THE OTHER AMERICANS
By Laila Lalami
The title of Laila Lalami’s fourth novel, “The Other Americans,” perfectly sums up a unified disunity: an America suspicious of its own body politic. Set in the towns of the Mojave Desert, the novel is narrated by nine different characters. Perhaps surprisingly, all of the novel’s speakers — regardless of race, class, gender, political affiliation, legal status or place of birth — see themselves as outsiders to mainstream American identity.
This is a powerful setup, raising the question of whether anyone feels that today’s America is one to which he or she belongs. In fact, Lalami’s nine speakers have much in common. They all face obstacles to stable employment, are alienated from their neighbors and have a strong sense of being misunderstood not only by society but by their families. They share, too, a deep attachment to the specific landscape of the Mojave Desert.
The novel begins in the near present. “My father was killed on a spring night four years ago,” Nora Guerraoui says, “while I sat in the corner booth of a new bistro in Oakland.” Her parents, Mohammed Driss and Maryam, immigrants from Morocco, have been living near Joshua Tree National Park for 35 years. In the aftermath of 9/11, their business, Aladdin Donuts, was torched in a hate crime. Nora tells us that, back then, her mother turned to the Quran for solace. Every morning she would throw out all her husband’s beer, and every evening he would return home with another six-pack: “He complained he was not free in his own home; she said she did not feel safe in it.” Nora’s father, cheerfully resilient, bought a new restaurant, the Pantry, and nurtured it into a success: “What could be more American than that?”
In the spring of 2014, Driss (he goes by his middle name) is killed by a hit-and-run driver. From the very beginning, Nora is convinced this was no accident. But first she must wait for the police, led by the wry Detective Erica Coleman, to uncover the driver’s identity. The lines between accident, reckless endangerment and murder are immediately blurred. For Nora, in a community where resentment and mistrust have festered into enmity, there can be no accidents: It must have been murder. “I know it was,” she says. “I know it in my bones.”
With each chapter narrated by a different character, the novel feels fascinatingly encased in a superstructure made of glass. Much can be seen, but the world is crucially divided. Nora is the novel’s focal voice. Although she is ever-present, she is elusive, a puzzle inside a puzzle. She is a jazz composer with synesthesia, a substitute teacher, a reader of James Baldwin and a graduate of Stanford. Her family chides her for having her “head in the clouds.” In the days after her father’s death, she cannot “understand why people were visiting the house so soon” and seems largely shielded from the innumerable heartbreaking decisions that follow in the wake of a loved one’s death.
She dismisses the idea that her older sister, Salma, a mother of young twins, might be hurt that Nora was the sole beneficiary of their father’s 0,000 life insurance policy (“But how had our father disfavored her?”); and disregards her mother’s irritation that Nora, suddenly leaving town, has left food to rot in the fridge. Her father loved the desert, Nora says, “God only knows why.” Nora is passionate and fierce, and in pursuing the truth of her father’s death, knows the challenges she faces: “Growing up in this town, I had long ago learned that the savagery of a man named Mohammed was rarely questioned, but his humanity always had to be proven.”
Nora and Jeremy Gorecki, a former classmate who served five years in Iraq, become lovers soon after she returns home, but whether they can come to know and trust each other — whether fissures of race, politics and belonging are surmountable — is a question that troubles them both. Together they seek something that is fragile but perhaps attainable: the understanding and sympathy of a single individual. “What was it about him that had tempted me?” Nora asks herself, answering that “he was a good listener, had sought me out, tried to console me.” Jeremy, in turn, is drawn to the idea that “all my secrets were bare to her.”
Their world — a post-9/11, post-Iraq-war America of declining productivity — is in flux, and they are heirs to, and implicated in, a widening uncertainty. Nora describes her unhappiness as “aimless fury.”
Slowly the novel opens into a collective confessional. We hear the voice of an undocumented immigrant supporting his two American-born children; a young man whose business enterprise has collapsed and whose thoughts are laden with white supremacist ideas; an African-American detective trying to mother a reticent son; a 78-year-old father who wants to believe in a young man’s goodness. Their experiences stand in stark contrast, but their language, cadence and diction are surprisingly similar. The hit-and-run death may have kick-started their monologues, but every speaker is gripped by his or her own private world and by consuming emotional wounds.
