Freedom like you never knew | The Express Tribune

Posted on September 18, 2022


Halfway through Deraziz Amina’s first novel, her narrator Hira is in an American church, standing in front of a congregation, explaining the concept of Ramadan, even though she realizes that “in Ramadan I’m reading an Islamiat textbook or Looked like a Wikipedia page.” After the speech, Hara realized that he “found no joy in translating culture, in working toward greater understanding between one duffer and another.” Hara is in the US on a one-year study abroad program from Pakistan. I already liked Hera as a narrator, resistant as she was to fitting into one’s preconceived narrative of the immigrant experience.

When American Fever begins, 16-year-old Hira lives in Rawalpindi with her parents and younger brother. He is a wicked smart young man who is unaffected by the world around him, attuned to the world’s small and large injustices. She reads the morning newspaper at home in Rawalpindi, making sure to tell her younger brother about what is happening to Ahmadis even though her parents refuse to discuss it because it is “too painful”. . She notes that her parents say they treat their house help better than others, while still having a separate steel cup for them to drink from. She complains about the land mafia to her driver while dropping off school. Amina writes Hira from the perspective of an adult looking back on her time studying abroad, empathizing with her younger self as well as correcting young Hira’s views of the world. Able to reflect as necessary.

For the study abroad program, Hera is placed in rural Oregon. She will spend ten months with a white family—a mother and her daughter—as part of a cultural ambassador program. But Hara isn’t going to America because she “desperately, passionately yearns for America.” She just wants to get out of the pettiness of her life in Pakistan, which has overwhelmed her. Still, he must balance the conflicting, conflicting advice of his father, who says: “We want you to take advantage of every opportunity that America gives you… but you can’t forget who you are. You have to represent yourself as a Pakistani, a Muslim and a girl.

There is a local joy in reading Amina’s writing, especially in the scenes set in Pakistan: the girls drinking Kashmiri tea after being allowed to leave the school grounds, an all-girls school teacher who that measures the distance between the ends. A shirt and student’s knees. When Hera arrives in the United States, it’s the same trait that makes her live around the world: Hera wonders how “straightjacketed” she feels by the language when a black female cashier at Walmart is Muslim. Surprised at her host’s manner, the mother often politely deflects her daughter’s misbehavior. But there’s also a surprise to be had in reading Hara’s sometimes unbelievable narrative: When her host sister complained that Hara refused to take off her bra in front of a group of girls, her host mother scolded her. “Not everyone grows up with the freedoms you take for granted,” Hoy said. Hara muses, “There were freedoms I’d coveted all my life—walking alone on empty streets, whistling in public, holding a cigarette butt between my fingers—but I never got around to taking off my bra.” Didn’t think about. Before independence.”

Every immigration story inherently sets up a binary—it’s where you’re from and where you’re going, or the person you were, and the person you’re becoming here. It’s useful to have a narrator who’s tired of the same old experience of immigration, because it leads to sharp criticisms, as Hera scoffs at her host mother’s concern about Hera in Pakistan: “Everybody in America worried about their safety, content in the knowledge that their corner of the world is safer than anywhere else, though not telling them why that might be.” But that same disdain is helpful when later Hara himself is unable to resist falling into the binary: “In the days to come, it will strike me as strange, even lacking in imagination, how much Bar my references turn to this other. continent.” She misdiagnoses this as being due to her newness in America, not the “perpetual state of someone living away from the city, the town, the street that the world knew.”

Hara spends most of her time in the United States with two other study abroad students, where they “talked constantly about the difference between here and there.” Among the other students, one is from Oman and the other is from France. “With every obvious difference, we flattened ourselves and let America define us. We were the only ones they weren’t,” Hera explains. I wanted to hear about what they weren’t, what parts of America they mocked and in what ways they found commonalities with each other that didn’t exist—how they flattened themselves. They did not realize the ways in which all immigrants had experiences. are diverse.

American Fever is a beautifully written book with some wonderful lines such as when, a few months into her time in America, Hara explains, “There’s a story tension that can fall into it. It’s un- Mulkey trying to fit in, stifled by accents and Fahrenheit and the Imperial system…America’s Internal Documentary. True – I was bloody bored. Hara is a teenager in small-town America where life is a constant state of affairs. The epic is boring, but its harsh criticism is combined with a rare insight – “Abu had moved from the village to Pindi in his twenties, and sometimes spoke of its wealth. had abandoned the perceived location in all its complexities and contradictions for the poor offices of the Twin Cities. In her rage, Hara strikes up a long-distance friendship with Ali, a sophomore at NYU, who reminds her of an acquaintance. Through Ali, Hara is able to talk about the idiosyncrasies of the United States, though Ali is quick to tell him about the vastness of South Asians beyond the small Oregon town.

However, from the beginning of the novel Hera also tells us that her time in America will be spent with a diagnosis of tuberculosis. By the time the narrative timelines unfold, Hara is justifiably disillusioned with America – a secret bacterial infection has become active in a country that prides itself on its reputation for grandeur and excess. Hara has been suffering from cough for months while her host mother ignored the symptoms. Both the disease and the treatment take their toll on Hara, who cannot leave the house, placed under strict quarantine.

Finally Hara returns to Pakistan. Surprisingly, she’s changed – I could have spent another 20 pages back in Pakistan with Hira, a narrator whose insight and skepticism are intoxicating. I won’t spoil the ending by telling you more, but I’ll leave you with this:

In one of the book’s most vividly drawn scenes, Hara asks her host sister what she dreams of during the day: I’m the prom queen, I guess, Amy, the host sister replies. Her lover is kissing her, everyone cheers. It’s the small-town American dream. Hira’s dream, on the other hand, is difficult to convey to Ami: “There is a highway that runs between my city and Islamabad. I am driving it alone. I am smoking a cigarette and blowing it out of the open window.” ” Ami doesn’t understand, she asks Hara if there is anything else, if anyone is watching. “I’m on the road,” Hira replies. “The whole world is watching.”

This is an example of what makes American Fever a great book—Amina not only understands Hara and Hara’s desires, but she also makes us understand them.

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