October 28, 2005

'Harbor' - Lorraine Adams


'Water never warms in American harbors'
This opening line in Lorraine Adams's first novel 'Harbor' captures the essence of the story; that of an illegal Algerian immigrant trying to make America his safe harbor after fleeing the harsh reality of a civil war that is consuming his native country.

Aziz, a soft spoken, educated, and honest human being rides through a series of horror coasters while trying to lose himself in the Boston suburbia trying to evade the FBI. He and his relatively harmless compatriots are constantly hounded by the fear of getting captured. It is within this terrifyingly opaque and stifling environment that Aziz finds himself longing for "a person speaking to him, and ..someone's eyes meeting his own".

Adams empathetic portrayal of an illegal Islamic immigrant community trying to eek out an existence in a foreign land under the threat of underinformed, narrow minded, and prejudiced Intelligence and Surveillance Forces, is a very thought provoking novel. Though the setting of the story is pre 9/11, the profiling and the discrimination that is meted out to this small community of Algerians is reminiscent of the post 9/11 scenario.

Yet, the novel is not about terrorists or terrorism. This starkly naked tale of ordinary human beings, uprooted from their native land and in desperation trying to make this new land their home, is both terrifying and heart rending. It forces any rational minded individual to reflect on his prejudices; especially those pertaining to religion. Does a person's religion make him less human or less deserving of human kindness? Will our religious differences prevent us from communicating with each other as human beings? Will our religious affiliations divide us irrevocably such that there will be no bridges left that would let the milk of human kindness to flow? Will humanitarianism in this country be forever drowned in a deluge of post 9/11 suspicion and hatred?

Finally, can Aziz's story have a different middle and end?

8 comments:

Dr. Deborah Serani said...

This sounds like a great read. I enjoy reading first time authors. I'm going to order this book.

~Deb

Pacze Moj said...

Hadn't heard of this book, but from what you've written it seems like a good read.

What year(s) does it take place in?

Id it is said...

pacze moj,
The exact years are not defined but it is definitely a pre 9/11 setting.

bablu said...

Looks like a very nice story in the present scenario. I think religion should not be a barrier for human kindness to flow and barring for few - I have seen that the entire world agrees on this - if not should agree o nthis. What say ?

Pewzen said...

Which religion do you belong to?

Id it is said...

Pewzen
That's exactly my point. Ideally, your reading of this post, and your appreciation of it or the lack thereof, should not be colored by any biographical bias.
To answer your question, I don't belong to either of the two major religions of the world.
I'd be curious to know from readers of this post how this information impacted your reading/ appreciation of the posting.

Anonymous said...

The characters situation closely relates to the cause of the recent riots in paris. It definitely seems to be hitting a "hot" subject which is what probably makes it such a great book to read.

Anonymous said...

when i started to read this book, i thought it would be another western interpretation of the attempt by "third world" peoples to assimilate into the culture of the united states. fortunately, for the most part, it was not. the author did not go down the regular path of making them seem totally admiring in their view of the americans. she was able to draw a picture of discerning immigrants - they saw what they lost in coming to america and, to some extent, continued to struggle with the loss through the course of the book. this was a surprise to me - most authors treat the subject of immigrants with a rather wide brush, especially those who write as outside observers of the phenomenon. for that, i commend lorraine adams... and the blogger for recommending the book.

-sr