The True American: Murder and Mercy in Texas by Anad Giridhardas is the true story I took on as an “assignment”, but it ended up as a good investment of my valuable reading time. This (2014 published) book was required reading for a friend’s Texas History class, and after visiting the class, I was intrigued with the idea/theme of the book and borrowed his copy (marked and annotated in the margins).
It is non-fiction and deals with the themes of forgiveness, immigrants in America, and some US citizens’ (over) reactions to the events of 9/11. There is the story of Raisuddin “Rais” Bhuiyan, the convenience store clerk from Bangladesh and Mark Stroman, a US citizen of the “redneck” mentality who shot and nearly killed Rais for no reason except that Rais was a Muslim.
The psychology behind the actions of the two men is unique in every respect. the author gives insights into how Rais proceeded from helpless anger to forgiveness and his desire to teach forgiveness and brotherly love and into how Mark’s background and upbringing probably caused him to react to 9/11 by randomly shooting another human being. The author somehow manages to plant empathy for both men in the hearts of his readers. He, towards the end, chronicles his own involvement with Rais’s desire to spread his message of forgiveness and Mark’s supporters’ appeals (including those of Rais and death penalty critics) for a stay of execution. Here’s where the suspense clicks in as the minutes click down to Mark’s execution.
It was a New York Times bestseller, and its reviewer described the book as “seek[ing] less to uplift as to illuminate…” To me it was a rewarding read on several levels, very thought- provoking and opinion-forming.
I would recommend this book to individuals, book clubs, and college classes.