Who is receiving these confessions? Sometimes it seems the characters are speaking to themselves, an investigator or even the novelist herself. It occurred to me that there is no listener. The glass walls encapsulating the different narrators appear to be soundproof. Not a single character has a person in whom to truly confide.
It matters desperately whether Driss’s death is an accident, an act of recklessness or murder, and whether we believe we can separate these things. At the core of “The Other Americans” is a deep anxiety: What if the truth is contradictory or so obfuscated that we lose the will to pursue it? For the reader, the novel presents something of a Rorschach test. Will our belief and sympathy depend on the speaker’s racial or gender identity, or perhaps his or her age? What if the perpetrators have no interest in being forgiven? What if we never really believed in truth, only persuasion?
These questions are relevant to Driss’s death, and to Jeremy’s repressed memories of military actions, accidents and heedless behavior during the Iraq war. Jeremy, who yearns to find a redemptive love with Nora, is the most compelling character. But it’s clear there is much we don’t know about his rage, guilt and post-traumatic stress. He would remain “an incomplete story,” Jeremy says. “To tell her the whole of it was to risk her judgment, and I already judged myself every day.”
Incompleteness is the essence, too, of the characters who barely speak. The perspectives of Nora’s mother, Maryam, and sister, Salma, are crucial but remain in the background (perhaps Maryam’s reserve can be traced to her quip that “Americans loved to confess on television”). Other narrators — whose stories are fundamental to the plot — are intentionally underdeveloped. Around these gaps, “The Other Americans” becomes a novel threaded into our present: Its characters are troubled and distracted, they desire change, but they know less and less how to alter a hardened reality.
The only hope, Nora comes to believe, might be to change oneself, to see beyond the contours of one’s experience, and refuse the glass rooms from which we have surveilled one another while remaining strangers. Her society is at a crossroads: It can choose to become a nation of citizens or a nation of enemies. A country united in loneliness; perhaps this is the existing imperfect union on its way, through mourning and anger, to something more equal.
