This is the story of an immigrant Raisuddin Bhuiyan, who came to America from Bangladesh with dreams of becoming successful in the tech industry, but starting at the low end working in gas stations to make ends meet. After 9/11 his life tragically intersected with an avowed American terrorist named Mark Stroman who decided to kill anyone who seemed Muslim. Two people died from his zealotry while Rais nearly died from the assault. Ten years after the encounter Bhuiyan returns from a religious pilgrimage with the strange thought that his religion demands that he extend mercy to his attacker and publicly forgives him. He then wages a campaign to have his attacker spared the death penalty. This is a fascinating look at justice, mercy and the love-hate relationship Americans share with immigrants, and it begs us to choose who or what we as Americans will become.— Richard Stonehouse
A quick book to read, one that draws you in and keeps interest high, it asks important questions. Has America failed a significant number of its citizens? Do we have two Americas, one with comfortable homes, functional cars, book clubs, wine tastings, and the accoutrements of the American Dream, the other with meth labs, poor schools, dysfunctional parenting, and prison sentences? Do those of us fortunate enough to live in the America of dreams, live blissfully unaware of that more violent America where hate and drugs hold sway? Who are the True Americans? Are some of us following an earlier European regime that required Aryan blood for the designation of a true citizen? Or is America still a land of diversity that welcomes vitality, the land whose Statue of Liberty proclaims
“"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
Ten days after the Twin Towers collapsed in a fiery inferno horrifically claiming the lives of thousands; Mark Stroman went on a Texas Jihad that would land him on death row. He decided to kill Middle Eastern people in revenge for September 11th. He focused on workers in convenience stores. Two men died the third, Rais Bhulyan, was severely wounded but survived. Neither man was Middle Eastern, Rais was Bangladeshi. Rais grasped at the American dream, striving in the way many Americans before him. Injuries inflicted by Stroman would have permanent consequences; still Rais struggled to capture the dream, succeeding within a decade. Recognizing these two Americas, the America of dreams that propelled him forward, and the America of fear and hatred that held people in poverty, Rais determined to work to stop hatred. Rais believed that his religion compelled him to forgive, to grant mercy. The first step on his journey was to publicly forgive his attacker and to sue the state of Texas in an attempt to stop the execution. There are so many issues raised in this insightful look at what it means to be an American.— Deon Stonehouse
"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.
About the Author
Anand Giridharadas is a writer, on-air political analyst for NBC News and MSNBC, and a visiting scholar at the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute at New York University. He is the author of India Calling, The True American, and Winners Take All. He lives in Brooklyn, New York, with his wife, Priya Parker, and two children.
The suspense in this book runs deeper than whether Stroman will live or die. Mr. Giridharadas is most interested in examining the viability of the American dream…an enterprising and clear-eyed reporter.
— Stephen Harrington
Chilling…[D]ares to ask whether Americans can still claim the American dream.
Moving and indelible…manifestly inspirational…[A] finely textured portrait of lower-class despair.
— Laura Miller
A riveting tale, dense with detail, from Giridharadas’ unflinching descriptions of the struggling neighborhoods on the eastern edge of Dallas, to Stroman’s troubled and brutal childhood, to the ebullient optimism of these new Americans determined to create better lives.
— Michael E. Young
Masterful reporting…Thoroughly compelling.
— Kate Tuttle
Those interested in both the best and worst of what it means to be American should read The True American…[T]he book is too well-written and the characters are too fascinating to miss.
— Amy Kamp
A truly fine book.
— David Brooks
An enthralling real-life tale of murder and forgiveness…enthralling.
— Walter Isaacson, author of Steve Jobs
Exhilarating and deeply affecting, Giridharadas’s book is not only a captivating narrative; it reminds us of the immigrant’s journey at the heart of the American story and how, in the wake of violent tragedy, one new to our country can help us to see through to the best in ourselves, even when the law requires far less.
— Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Alphonse Fletcher University Professor, Harvard University
Simply impossible to put down. Just when we thought that we had read everything we could possibly absorb about 9/11, The True American finds a new and compelling perspective, one that explores two sharply opposed dimensions of the American experience in a style that neither celebrates nor condemns. We readers become the jury, weighing what it means to be a true American today.
— Anne-Marie Slaughter, president and CEO of the New America Foundation
An unforgettable story about two men caught in the jaws of history. In this compassionate, tenacious, and deeply intelligent book, Giridharadas casts brilliant new illumination on what we mean by ‘American.’
— Teju Cole, author of Open City