Impossible Man

Michael Muhammad Knight, Author . Soft Skull $15.95 (346p) ISBN 978-1-59376-226-1

Knight's unconventional coming-of-age memoir combines the familial pathos of Augusten Burroughs with a religious awakening narrative borrowed from Malcolm X. The result is a coherent and entertaining work that manages to include the terrifying effects of a schizophrenic father, detailed analyses of major Wrestlemania events and a continuous explanation and deconstruction of Islamic teachings. Knight has an established cult following in the American Muslim community as a result of his novel The Taqwacores , which imagines a Muslim punk rock movement that subsequently became a reality thanks to the book's popularity. Knight offers an engaging story of Islamic conversion and questioning, which focuses on the universal vulnerability of being an intelligent and confused child and teenager with a dysfunctional family. Knight's anecdotal style keeps things lively: he meets his father, who speaks in cryptic and vulgar epigrams; deals with the awkwardness of explaining to American females the strict Muslim precepts forbidding contact with women; and learns humility in Islamic summer camp. While most readers probably wouldn't want to experience much of what Knight puts himself through (a subplot involving his love of wrestling leads to some brutal descriptions of thumbtack-related injuries), the book's welcoming spirit and brash sense of transgression make the pain well worth it. (Apr.)

Reviewed on: 03/09/2009
Release date: 04/01/2009
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