Every summer, the Watauga County Public Library invites
worshippers of the written word to partake in a community read to examine the complex messages the
author is trying to convey.
The summer read is also a lead-up to a panel discussion and visit from the honored author.
This year’s selection, “American Dervish,” is a coming-of-age story of a young man who discovers love for the first time and how to cope with the feelings of betrayal that follow, according to the book’s description.
The protagonist, Hayat Shah, is an American Midwesterner of Pakistani descent who understands little of his heritage. This soon changes when the object of his affection, Mina, arrives on the family’s doorsteps.
Mina, who is still reeling from the fallout of a disastrous marriage, enlightens the Shahs’ home with a renewed sense of spirituality and love of the Muslim faith.
As Hayat’s love for Mina grows, he must suddenly deal with love-spurned feelings when she begins dating a local man. Chaos soon ensues when Hayat decides to take action in the wake of Mina’s happiness.
A personal connection can be inferred between the lines of the thought-provoking novel in that the author, Ayad Akhtar, was raised in the Midwest himself and tells the story of what it is like to grow up as a Muslim in America.
The summer community reading selection began as an offshoot from Appalachian State University’s summer reading program, which began in 1997. Incoming college freshmen at ASU were asked to participate in the community read as part of their orientation.
“I believe the App State Summer Reading program became Watauga Reads in 2002 to the community, together with Caldwell Community College and Watauga High School,” said Watauga County librarian Monica Caruso. “Classes and book clubs were reading and discussing the chosen book. In addition to ASU, as part of the collaboration, the author would also be invited to come to the Watauga library for a book talk and signing. This way, the broader community could also benefit from this experience.”
Caruso explained that the community read transcends the simple goals of a traditional book club with far greater encompassing lessons and values.
“The program benefits our community and unifies us through a shared reading experience, sharing, conversing and learning together, thus broadening our appreciation of literature,” Caruso said. “This year’s book is one that that most would not have even known about if not for the promotion of Watauga Reads.”
Author Akhtar will be visiting the library at 11 a.m. on Sept. 11 for a book talk and singing.
Then, the Book Bunch Book Club will discuss the book at 1:30 p.m. on Sept. 24.
Copies of the book are available at the Watauga County Public Library.