tattooed white man behind you in line. It reminds you that there are some Americas where mercy flows freely, and other Americas where it has turned to ice." —Eboo Patel, The Washington Post
Days after 9/11, an avowed "American terrorist" named Mark Stroman, seeking revenge, walks into a Dallas minimart and shoots Raisuddin Bhuiyan, a Bangladeshi immigrant, maiming and nearly killing him. Ten years after the shooting, Bhuiyan wages a campaign against the State of Texas to have his attacker spared from the death penalty. The True American is a rich, colorful, profoundly moving exploration of the American dream in its many dimensions.
Winner of the NYPL Helen Bernstein Book Award for Excellence in Journalism and named a Best Book of the Year by the New York Times, Boston Globe, NPR, and Publishers Weekly.
Competing visions of the American Dream clash in this rich account of a hate crime and its unlikely reverberations. New York Times columnist Giridharadas (India Calling) follows the encounter between Mark Stroman, a racist ex-con in Dallas who went on a killing spree targeting men he wrongly thought were Arabs after 9/11, and Raisuddin Bhuiyan, a Bangladeshi-born convenience-store clerk who was shot by Stroman but survived; Raisuddin later campaigned to spare Stroman the death penalty. Raisuddin's initiative, inspired by his pilgrimage to Mecca, makes for an affecting story of forgiveness and redemption, but the book's heart is the author's penetrating portraits of the two men: Stroman's violent, bigoted patriotism is a tribal affiliation that consoles the pain of his chaotic upbringing and sense of dispossessed white masculinity, yet it's Bhuiyan, the immigrant striving to reinvent himself, who emerges as the more iconic "true American." Giridharadas's evocative reportage captures the starkly contrasting, but complementary struggles of these men with sympathy and insight, setting them in a Texas landscape of strip malls and gas stations that is at once a moonscape of social anomie and a welcoming blank slate for a newcomer seeking to assimilate. The result is a classic story of arrival with a fresh and absorbing twist.