Thunder Dog – by Michael Hingson (2011)

Thunder Dog

Michael Hingson has been blind since birth, but that hasn’t keep him from doing most things. As a child, he explored the neighborhood and even rode a bike down the street. Although the school system recommended specialized education, he attended regular schools all the way from kindergarten through high school. Michael learned Braille, used a white cane, and had a seeing-eye dog, but did not consider himself to be handicapped. He attended college, married, and got a job on the 78th floor of the World Trade Center in the north tower.

Michael and his guide dog Roselle were in the office on September 11, 2001 when terrorists flew airplanes into the Pentagon and the World Trade Center towers. With the building on fire and ready to collapse, Michael and Roselle headed for the stairwell, along with hundreds of others. The book toggles back and forth between escaping the burning building, and describing Michael’s unusual childhood.

I enjoyed reading about Michael’s childhood. I admired his parents for refusing to let their son feel any different from the other kids. Their attitude rubbed off on Michael, and he was able to find ways to do things without having sight. The book also showed how invaluable guide dogs are in helping those who are blind live a normal life. The story of the terrorist attack on September 11th is a sad one, but Michael and Roselle’s story brings light to a dark day.

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The Reluctant Fundamentalist – by Mohsin Hamid (2007)

reluctant-fundamentalist

 

The story is told in one long monologue. A young Pakistani man, Changez, strikes up a conversation with a traveling American man at a cafe in Lahore. It’s actually a one-way conversation, as it appears that the American barely speaks a word during the evening. Changez is tormented in his mind, and needs to pour out his thoughts to someone. He ends up telling his entire life story to the stranger in the cafe.

Although born in Pakistan, Changez manages to make his dreams come true by being admitted to Princeton University in the U.S., and later being hired by a prestigious company. He absolutely loves life in New York City, and falls in love with an American woman, Erica. He considers himself almost American. Then comes the terrorist attack on the twin towers. Suddenly he is looked upon with suspicion and distrust because of his nationality.

The book shows well the inner turmoil of a person who experiences life in the United States, and then has to return to his homeland. Changez has tasted the goodness of the American culture, then has to deal with the bitter hatred coming from the same group of people. The irony is, of course, that he begins to resent and hate them too. Prejudice and racism turn into a vicious circle that just goes on and on, and always ends as a sad story.