Home Boy

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2009-08-25
  • Publisher: Crown

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Shehzad, aka Chuck, is young, impressionable, and making his way in the world. When he arrives in New York from Pakistan in the late 1990s, the city strikes him as cold and unfamiliar, but things start coming together: Chuck secures a coveted Wall Street job and begins moving with glitterati scenesters. Just as he's beginning to feel like a bona fide New Yorker, however, the good life unravels: He is fired, but undaunted, resorts to working as a cabbie when tragedy strikes. In the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Chuck and his pals, AC and Jimbo, find themselves suspected of terrorist activities, accused, and incarcerated. Beautifully written, sharply observed, and very funny,Home Boyis a heartbreaking story of a young immigrant's romance with America.

Author Biography

H. M. NAQVI taught creative writing at Boston University. He divides his time between Pakistan and the United States.



We’d become Japs, Jews, Niggers. We weren’t before. We fancied ourselves boulevardiers, raconteurs, renaissance men, AC, Jimbo, and me. We were mostly self-invented and self-made and certain we had our fingers on the pulse of the great global dialectic. We surveyed the Times and the Post and other treatises of mainstream discourse on a daily basis, consulted the Voice weekly, and often leafed through other publications with more discriminating audiences such as Tight or Big Butt. Save Jimbo, who wasn’t a big reader, we had read the Russians, the postcolonial canon, but had been taken by the brash, boisterous voices of contemporary American fiction; we watched nature documentaries when we watched TV, and variety shows on Telemundo, and generally did not follow sports except when Pakistan played India in cricket or the Knicks made a playoff run; we listened to Nusrat and the new generation of native rockers, as well as old-school gangsta rap, so much so that we were known to spontaneously break into Straight outta Compton, crazy motherfucker named Ice Cube / From a gang called Niggaz With Attitude but were underwhelmed by hip-hop’s hegemony (though Jimbo was known to defend Eminem’s trimetric compositions and drew comparisons be?tween hip-hop’s internal rhythms and the beat of Kurdish marching bands). And we slummed in secret cantons of Central Park, avoided the meatpacking district, often dined in Jackson Heights; weren’t rich but weren’t poor (possessing, for instance, extravagant footwear but no real estate); weren’t frum but avoided pork—me on principle and Jimbo because of habit—though AC’s vigorous atheism allowed him extensive culinary latitude; and drank everywhere, some more than others, celebrating ourselves with vodka on the rocks or Wild Turkey with water (and I’d discovered beer in June) among the company of women, black, Oriental, and denizens of the Caucasian nation alike.

Though we shared a common denominator and were told half-jokingly, Oh, all you Pakistanis are alike, we weren’t the same, AC, Jimbo, and me. AC—a cryptonym, short in part for Ali Chaudhry—was a charming rogue, an intellectual dandy, a man of theatrical presence. Striding into a room sporting his signature pencil-thin mustache, one-button ve?lour smoking jacket, and ankle-high rattlesnake-skins, he demanded attention, an audience. He’d comb his brilliantined mane back and flatten it with wide palms. He’d raise his arm, reveal a nicotine-stained grin, and roar, “Let the revelry commence!” then march up to you, meaty palm extended, de?claiming, “There you are, chum! We need to talk immediately!” Of us three, he was the only immigrant. While he lived day to day in a rent-stabilized railway apartment in Hell’s Kitchen and moonlighted as a sub at a Bronx middle school, his elder sister had emigrated in ’81—at the tail end of the first wave of Pakistani immigrants—and enjoyed spectacular success. A decade later she sponsored AC’s green card. A small, no-bullshit lady, Mini Auntie worked at the pediatric ward at Beth Israel on East 87th, lived in a brownstone around the corner, and financed AC’s on-and-off-again doctorate and studied debauchery.

Jamshed Khan, known universally as Jimbo, was a different cat altogether, a gentle, moon-faced man-mountain with kinky dreadlocks and a Semitic nose which, according to AC, affirmed anthropological speculation that Pathans are the Lost Tribe of Israel. Not that such grand themes moved or motivated Jimbo. Propped against a wall like a benign, overstuffed scarecrow, he’d keep to himself, but at a late juncture he would grab you by the arm to articulate the conversation he’d been having in his head. Jimbo was known to converse in nonmalapropisms and portmanteaus, his deliberate locutions characterized by irregular

Excerpted from Home Boy: A Novel by H. M. Naqvi
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