A post a little off my normal historical reading and writing beat…
First, a little background. Between 1991 and 1998 and again between 2004 and 2008, Chris and I lived in south Manchester – in Heaton Moor, Sale and Bramhall to be be precise. Maddie (now 12) was born at Stepping Hill in Stockport. And with friends and family still living there we were so saddened by the terrorist attack at the Ariana Grande concert – at a venue we have loved going to, and one that on that night was full of kids around Maddie’s age.
It’s not the act of terror that I want to focus on however, but the response to it. As far as I can tell from the other side of the Atlantic, the people of Manchester’s response has been wonderful: not just ‘keeping calm and carrying on’, but actively choosing to be optimistic and openhearted, instead of frightened, angry and afraid. This has made a great impression on me, particularly because I’ve just read and reviewed an amazing novel on this very topic.
A Good Country by Laleh Khadivi tells the story of Rez, an American teen whose parents were immigrants from Iran. It is wonderfully written and very hard to read – especially if you have teenage kids like we do. My full review for Bookbrowse is here:
And here is the link to the Beyond the Book article that goes with it about terrorism in the US:
Where do terrorists in the US come from?
Without giving the game the away, A Good Country starts with a likeable sixteen year old, Rez, who seems to have a bright future. His family have a very comfortable life in California and Rez’s grades are great. But this is the world of the Boston Bombing. And it is the impact that that event, and another fictional terrorist atrocity in a local shopping mall, and how they play into Rez’s isolation and rejection of his future in America, that really stand out for me. In the wake of these events, Rez sees white, middle-class Americans – neighbours and school friends – turn away from him, or glare at him with suspicion because of his Iranian heritage. He is pushed away by the world he has grown up believing he was part of, and he reaches out instead for a sense of belonging and brotherhood with other sons and daughters of immigrants. Through this, Raj falls prey to extremist ideology, the dark side of the internet and promises of a false future.
A Good Country is one of those books that you read with a sense of watching a train wreck that you can do nothing to stop. But although there were many reasons for Rez’s choices, I did feel that the way he was treated after the terrorist acts could have and should have been different. I hope that for young men of immigrant families in Manchester, it will be.