Sunday, June 26, 2011
Guantanamo Boy - Anna Perera
First off, let me start by saying that it took me several attempts before spell check even recognized my mangling of the word Guantanamo to fix it. Never actually needed to spell that before. Anyway, got a hold of an ebook copy of this book from the amazing site that is NetGalley. Needless to say, Guantanamo Boy isn't exactly the sort of thing I normally go in for. There's no fairies, vampires, magic, telepathy, or even trashy romance. But when I read what it was about, I honestly couldn't exist. I love getting my daily dose of learning through fiction!
Guantanamo Boy is the story of Khalid, a British born and raised Muslim boy whose religious dedication doesn't go much farther than a prayer on Fridays. Shortly after 9/11, Khalid's grandmother dies and his family goes to Pakistan for the holidays so that his father can see that his aunts are taken care of. After his father vanishes shortly into the stay, Khalid goes hunting for him and ends up being pulled into a demonstration on the streets. Afterwords, when he can't find his father, he goes back to his aunt's home and plays the alpha version of a computer game his cousin, Tariq, designed: Bomber One. It's while he's playing this game that men break into the house and kidnap him, taking him away from his family and putting him through a series of humiliations, tortures, and various prison bases, before Khalid finds himself in Guantanamo itself, where nobody believes he is a innocent 15 year old boy.
Reading the story of Khalid was a strange experience. He's young, school aged, enjoys playing on the computer and playing games. He could be any random kid playing Call of Duty today. That's what makes the fact that he's taken so horrifying. No matter how reasonable Khalid explains who he is and what he's doing, nobody cares. No matter how much proof he gives that he's only 15, that he really is from the UK, that he's innocent, those in charge just keep asking him the same questions. Reading through his eyes, experiencing every humiliation and injustice as he told it, infuriated me. This book managed something that few books seem able too, anymore: it made me, as the reader, feel what the main character did. It made me furious to read how badly Khalid was treated. The writing of Perera is particularly descriptive at times, to the point that even Khalid mentioning the dinner he was served could turn my stomach.
Despite the fact that the writing was enticing and involving, I honestly can't say whether or not I liked this book. I'm not entirely sure if "like" is really the right word to even use. To me, liking a book is enjoying reading it. Liking is reserved for books that make me feel excited, books that make me want to read them over and over again, and I most definitely do not ever think I will touch Guantanamo Boy ever again. This book is informative, and I'm sure it's a very interesting look into the true stories that it's based on, but that being said, I did not exactly 'like' it. For all that I'm sure it's a 'good' book, it's a good book in the same way that I feel To Kill A Mockingbird or The Chosen One are good books: they're good for the first read, but after that they feel dry. You already know what's going to happen, you've seen the peak into the life or event that the books represent, but there isn't much of a reread value.
If you like books about the injustice of humanity, well, you'll probably adore Guantanamo Boy. If you like books that open up windows into strange lifestyles and retell horrifying events, you'll probably like this book. And most importantly, if you want to read a tale about the events following 9/11 from the side least represented, I'd suggest you pick up Guantanamo Boy by Anna Perera when it comes out August 2011.