- Paperback: 320 pages
- Published: 5/3/16
- IBSN: 9781617754364
- e-IBSN: 9781617754593
- Genre: Fiction
The long-awaited debut novel from acclaimed author Eteraz; a darkly comic, provocative, and insightful vision of the contemporary American experience.
“Native Believer stands as an important contribution to American literary culture: a book quite unlike any I’ve read in recent memory, which uses its characters to explore questions vital to our continuing national discourse around Islam.”
—New York Times Book Review, Editors’ Choice
“M.’s life spins out of control after his boss discovers a Qur’an in M.’s house during a party, in this wickedly funny Philadelphia picaresque about a secular Muslim’s identity crisis in a country waging a never-ending war on terror.”
—O, the Oprah Magazine
“Native Believer is a page-turning contemporary fiction that addresses burning issues about the very essence of identity, and without question Ali Eteraz is a writer’s writer, one whose ear for the English language is just as acute as fellow naturalized Americans Vladimir Nabokov (born in Russia) or Viet Thanh Nguyen (Vietnam).”
—Los Angeles Review of Books
“[A] poignant and profoundly funny first novel. . . . Eteraz combines masterful storytelling with intelligent commentary to create a nuanced work of social and political art.”
“Eteraz’s narrative is witty and unpredictable . . . and the darkly comic ending is pleasingly macabre. As for M., in this identity-obsessed dandy, Eteraz has created a perfect protagonist for the times. A provocative and very funny exploration of Muslim identity in America today.”
“Eteraz is a brave writer whose narrative immerses you in a world of fear, doubt, identity crises, and paranoia. He exposes the mind of the American citizen separated from the norm because of who he is, was, or could be. Native Believer is a relevant book and should be read for its fine prose.”
“In bitingly funny prose, first novelist Eteraz sums up the pain and contradictions of an American not wanting to be categorized; the ending is a bang-up surprise.”
“M is a secular Muslim who is fired from his job for nebulous reasons, which we suspect are related to his heritage. Despite his own belief that he is living in ‘post-racial America,’ M is unable to escape from prejudices formed without his participation, in part due to the ongoing war on terror.”
— The Guardian
Included in John Madera’s list of Most Anticipated Small Press Books of 2016 at Big Other
“Who wants to be Muslim in post-9/11 America? Many of the characters in Ali Eteraz‘s new novel Native Believer have no choice in the matter; they deal in a variety of ways with issues of belonging and identity in a society bent on categorizing, stereotyping, and targeting Muslims.”
“Ali Eteraz is a pen name that means ‘Noble Protest.’ In his darkly funny debut novel, the protest may not be entirely noble, but it is essential—the story follows M., a Philadelphia man who is Muslim by birth but not by belief. When he gets fired for owning a copy of the Quran, his life spirals out of control as he tries to find some semblance of a place in the world.”
“Ali Eteraz’s fiction has encompassed everything from the surreal and fantastical to the urgently political. Native Believer, his debut novel, explores questions of nationality, religion, and the fears and paranoia in American society circa right now.”
—Vol. 1 Brooklyn
“A sad, funny, and haunting novel that debates what America is. The novel captures post-9/11 U.S. in a brilliant satire . . . With the groundwork laid for an ending that will surprise readers, Native Believer offers no pat answers about being Muslim in America, but it does pose a lot of good questions.”
—Rain Taxi Review of Books
“Eteraz’s novel asks what Muslims must do to themselves in order to be successful in the United States—deny their heritage? Buy into America’s war machine? Watch as the Middle East goes up in flames?”
“This is a brilliant, unapologetic book…It’s also the perfect book for our times. In a just world it would be awarded a place alongside other great civil rights books. However, it will probably just end up being banned and scorned by the self-righteous and the blind; the ones who need to read and understand it the most.”
“A kaleidoscopic panorama of 21st century America . . . Surveying broad swaths of a breathtaking tapestry, across a landscape populated by a colorfully sundry cast, Eteraz manages to tease out the core contradictions of life in contemporary America. The story is set in a vividly rendered Philadelphia, where loyalties are in constant flux, where roots often act as shackles, and the pursuit of the American dream is hampered at every turn by the relentless pull of a past that never ceases to exist.”
“[A] fiery debut . . . An incendiary novel.”
