'The True American: Murder and Mercy in Texas'
The True American: Murder and Mercy in Texasby Anand Giridharadas
W.W. Norton & Co., 319 pp., $27.95
Those interested in both the best and worst of what it means to be American should read The True American, a stranger-than-fiction account of the aftermath of an act of violence in the wake of 9/11. Raisuddin Bhuiyan is a Bangladesh Air Force officer who has immigrated to America in search of "abundance and greatness." For the time being, however, he's working at the register of the Buckner Food Mart in a depressed part of Dallas, Texas. Mark Stroman is a "proud American" who has decided to extract vengeance for the World Trade Center attacks by killing Arabs – or, to be precise, people who look like Arabs to him. Stroman shoots three convenience store clerks, including Bhuiyan. Only Bhuiyan lives. Stroman is sentenced to death.
Blinded in one eye, abandoned by his fiancée, and further from his American dream than ever, Bhuiyan nevertheless interprets the rules of his Islamic faith to mean that he must not only forgive Stroman, but seek to have him removed from death row. Giridharadas vividly, sympathetically, and unsparingly paints a picture of how both men found themselves in that convenience store, and what happens after. While his love of detail can occasionally slow down the story, the book is too well-written and the characters are too fascinating to miss.