Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The American Muslim Experience and a new Literature for the 21st Century

A version of this post appeared on Pakistaniat: All Things Pakistan on July 2, 2006
A friend of mine sent me the following:
proudly presents
a staged reading of:

The Good Muslim

A new play by Rehana Mirza
Directed by Abigail Marateck

354 WEST 45th STREET

Jessica Bhargava
Tamar Verizian

The Good Muslim explores the unlikely friendship that blossoms between
Nora, a 25 year old club-hopping atheist, and Farzana, a sheltered 19
year old Muslim girl. The result is a humorous new take on cultural
domination in the modern world.

This play is presented as part of the Ma-Yi Labfest, featuring nine new
full-length plays. FREE admission for all plays but please make
reservations by emailing labfest@gmail.com or calling 212-971-4862. For
more info on this event and each of the plays, please visit
I am not familiar with that play, and would appreciate it if any readers in the New York area would write back to provide input.

But there are two other pieces of theater I am familar with and never tire of talking about:


One of the blurbs I have read on the former mentioned it as this era's "Fiddler on the Roof". There's a lot in that comment that one could unpack--the experience of this generation's most newsworthy immigrant community, the playing out of a religious community's interaction with "modernity", timeless and ageless family dynamics...one could go on and on. And given all the other news and issues we deal with every day, if Wajahat, the impossibly young second generation Pakistani-American playwright, could get the funding and support the play deserves, I would list it under mandatory viewing for anyone who claims they want to understand the middle class Muslim experience in this country or any Western country, really. And if you threw in a viewing of Kalapul (literally "Black Bridge", named for a bridge leading one of Karachi's poshest localities), you could get a pretty thorough education on Muslims anywhere, and what they are going through.

As an afterthought, something I have been mulling over for a while: together, these plays are the answer, really, to VS Naipaul's contention that "The novel's time is over. Only nonfiction can capture the complexities of today's world." (See here and here. I can't seem to find his original essay in The New York Review of Books right now.) Taken with "The Kite Runner" and even Updike's "The Terrorist" (more on that one later), it makes one wonder whether, maybe, we need to turn to a different class and generation of writers, instead of turning repeatedly to the traditional staples of Sir Vidyadhar and Salman Rushdie, et al.

And as an after thought, I really need to finish those three short stories in my own "Drafts" folder.

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