The Other Americans: A Novel
by Laila Lalami
Hardcover- $18.96

From the Pulitzer Prize finalist, author of The Moor's Account--a timely and powerful new novel about the suspicious death of a Moroccan ...

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  "Another book about the same old same old...immigration issues hidden under a murder mystery" by thewanderingjew (see profile) 04/27/19

The Other Americans, Laila Lalami, author; Mozhan Marno, P.J. Ochlan, Adenrele Ojo, narrators
“The Other Americans” is ostensibly a mystery about an accident investigation. An elderly man was killed on a poorly lit road, in a hit and run accident. The police believe it was simply an accident, but one of the victim’s daughters believes it was an intentional act because of the historic issues the driver of the vehicle had with her father. Their businesses were adjacent to each other. The driver, someone depicted as angry and rude, perhaps a white supremacist, owned a bowling alley located next to the diner that was owned by the victim, an immigrant from Morocco. The family had experienced racial incidents in the past. The two owners were dealing with many contentious issues, i.e. parking, lighting, etc.
Through the musings of several characters, the widow, the daughters, the police officers and the accused, the readers learn about the abuse that immigrants face in America. They learn about the horrors faced by the soldiers who fought in the Iraq war, and they learn about the fears of the illegal Mexican immigrants, who are afraid to speak to the police when they have witnessed crimes. They learn about the verbal slurs and the bullying that these immigrants, who are the “other” Americans, have to deal with in their daily lives. The readers learn about how these many abuses in business, schools and in social and personal situations alter their behavior and affect their decisions and choices.
Nora is the victim’s daughter. She is sure that her father, Driss, was intentionally run down by the driver of the vehicle in the accident. She is sure he was murdered. She was recently jilted by a married man and is nursing that loss as well as the loss of her parent. Her sister, Salma, is angry that her father’s will left more money to Nora. She has always been the practical daughter who has sacrificed for her family, doing what is expected of her, not what she would like to do. She seeks solace from life’s difficulties with opiates. Her mother, Maryam, is aware that her husband has been unfaithful, before his death, but she chooses to excuse his behavior in order to preserve the memory of their 37 years together.
The person investigating the hit and run is Detective Coleman, a black woman police officer who has had to buck the system and deal with issues of racism throughout her life. She has admirably set an example, with her own behavior, to overcome these injustices. Her son is a loner and her need to help him socialize falls on the deaf ears of her husband who is too busy watching sporting events.
Jeremy, who works with Coleman, served in the Iraq war and has the physical and emotional scars to prove it. His military experience has sometimes affected his judgment and he suffers from insomnia brought on by his war memories. He is a cop and a student, and sometimes, as a cop, he is smug and takes advantage of his power unjustly. He and Nora were in high school together.
The witness of the hit and run, Efrain, is a man with a Mexican background who is afraid to come forward with his evidence. His child goes to school with the grandchildren of the victim. His wife wants him to tell the police what he saw for the reward offered. At first he is afraid to come forward, but she prevails.
The man who was suspected of driving the car in the accident sounds like a white supremacist and a racist for sure. Anderson owns the bowling alley next door to the victim’s diner. He has a son, AJ. His son’s pet business has recently failed forcing him to move in with his parents. AJ also went to school with the victim’s daughter, Nora, and the police officer, Jeremy. As a matter of fact, he bullied both Nora and Jeremy in high school using racist slurs and other insults as he intimidated them.
There isn’t a character in the book without a serious problem of some kind. It feels like there are “eight million stories in this naked desert city” to borrow a phrase from an old television show. Every character has been betrayed in some way by his country, his friends, enemies or lovers. Every character seems to be lonely and unfulfilled. The characters are searching for solutions to their problems and some are more successful than others. Some make choices that are not main stream or healthy.
The several narrators of this audio book do an admirable job of defining the accent and personality of each of the characters. However, there are almost too many characters and issues. Each of the characters seems to place blame on others for their failures without ever considering that they might be the ones making the poor choices.
This book has had very good reviews. I imagine one of the reasons is that it includes every controversial issue of the day: family dynamics, illegal immigration, drug addiction, coping mechanisms, health care, the VA, suicide, anger management and support groups, bullying, equality for women, racism, sexual relationships, romance, infidelity, hints of white supremacy, the Iraq war and its emotional and physical effects on soldiers and their families, police brutality, Islamophobia and more. A reader is hard pressed, today, to find a book today that does not tackle a menu covering some or all of these issues. The only thing that might have been left out in this book is climate change, but since it was set in the desert of California, it might possibly have touched on that too.
It seems in order to get on a “to be read” best seller list, a book must have a progressive agenda if it is to be successful or at least the book must have been written by a woman or a woman with an immigrant background or a person of color or someone with a Muslim or Hispanic heritage. Is this the wave of the future? Many of the books seem to be variations on the same theme making it hard to find one that has been chosen because it is written well and represents good literature instead of one that is a presentation of a political agenda.
I found the book interesting, but slow, as each of the issues covered in the book needed to find its own oxygen, and at times it was tedious. The sex scenes were an unnecessary distraction, as well.

 
  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 04/13/20

 
  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 05/25/20

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