cover image Love Thy Neighbor: A Muslim Doctor’s Struggle for Home in Rural America

Love Thy Neighbor: A Muslim Doctor’s Struggle for Home in Rural America

Ayaz Virji with Alan Eisenstock. Convergent, $26 (208p) ISBN 978-0-525-57720-1

Virji (The Skinny Book), a family physician and bariatric specialist practicing in Dawson, Minn., paints a harsh portrait of small-town America following the 2016 presidential elections in this clear-eyed memoir. Virji, of South Indian descent, begins with the story of moving with his family from Pennsylvania to Minnesota in 2013 to manage a hospital and open a weight loss clinic. Once there, Virji quickly makes friends and builds a successful practice. But in 2016, rural Minnesota becomes Trump country, leaving Virji with difficult questions about his place and purpose. Written in powerful vignettes that jump easily from flashback to present, the story revolves largely around a lecture Virji gave to a church, entitled “Love Thy Neighbor,” in which he attempts to answer commonly held misconceptions about Muslims. That lecture leads to more lectures, until Virji becomes an in-demand speaker in parts of rural America where Christian religious and political fervor dominate. Virji shows the community work he—and many others—are doing to combat a negative political climate through education and outreach. This is a vivid account of one man’s efforts to make sense of political tensions, racial hatred, and religious misunderstandings. (June)