cover image The Perfect Gentleman: A Muslim Boy Meets the West

The Perfect Gentleman: A Muslim Boy Meets the West

Imran Ahmad. Hachette/Center Street, $24.99 (352p) ISBN 978-1-4555-0849-5

Packed with self-deprecating humor and charming witticisms, Ahmad's debut is a poignantly honest and intimate memoir recounting his early struggles with race, religion, and relationships. Having emigrated as an infant from Pakistan to England, Ahmad grew up consumed with conflicting desires to adapt to his Western surroundings while maintaining his family's Muslim beliefs, as when he wonders, "What happens to people who believe in one of the wrong religions? Hey, I'm only seven. I shouldn't have to worry like this." Ahmad's comically fruitless obsession with marrying Janice, his long-time crush, leads him to "never discuss religion" and "rarely mention Pakistan," lest she "think of [him] as %E2%80%98different' and derail [their] imminent romance," and when he tells her that his family doesn't "really do Christmas," he fears her reaction to what she must deem "something strange and sinister%E2%80%A6below the outer mask of suntanned middle-class English Conservatism." Throughout growing pains (most of the book covers the first 25 years of the author's life) and his efforts to become like James Bond, Ahmad consistently zeroes in on laughs and heartfelt revelations about the nature of faith and individuality. Though Ahmad crams the most recent 20 years of his life into roughly as many pages, his story remains an enjoyable and hilarious Bildungsroman. (Apr.)