—Asian American Literature Fans
“Ali Eteraz has written a hurricane of a novel. It blows open the secrets and longings of Muslim immigration to the West, sweeping us up in the drama of identity in ways newly raw. This is no poised and prettified tale; buckle in for a uproariously messy and revealing ride.”
—Lorraine Adams, author of The Room and the Chair
“Merciless, intellectually lacerating, and brutally funny, Native Believer is not merely a Gonzo panorama of Muslim America—it’s one of the most incisive novels I’ve ever read on America itself. Eteraz paints our empire with the same erotic longing and black, depraved wit that Nabokov used sixty years ago in Lolita. But whereas Nabokov’s work was set in the heyday of America’s cheerful upswing, Eteraz sets the country in the new, fractious world order. Here, sex, money, and violence all stake their claims on treacherously shifting identities—and neither love nor god is an escape.”
—Molly Crabapple, author of Drawing Blood
“Ali Eteraz has written a novel, both heartbreaking and exultant, about how it feels to get scalded by the great melting pot. He is a writer of tremendous nuance, sensitivity, and insight. An enormous triumph in its own right, Native Believer also points toward an even brighter future for American fiction.”
—Andrew Ervin, author of Burning Down George Orwell’s House
“Knife-sharp and ruthlessly funny, Native Believer is the American novel of now. Right now. Eteraz’s writing is exciting, beautiful, and jam-packed with intelligent surprise. I saw myself among its infidels and dreamers, its pornographers and heathens, its believers, the lovers, and the lost. I could not put it down.”
—Scott Cheshire, author of High as the Horses’ Bridles
Praise for Children of Dust by Ali Eteraz:
“A gifted writer and scholar, Eteraz is able to create a true-life Islamic bildungsroman as he effortlessly conveys his coming-of-age tale while educating the reader . . . His catharsis transcends the page.”
“The gripping story of a young man exposed to both the beauty and ugliness of religion.”
—Laila Lalami, author of The Moor’s Account
“An astoundingly frightening, funny, and brave book. At a time when debate and reform in the larger landscape of the Muslim world, and in countries like Pakistan in particular, are virtually non-existent, Children of Dust is a call to thought.”
—Fatima Bhutto, author of The Shadow of the Crescent Moon
Ali Eteraz’s much-anticipated debut novel is the story of M., a supportive husband, adventureless dandy, lapsed believer, and second-generation immigrant who wants nothing more than to host parties and bring children into the world as full-fledged Americans. As M.’s life gradually fragments around him—a wife with a chronic illness; a best friend stricken with grief; a boss jeopardizing a respectable career—M. spins out into the pulsating underbelly of Philadelphia, where he encounters others grappling with fallout from the War on Terror. Among the pornographers and converts to Islam, punks and wrestlers, M. confronts his existential degradation and the life of a second-class citizen.
Darkly comic, provocative, and insightful, Native Believer is a startling vision of the contemporary American experience and the human capacity to shape identity and belonging at all costs.
Ali Eteraz wrote a piece for The Millions on how difficult it is to successfully order and receive Arabic books in the United States; read the full essay here.
Read an interview with Ali Eteraz at Flavorwire Sweetest Debut column.
Check out 5 Questions with Ali Eteraz at the City Lights Blog.
Listen to an interview with Ali Eteraz on Against the Grain (KPFA Pacifica)
Listen to a live interview with Ali Eteraz on Ask A Leader (KUCI).
Listen to a taped conversation with Ali Eteraz at Institute for South Asia Studies at UC Berkeley
ALI ETERAZ is based at the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto. He is the author of the coming-of-age memoir Children of Dust (HarperCollins) and the surrealist short story collection Falsipedies & Fibsiennes (Guernica Editions). Eteraz’s short fiction has appeared in the Chicago Quarterly Review, storySouth, and Crossborder, and his nonfiction has been highlighted by NPR, the New York Times, and the Guardian. Recently, Eteraz received the 3 Quarks Daily Arts & Literature Prize judged by Mohsin Hamid, and served as a consultant to the artist Jenny Holzer on a permanent art installation in Qatar. Eteraz has lived in the Dominican Republic, Pakistan, the Persian Gulf, and Alabama. Native Believer is his debut novel. Visit him on the web at alieteraz.com.