An American Family: A Memoir of Hope and Sacrifice

An American Family: A Memoir of Hope and Sacrifice

by Khizr Khan


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This inspiring memoir by the Muslim American Gold Star father and captivating DNC speaker is the story of one family’s pursuit of the American dream.

“Moving . . . a story about family and faith, told with a poet’s sensibility . . . Khizr Khan’s book can teach all of us what real American patriotism looks like.” —The New York Times Book Review

In fewer than three hundred words, Khizr Khan electrified viewers around the world when he took the stage at the 2016 Democratic National Convention. And when he offered to lend Donald Trump his own much-read and dog-eared pocket Constitution, his gesture perfectly encapsulated the feelings of millions. But who was that man, standing beside his wife, extolling the promises and virtues of the U.S. Constitution?

In this urgent and timeless immigrant story, we learn that Khizr Khan has been many things. He was the oldest of ten children born to farmers in Pakistan, and a curious and thoughtful boy who listened rapt as his grandfather recited Rumi beneath the moonlight. He was a university student who read the Declaration of Independence and was awestruck by what might be possible in life. He was a hopeful suitor, awkwardly but earnestly trying to win the heart of a woman far out of his league. He was a brilliant and diligent young family man who worked two jobs to save enough money to put himself through Harvard Law School. He was a loving father who, having instilled in his children the ideals that brought him and his wife to America—the sense of shared dignity and mutual responsibility—tragically lost his son, an Army captain killed while protecting his base camp in Iraq. He was and is a patriot, and a fierce advocate for the rights, dignities, and values enshrined in the American system.

An American Family shows us who Khizr Khan and millions of other American immigrants are, and why—especially in these tumultuous times—we must not be afraid to step forward for what we believe in when it matters most.

Praise for An American Family

An American Family is a small but lovely immigrant’s journey, full of carefully observed details from the order in which Ghazala served tea at a university event, to the schedule of the police patrols in the Boston Public Garden where Khan briefly slept while he was in between apartments, to the description of Humayun’s headstone as a ‘slab of white marble with soft streaks the color of wood smoke.’”—Alyssa Rosenberg, The Washington Post

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780399592492
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 10/24/2017
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 1,220,486
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Khizr Khan was born in 1950, the eldest of ten children, to farming parents in Gujranwala, a city in rural Pakistan. He moved to the United States with his wife, Ghazala, in 1980. The couple became American citizens in 1986 and raised their three sons in Silver Spring, Maryland. Their middle son, U.S. Army Captain Humayun Khan, was killed in 2004 while stopping a suicide attack near Baqubah, Iraq, and was posthumously awarded a Purple Heart and Bronze Star. Khan works as a legal consultant and has remained involved with the University of Virginia and its ROTC program.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

Excerpted from "An American Family"
by .
Copyright © 2017 Khizr Khan.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Introduction ix

Chapter 1 Shoeless in a Shaft of Sunlight 3

Chapter 2 Twenty-One Sparrows 32

Chapter 3 A Stick Becomes a Ney 57

Chapter 4 Tomorrow Will Be Better 77

Chapter 5 The Wonders of the DMV 113

Chapter 6 Already American 138

Chapter 7 No Man Is Complete Until His Education Is Complete 147

Chapter 8 Shining City 165

Chapter 9 Baba 188

Chapter 10 Always Be a River 222

Chapter 11 God Is Found Among the People 229

Afterword 265

Acknowledgments 269

A Reader's Guide 273

Reading Group Guide

The founding documents of the United States illustrate the importance and power of ideas, but they require the actions of men and women to make them real. If after finishing An American Family you’d like to enact change and embody the ideals that the Founding Fathers enshrined in our nation’s government, here are a few ways to demonstrate your own commitment to equality and justice.
Action Guide

Live by example. Tell people who are speaking up on behalf of others or whom you see being mistreated that you stand with them.

Read newspapers, watch the news, and be aware of multiple angles of a story. Form your own opinions, and judge news sources carefully before sharing stories with others.

Attend peaceful demonstrations on behalf of causes you believe in to show your support.

Vote in local as well as national elections. Put them on your calendar early and keep your registration up to date. Research candidates ahead of time.

If you see someone under verbal attack or facing insults based on their race, religion, or appearance, stand by them. Look up and attend bystander-­training courses in your area to learn what you can do to halt scenes of injustice.

Know and contact your representatives in Congress, in your state legislature, and in local government. Look online for public events and town halls with your representatives and make a point of attending. You’ll not only have a chance to get to know your representatives and voice your opinion, but you’ll learn about the concerns of your neighbors and build your community.

Consider running for office yourself, especially in local races.

Speak out when you see injustice, and engage those close to you in conversation and debate when their opinions are unjust. Listen to others’ opinions and experiences. Look for common ground between people.

Read the Constitution and keep a copy close, as
I do.

1. Discuss Khizr Khan’s relationship with his grandparents. What did he carry with him from his grandfather?

2. People often have ideas about what it means to be an immigrant or who immigrants are. Did An American Family change your view of immigration? Why or why not?

3. When Khizr began law school, what struck him about the Declaration of Independence? How did it compare to other founding documents? Have you ever had a strong reaction to reading the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution?

4. What drew Khizr and Ghazala together? What did you think about their relationship?

5. What were some of Khizr’s first observations of the United States? How did this early experience of the country influence his long-­term opinion of it? Did his first impression fit with how you see the country?

6. It’s no secret that many people complain about a visit to the DMV. Why was Khizr’s approach to it so different? Did it change your view of the DMV (or any other institutions)?

7. Did you immigrate to the United States, or have any of your family or friends done so? Discuss your (or their) experience of moving to a new country.

8. Do you think having a family influenced the Khans’ decision to stay in the United States? How did raising a family here seem different than it would have been in Pakistan? Can you imagine raising children in a country where you did not grow up?

9. Why did the Khans decide to pursue U.S. citizenship? What did they gain and sacrifice with this decision? Can you imagine making a similar choice?

10. What values did the Khans hope to instill in their sons? How did the boys reflect Khizr and Ghazala as they grew up and attended college? How was their experience of young adulthood different from Khizr’s and Ghazala’s?

11. How did Khizr and Ghazala choose to honor their son, Captain Humayun Khan? How did they find meaning in his death?

12. What drove Khizr to speak at the Democratic National Convention? What did you think of his decision to get involved in politics, and how did his politics evolve over time? What issues drive you to get involved (in politics or otherwise)?

13. If you’ve read the Constitution, do you have a favorite part or amendment? What do you like about it?

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