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Stranger to History

Stranger to History: A Son’s Journey through Islamic Lands

Aatish Taseer

History should never be taken on faith.

As a child, all Aatish Taseer ever had of his father was a photograph in a browning silver frame. Raised by his Sikh mother in Delhi, his Muslim Pakistani father remained a distant figure, almost a figment of his imagination, until at twenty-one Aatish crossed the border to meet him.

This new relationship forced Aatish to ask larger questions: Why did being Muslim mean that your allegiances went out to other Muslims before the citizens of your own country? Why did his father, despite claiming to be irreligious, describe himself as a ‘cultural Muslim’? Why did Muslims see modernity as a threat? What made Islam a trump identity?

Stranger to History is the story of the journey Aatish made to answer these questions—starting from Istanbul, Islam’s once greatest city, to Mecca, its most holy, and then home, through Iran and Pakistan. Ending in Lahore, at his estranged father’s home, on the night Benazir Bhutto was killed, it is also the story of Aatish’s own divided family over the past fifty years. Part memoir, part travelogue, probing, stylish and troubling, Stranger to History is an outstanding debut.

Aatish Taseer
About the Author

After graduating in French and Political Science from Amherst College, Massachusetts, Aatish Taseer began work as a reporter for Time magazine in New York. He writes frequently for Time, the Sunday Times, and the Guardian and contributes to British television and radio programs. He divides his time between Delhi and London.

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Text publication date:
1 June 2009
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Praise for Aatish Taseer
andStranger to History

‘A subtle and poignant work by a young writer to watch.’

Stranger to History’ is an amazing narrative: a kind of Muslim Odyssey which unfolds before the reader’s eyes, bringing revelations, sometimes painful perhaps, but always intensely compelling.’

‘Engrossing and provocative…Part travelogue, part memoir, this honest and revealing book is an attempt to form a better relationship with his father. Throughout, he confronts the concerns of religion and politics head on, unafraid to question the basic principles of faith and the Islamic view of history.’

‘The writing is concentrated, absorbed in the tale it is telling, expressing compelling points of view, the author’s bemusement, intrigue and confusion as he searches for the threads of his Muslim identity…Either story would in themselves have made a wholly absorbing account. Taken together, and woven astutely, they make a memorable read that engages the mind as well as the heart.’

‘Elegant and fluent throughout, the characters skillfully drawn…unforgettable.’

‘Taseer uses this intensely personal prism to spring a narrative that darts deftly between physical journey and childhood memoir. The paternal relationship he never had becomes the backbone of the book, which is all the better for it. Uncomfortable reading for Daddy, certainly, but gripping for the rest of us.’

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