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A charming coming-of-age story set in PAKISTAN and the USA

10th April 2023

American Fever by Dur E Aziz Amna, a charming coming-of-age story set in PAKISTAN and the USA.

A charming coming-of-age story set in PAKISTAN and the USA

American Fever tells the story of teenage Hira who gains a place on an exchange program run by the US State department for Pakistani school children in the cultural climate of post 9/11. It’s already a decade since the fall of the twin towers, but the spectre of Islam looms large in the American psyche. For Hira, the States represents a huge adventure, the chance of a lifetime. At last, she’ll be able to experience things she has only heard of.

The first quarter of the novel explores family life in Pakistan with delightful depictions of Hira’s home, the home of her grandparents, and the rich and varied customs that make up everyday life. Hira is a strong character, defiant, and yet also eager to conform. She’s loyal to the customs and expectations she grew up with. I particularly enjoyed these opening chapters filled with hope and anticipation.

Pakistan and all that it means for Hira carries through into the rest of the novel, when she finds herself in Eugene, Oregon, a beautiful rural setting but one devoid of the excitement of New York. Hira discovers that Eugene is a town where ordinary values, widespread ignorance and low aspirations abound. She cannot help compare all that she encounters with her knowledge of how things are done in Pakistan, and never lets go of her lack of appreciation for a country that puts itself on a pedestal. And, above all, she elevates her appreciation for her own mother. This is hardly surprising when in Eugene, Hira is treated with disdain, viewed as a novelty, and is neglected by her host mother. As Hira makes some friends and tries to accept her new surroundings, she wrestles with illness, homesickness and eventually tragedy. For Hira, The United States is definitely not all that it’s cracked up to be.

Beautifully written and brimming with insight, American Fever is an entertaining read. This is a novel that sits favourably alongside The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid and would make a welcome addition to the set lists for English in United States’ schools as it contains numerous discussion points and tackles an important topic in a highly accessible fashion.

Guest Review by Isobel Blackthorn

Isobel is a prolific Australian novelist. She writes both contemporary/literary, thrillers and dark fiction. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and via her website. 

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