An American Brat
AN AMERICAN BRAT gets off to a fast and funny start. Zareen Ginwalla anxiously awaits the arrival of her husband, Cyrus, owner of a sporting goods store. The place is Lahore, the year 1978. General Zia has seized power and the liberal Zulfikar Ali Bhutto is in jail, soon to be executed. Zareen’s problem is related but more immediate: A Bhutto supporter, she sees that her sixteen-year-old daughter Feroza is becoming, like Pakistan under Zia’s military-Islamic fundamentalist rule, increasingly conservative. The solution: to send her daughter to the United States for a few months, where she will stay with her only slightly older Uncle Manek, a doctoral candidate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Despite his own early difficulties adjusting to life in America, Manek convinces Feroza to stay on as a student majoring in hotel management, a suitably practical field, at a junior college in Idaho. American enough to become Mike and work for NASA in Houston, Manek is traditional enough to return to Pakistan to find a suitable, and suitably submissive, wife. Feroza goes much further when she decides to marry David Press, an American Jew, thus precipitating her mother’s frantic flight to the United States to stop the marriage.
Zareen is more than merely a closet conservative, a comic caricature of the “Indian” mother: She is a Parsee, one of only 120,000 in the world. She knows what Feroza’s marrying outside the small Parsee community will mean, both for her daughter (spiritual exile) and for the Parsees (its hold on the world, particularly in Muslim Pakistan under Zia, made still more tenuous). Thus, Sidhwa’s comedy serves serious purposes. The mother-daughter relationship is the perfect disguise, or alibi, for considering a number of related issues, some feminist,...
(The entire section is 444 words.)