Pakistani “Children of the Dust” by Ali Eteraz Essay

August 17, 2021 by Essay Writer


“Children of the Dust” is a book written by Ali Eteraz about his journey of self-discovery as a Pakistani living in the United States. His life is full of transformative moments that provide a very insightful look into his struggle of coming to terms with his religion in some of the most difficult times for Islam. The book is written in a very charismatic fashion which makes its events relatable even to people with no connection to the Islamic faith. This paper will provide a review of some of its elements as well as the moment that personally touched me.

The Journey Motif

The motif of the journey is perfectly portrayed in this story. In the beginning, he explains how his father made a pact with Allah through prayer by saying that if his wife gives him a son, he will become a great leader of Islam. While his family provides him with a happy childhood, his experience of being beaten at school begins his doubts about Islam (Eteraz 107). Throughout the journey, he matures in a variety of ways. After moving to America, he begins to discover himself through interaction with students at school but eventually begins to feel like he is losing his connection to Islam (Eteraz 190). During that time he grows physically, gains a better understanding of the opposite sex, and eventually starts to work on his spiritual maturation. These elements continue to be present in the book as each new section brings a new challenge and moment of growth for him as a person. His journey, however, ends in a similar state to one he began it in, on which his mother remarks “you grew up all these years, just to become innocent again” (Eteraz 557).

Family Experience

The experience of Eteraz’s family is one of the most intriguing elements of the story. While it is mostly on the periphery of Eteraz’s story, there is a very important moment in how their experience changes between sections. Before leaving for America, his family lived a relatively stable life with no major incidents. They were able to provide for Eteraz and did not experience any major issues. However, after Eteraz comes back from the United States to find a wife that would share his religious beliefs, the experience of his family changes dramatically. After an incident with extremist Muslims, he and his family are forced to flee the country in fear for their wellbeing (Eteraz 334). The changing atmosphere in Pakistan is reflected in these events. His family experiences a better life in the United States despite some issues. By the end, they are relatively happy, especially when Eteraz finally finds himself.

Islam in Contemporary Pakistani Culture

There are multiple reflections on contemporary Islam in the book. The most are presented through the examination of Islam’s various interpretations. The growing element of extremist followers is remarked on by Eteraz by his condemnation of Osama bin Laden and his followers as un-faithful to Islam’s more peaceful ethos (Eteraz 291).

Impact of American Experiences on Eteraz

The perception of Islam in the United States changes throughout the book. Eteraz finds himself in a country that has a culture that is much too varied to strictly follow Islam and multiple times changes his views on it while maturing. Every time he feels like he was failed by Islam, he starts learning about different cultures but still comes back to reinterpret Islam into a form that suits him better. Perhaps the most radical shift happens after the events of 9/11 terrorist attacks (Eteraz 362). He becomes dedicated to the idea of reforming Islam for a new generation and goes on a new journey to do so. However, he eventually returns to America to his family. His faith is impacted both by how different the culture of the United States is but also by outside events that force him to analyze his faith.

Lessons from Eteraz’s Journey

Perhaps the most valuable lesson of all the ones presented in the book is that people should not try to be set in their ways if they do not feel fully comfortable. Eteraz changed his identity multiple times during his journey, but in the end, his original identity was still the most comfortable. People often seek out new movements to belong to and develop their identity around it, but sometimes through the process of maturing, they find that it is more important to be true to themselves.

Moment That Personally Affected Me

While the book is filled with memorable and relatable stories, I found the words of Eteraz’s mother about him becoming innocent again extremely emotionally affecting. His journey is not a simple arch but complex shape full of curves which closes at the end of the story (Eteraz 557). He is a much more mature person by the end, but the clarity of his personality is tied to his childhood self. I saw it as a humbling moment for him but also as a moment of great achievement.


“Children of the Dust” is a fascinating and highly personal journey of one man to find himself. It is set during a very difficult time for his culture which makes it especially meaningful. This is a highly engaging book, and I hope it helps others to find themselves.

Work Cited

Eteraz, Ali. Children of Dust: A Memoir of Pakistan. HarperOne, 2009.

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