Unimagined: A Muslim Boy Meets the West

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Imran Ahmad remembers his childhood in a series of vivid snapshots: outrage as deserved victory is snatched away from him in the Karachi Bonnie Baby contest; being tricked out of his collection of Tarzan bubblegum cards by a junior con artist; the heady taste of success in the Metropolitan Police schools quiz; joy at passing the entrance exam to the local grammar school; and shock at experiencing racist abuse from pupils, neighbors, and strangers. After moving to London from Karachi at age two, Imran’s response ...

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Overview

Imran Ahmad remembers his childhood in a series of vivid snapshots: outrage as deserved victory is snatched away from him in the Karachi Bonnie Baby contest; being tricked out of his collection of Tarzan bubblegum cards by a junior con artist; the heady taste of success in the Metropolitan Police schools quiz; joy at passing the entrance exam to the local grammar school; and shock at experiencing racist abuse from pupils, neighbors, and strangers. After moving to London from Karachi at age two, Imran’s response to his strange new surroundings is to engage in an eternal quest to become the quintessential English gentleman: tie perfectly knotted, shirt pristinely ironed, hair neatly combed. Like most boys, he also has a parallel obsession with cars and girls: he yearns to go driving off into the distance in a Jaguar XJS and encountering danger, adventure, and a vivacious brunette. This is a lighthearted and amusing look at the results of East meeting West inside the head of a precocious and headstrong boy.

At age one, Pakistan-born Imran Ahmad moved to London and grew up torn between his Islamic identity and his desire to embrace the West. In this endearing memoir, Imran recalls his childhood in a series of vivid snapshots: outrage as deserved victory is snatched away from him in the Karachi Bonnie Baby contest by third world corruption and injustice; bitterness as he is tricked out of his collection of Tarzan bubble-gum cards by junior con artists; the heady taste of success in the Metropolitan Police schools quiz; joy at passing the entrance exam to the local grammar school; uncertainty as he seeks to become a doctor; bewilderment as he tries to learn about women at university; and shock at experiencing racism in its many forms. As he grows, Imran stumbles though life encountering colorful characters, philosophical dilemmas, and theological threats. Will he really be “left behind” if he doesn’t embrace Jesus Christ as his personal saviour? Will he be sent to Hell for having coffee with girls (especially non-Muslim ones)? Is there a correlation between studying and passing exams, or is it entirely the will of God? Is it okay to be Western and Muslim, or are the two irreconcilable? And what about America, that alluring land of many contradictions? Eventually Imran embarks on a determined quest to become the quintessential English gentleman: tie perfectly knotted, shirt pristinely ironed, hair neatly combed. Like most boys, he has a parallel obsession with cars and girls: he yearns to drive off into the distance in a Jaguar XJS and encounter danger, adventure—and a vivacious young woman (preferably brunette, but any kind considered). Today Imran continues to write on his website http://www.unimagined.org and his blog http://www.unimagined.typepad.com. A book of the year pick by both The Guardian and The Independent, this is a deliciously funny and painfully insightful look at a life lived between two worlds.

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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
Forthright, wry, entirely enjoyable memoir from a Pakistani-British businessman who grew up amid English Christians and questioned his adherence to Islam. Born in Karachi in 1962, Ahmad moved with his middle-class parents to London a year later. They sought better economic opportunities, but found instead an entrenched system of discrimination. The family first lived in Putney, then Hampton, and early on Ahmad gleaned the impression of being different: "both foreign and not Christian." He didn't eat Spam at school like the others and was exempted from attending the religious assembly every day. "I'm not so sure about this," he writes (his memoir employs present tense throughout). "I quite like singing ‘All Things Bright and Beautiful.' " Small but significant events began to shape the author's sense of justice, underscored by his training from age 11 at an Islamic school, where he learned that the Muslims revere the Old Testament and Jesus. Ahmad has an engaging voice, and his mannered prose, presented in brief, anecdotal chapters, is winning. The bookish boy surprised himself by getting into Hampton Grammar School and shone there despite the occasional ugly comments about immigrants. He decided by default to become a doctor, but failed to make the grade. At Stirling University in Scotland, he found theology texts more compelling. He was tortured by the suspicion that loving Jesus was the way into Heaven, as instructed by his Evangelical friend Magnus, and that Islam was the religion of Satan. Gradually, he understood that Islam is a rational religion, rather than an emotional one like Christianity, and while disgusted by the "cultural contamination" of radical Arabic sects, he decidedIslam suited him. A scrupulously well-intentioned look at how Christians and Muslims might live respectfully side by side. Agent: Charlie Viney/Mulcahy & Viney
From the Publisher
"The best books of 2007.”  —The Independent

"The pick of the literary crop 2007."  —The Sydney Morning Herald

"Books of the year."  —The Guardian

"A forthright, wry, entirely enjoyable memoir."  —Kirkus Reviews

"Best non-fiction read of 2007."  —dovegreyreader

"Best books of 2007."  —The Belfast Telegraph

Shortlisted for the YoungMinds Book Award 2007

"Paperback of the week."  —The Guardian

"Wonderfully funny, heart-warming, perceptive, enlightening and ironic . . . His episodic story of coming to terms with the ways of the West is reminiscent ofAdrian Mole, with echoes ofWhite Teeth, but it has its own unique voice . . . endearing, deadpan humour . . . Likely to be a word-of-mouth hit . . . has the makings of a slow-build bestseller."  —Publishing News  

“Hurrah for a memoir that isn't miserable!  Hurray for Imran Ahmad’s terrific sense of humor . . . an entertaining, moving and thoroughly thought-provoking tale of our times.”  —The Daily Mail

“Wonderfully evocative and strangely touching.”  —The Sunday Times

"Deserves all the praise it's had—it's very clearly and vividly written . . . funny and perceptive."  —Phillip Pullman, author, His Dark Materials trilogy

"My favourite book of 2007."  —Anne Widdecombe, Member of Parliament

"Beautifully written, funny and endearing, and in its own quiet way, important."  —Sue Townsend

"Very funny."  —John Pienaar, BBC

"Beguiling and insightful."  —Sue Cook

"Just beautiful."  —Antonella Gambotto-Burke

"I consumedUnimagined as soon as I started it. I couldn't wait until the plane ride. It was an absolute joy to read. I loved every moment of it."  —Randa Abdel-Fattah,author,Does My Head Look Big in This?

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781845133252
  • Publisher: Aurum Press, Limited
  • Publication date: 9/1/2009
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 7.70 (h) x 0.80 (d)

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