Forum From The Archives: Wajahat Ali on How to Become an American when America Doesn’t Seem to Want You

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Wajahat Ali's new book is "Go Back to Where You Came From: And Other Helpful Recommendations on How to Become an American." (Photo of Wajahat Ali by Damon Dahlen for Huffington Post. Cover photo courtesy of W.W. Norton Company.)

“I believe America is simultaneously a riotous comedy and a heartbreaking tragedy,” writes Wajahat Ali in his new memoir “Go Back to Where You Came From.” With humor, Ali recounts a Bay Area childhood growing up as the shy, pop culture-loving, Husky jeans-wearing only son of Pakistani immigrants. Although the community around him made clear the only acceptable careers for him were doctor, engineer or successful businessman (the only other option was being “a failure”), Ali found a career as a writer, and it was art that saved Ali when his family’s lives were blown apart by scandal. In this book, part autobiography and part social criticism, Ali takes apart the myth of the “moderate Muslim,” and describes what life in America is like post-9/11 and post-Trump for a Muslim who once felt free enough to pray publicly at a Cirque du Soleil concert and the stalls of the Gap, but who no longer feels he can.  We’ll talk to Ali about his book and what it means to be American when your fellow citizens question your right to be there.

This segment originally aired Jan. 26.


Wajahat Ali, playwright; columnist, Daily Beast; co-host, Democracy-ish podcast. His new book is "Go Back to Where You Came From."