[by Kaye Exo]
This very stimulating seminar, facilitated by Reshmi Dutt-Ballerstadt, considered two novels—The Reluctant Fundamentalist and How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia—and a few essays by Pakistani author Mohsin Hamid. Hamid was one of five authors in Literary Arts’ 2015-2016 Portland Arts & Lectures series, and he spoke at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall on Thursday, April 28. My fellow Delve participants and I each received a ticket to the lecture as part of our seminar tuition.
This seminar took place over the course of two Saturday mornings—an abbreviated version of the typical six-week seminar—and covered a wide range of topics, including the author’s background as a Pakistani, a Pakistani-American, an immigrant, an “outsider,” and a gentle but truthful critic of American culture in the 21st century. Particular points of discussion that arose through our time together included the following questions:
• Who is qualified to speak about and define “the war on terror?”
• What does it mean to be rich? Is it only about money?
• How is Hamid challenging me with his multiple ideas and questions?
• What do the ideas of inclusion and exclusion mean in theory and in practice?
• How does a Pakistani male understand women and power?
From these questions and more, we brainstormed several ideas:
• In his works, Hamid gives us multiple perspectives and wants his readers to draw their own conclusions about the story.
• In The Reluctant Fundamentalist, the character Erica symbolizes America. Her role is to help us see that unless America mends its ways, it will disappear.
• In his writing, Hamid is tackling issues of class and the potential collapse of capitalism.
• In The Reluctant Fundamentalist, a central idea seems to be that Americans don’t question themselves enough, and we are very nostalgic about the past. The implication is that Americans are spoiled teenagers.
Throughout the seminar, I enjoyed having my ideas and assumptions positively challenged by my co-participants. I also appreciated the way Reshmi incorporated ideas and questions from other sources such as book reviews and literature discussing the events of September 11. Most of all, I appreciated the way Hamid handled sensitive differences between American and Eastern cultures with perceptiveness and humor.
2019 Oregon Book Awards Ceremony
April 22, 2019
Join Literary Arts’ annual celebration of the state’s most accomplished writers in…
PDX JAZZ: The Resilience of Jazz
April 24, 2019
Join PDX Jazz for a lecture in their Discover Jazz series. The…
April 25, 2019
Celebrate Portland’s youth poets during our eighth annual Verselandia! poetry slam. Students…
One Page Wednesday
May 1, 2019
Writers, escape the solitude of your desk. Readers, come hear great fresh…
Oregon Book Awards Author Tour: Newport
May 5, 2019
An afternoon of reading and conversation with three Oregon Book Awards authors:…
Ooligan Press Writers of Color Spring Showcase
May 22, 2019
Literary Arts and Ooligan Press (part of Portland State’s graduate program in…