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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Department of English


Troublesome Minorities: Questioning Assimilation in The Reluctant Fundamentalist and Home Fire


Cultural discourse has long proposed assimilation as the method for the social and political incorporation of immigrant populations in the West. The model minority myth is perpetuated as a success story of Asian immigrants achieving the American Dream, of finding success through hard work and trademark American determination, while marketing the perceived silence and patience of the minority as honorable traits. However, these ideals are insufficient and problematic as they ignore the challenges immigrants and their descendants face in the post-9/11 era and promote deep set notions of race and associated categories. In order to better understand the incorporation of immigrant communities in the new century, we need to deconstruct and reevaluate the collective memory of mainstream western societies for their own myths of cultural and hegemonic superiority. We must study these societies as ethnic, as equally rooted in tradition as immigrant communities are accused of. Exploring English literature, specifically works by South Asian Muslim writers on the post-9/11 western diaspora, and analyzing how Muslims negotiate an identity under various pressures reveals a more “humanist” understanding of these communities. Considering novels like The Reluctant Fundamentalist and Home Fire alongside theoretical works such as Orientalism by Edward Said, White by Richard Dyer, and Omi and Winant’s racial formation theory offers a much more nuanced discussion on the racialization of Muslims after 9/11 through policing and surveillance, and the resulting isolation of the community into fundamentalisms and binaries.

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