I still bring books with me when I travel. The paper and print kind. Yesterday, I reluctantly finished one of them that I found simply by browsing back in San Francisco, another old-fashioned habit that serves me well. The Bad Muslim Discount by Syed M. Masood, did not disappoint, filled with the qualities I appreciate in a story. Well-told, well-written, appealing and complex characters who go through some kind of transformation, a peek into a different culture and way of thinking (the two main characters are immigrants from Pakistan and Iraq), with the extra bonus of humor and much of it taking place in San Francisco. Like the best books I’ve read, I always looked forward to re-entering the story and was always somewhat sorry for it to end.
Another bonus was some well-spoken gems worthy of a pencil underlining and so in today’s post, I’ll share some. Out of context, but still compelling. And in the spirit of my 5th grade book reports, “I suggest you read this book.”
• That is how monsters multiply, spreading their hurt into the world in a cycle of misery that doesn’t have an end. Sometimes victims act in a way that deserves censure. The fact they’re victims doesn’t exempt them from moral consequences. You don’t get to hurt other people because someone hurt you. That can’t be how the world works.”
• We should be honest about who we are and what we do. We should tell the truth about things, even when it doesn’t sound good or feel good or sell well. It’s not “enhanced interrogation,” it’s torture. It’s not an “extrajudicial killing,” it’s murder. We should call things by their real names.
• Zuha took me to Sacramento, to a train station on I Street, which was a squat, long building that looked like it was made from reddish-brown bricks. It probably wasn’t. In America, they build things out of wood and then put false faces on them, to make them seem like they are stronger, more durable, that they really are.
• I couldn’t be angry with him because he felt more like a brother to me then, in that moment when we were both broken and imperfect, than he ever had before.
• It’s part of growing up to realize that often, perhaps inevitably, we are left with incomplete stories about the lives of other people. It is impossible, therefore, to understand any other being as completely, or incompletely, as we understand ourselves. The best we can do is find some common ground in self-evident truths about how we are, if not the same, then at least similar. We can recognize that our experiences of the world, no matter how various and varied, how tinged with excess or want or joy or sorrow, make us all irredeemably, undeniably, irrepressibly, human.