STARRED REVIEW
November 2017

Citizen Khan

By Khizr Khan
Review by

In his eloquent memoir, An American Family, Khizr Khan retraces the steps that brought him from his grandfather’s house in Pakistan to the stage of the Democratic National Convention.

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Few would disagree that the climax of the 2016 Democratic National Convention was when Khizr Khan, a Gold Star Father, held up his copy of the U.S. Constitution and challenged Donald Trump to read it. It was an audacious gesture that was grounded in firmly held conviction. Regardless of one’s politics, there was something profoundly admirable about this man.

In his eloquent memoir, An American Family, Khan retraces the steps that brought him from his grandfather’s house in Pakistan to the stage of the Democratic National Convention. His grandfather instilled in Khan a compassionate morality that is firmly rooted in Islam. Throughout his life, his grandfather’s wisdom guided Khan. It sustained him through his struggle for an education; his lyrical romance with his wife, Ghazala; his single-minded determination to succeed in America; and, ultimately, his grief at the death of his beloved son, Captain Humayun Khan, who sacrificed his life while protecting others from a suicide bomber.

Khan opens his book by describing his first encounter with the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution while he was a law student in Lahore, Pakistan. The documents’ assertion of inalienable rights and equality resonated with Khan, who lived in a society that promised neither. He never doubted the promise of the words he read in Lahore.

Khan’s story is both unique and archetypal. Like generations of immigrants before them, the Khans sacrificed in order to achieve the American Dream. They became citizens and raised their three sons to be good men. When Humayun joined the Army, the Khans, although fearful, respected his commitment to his country.

Sometimes it takes a newcomer to point out the beauty that old-timers take for granted. America, more than any other country, was founded upon ideals: individual freedoms, equal protection and due process of law. Khan reminds us that these ideals are worth fighting—and even dying—for. The Khans truly are the most American of families.

 

This article was originally published in the November 2017 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

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An American Family

An American Family

By Khizr Khan
Random House
ISBN 9780399592492

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