马会最准推荐综合资料【于】【是】【在】【一】【阵】【安】【排】【后】，【开】【着】【警】【车】【的】【目】【暮】【警】【部】【拉】【着】【毛】【利】【小】【五】【郎】【来】【到】【了】【事】【故】【发】【生】【地】。 【由】【于】【他】【们】【来】【的】【有】【些】【晚】，【周】【围】【已】【经】【围】【满】【了】【记】【者】，【要】【不】【是】【千】【叶】【那】【身】【膘】，【还】【真】【给】【目】【暮】【警】【部】【和】【毛】【利】【小】【五】【郎】【挤】【不】【出】【空】【间】【来】。 【当】【然】，【主】【要】【是】【体】【型】【比】【千】【叶】【还】【圆】【润】【的】【目】【暮】【警】【部】【在】【这】【个】【难】【度】【中】【加】【的】【比】【重】【更】【大】【一】【些】。 【穿】【过】【警】【视】【厅】【人】【员】【维】【持】【的】【警】【戒】【线】【后】
【寒】【云】【落】【长】【长】【的】【吐】【了】【口】【气】：“【幸】【好】【幸】【好】，【三】【生】【石】【没】【事】。” “【没】【事】【吗】？” 【祝】【舒】【柒】【的】【手】【指】【稍】【稍】【朝】【上】【一】【扬】：“【云】【落】，【你】【见】【过】【三】【生】【石】【会】【出】【现】【三】【个】【人】【的】【名】【字】【吗】？” “【怎】【么】【可】【能】！” 【寒】【云】【落】【扬】【了】【扬】【手】：“【自】【古】【姻】【缘】【成】【双】【成】【对】，【三】【个】【人】【怎】【么】【回】【事】？【以】【前】【没】【见】【过】【三】【生】【石】【上】【有】【三】【个】【人】【名】【字】【啊】！” “【那】……【那】【个】【是】【什】【么】！”
【酒】【上】【道】【人】【没】【料】【到】【我】【会】【有】【这】【么】【大】【的】【反】【应】，【不】【由】【有】【点】【奇】【怪】【的】【看】【着】【我】【道】：“【怎】【么】？【你】【早】【已】【知】【道】？” 【确】【定】【梦】【寒】【烟】【知】【道】【开】【天】【卷】【的】【秘】【密】，【此】【时】【我】【已】【是】【惊】【喜】【交】【加】，【但】【还】【是】【按】【捺】【住】【心】【中】【的】【激】【动】，【道】：“【谈】【不】【上】【知】【道】，【只】【是】【晚】【辈】【当】【年】【在】【引】【泉】【寺】【初】【得】【开】【天】【卷】【时】，【恰】【巧】【在】【那】【里】【碰】【见】【了】【梦】【姑】【娘】。” 【酒】【上】【道】【人】【又】【上】【下】【打】【量】【了】【我】【一】【眼】，【道】：“【这】
【小】【竹】【因】【为】【有】【了】【身】【孕】，【又】【跟】【着】【皇】【上】【连】【日】【里】【奔】【波】【劳】【累】，【在】【准】【备】【离】【开】【前】，【突】【然】【肚】【子】【不】【舒】【服】，【赵】【宇】【见】【了】，【担】【心】【得】【不】【得】【了】，【赶】【紧】【去】【求】【金】【国】【王】【后】，【让】【她】【请】【了】【王】【宫】【里】【的】【御】【医】【前】【来】【替】【小】【竹】【诊】【脉】。 【御】【医】【诊】【过】【脉】【之】【后】，【告】【知】【小】【竹】【是】【因】【为】【劳】【累】【和】【担】【忧】，【故】【而】【动】【了】【胎】【气】，【建】【议】【她】【卧】【榻】【休】【息】，【切】【不】【可】【再】【奔】【波】，【否】【则】【肚】【里】【的】【孩】【子】【有】【危】【险】。 【赵】【宇】【听】马会最准推荐综合资料【想】【到】【这】【里】，【她】【目】【光】【阴】【冷】【的】【看】【向】【了】【叶】【青】【璃】。 “【你】【以】【为】，【这】【次】【的】【行】【程】【会】【很】【轻】【松】？” 【看】【到】【叶】【青】【璃】【这】【时】，【根】【本】【就】【没】【有】【回】【看】【自】【己】【的】【意】【思】。 【她】【的】【目】【光】，【正】【痴】【痴】【的】【看】【着】【君】【傲】【寒】。 【仿】【佛】，【她】【的】【眼】【中】，【根】【本】【没】【有】【别】【人】，【只】【有】【鬼】【面】【大】【人】【一】【人】。 “【呸】！” 【蒋】【家】【姐】【妹】，【同】【时】【往】【地】【上】【啐】【了】【一】【口】。 “【不】【要】【脸】【的】【贱】【人】！”
【她】【那】【么】【骄】【傲】【一】【个】【大】【小】【姐】，【来】【假】【扮】【花】【匠】，【也】【是】【辛】【苦】【她】【了】，【毕】【竟】【她】【怕】【是】【连】【打】【理】【花】【都】【没】【打】【理】【过】【吧】？【也】【不】【知】【道】，【那】【花】【儿】【被】【她】【打】【理】【后】，【还】【活】【着】【没】【有】，【看】【来】……【得】【去】【看】【看】【花】【了】…… 【林】【如】【歌】【一】【边】【思】【考】【着】，【一】【边】【就】【有】【点】【儿】【想】【扶】【额】【的】【冲】【动】【了】。 【秦】【时】【抿】【了】【抿】【嘴】，【看】【着】【明】【显】【神】【游】【天】【外】【的】【林】【如】【歌】，【一】【丝】【不】【悦】【略】【过】【眸】【子】。 【什】【么】【嘛】……
【鬼】【尸】【们】【的】【攻】【击】【距】【离】【古】【剑】【越】【来】【越】【近】，【爪】【子】【上】【的】【鲜】【血】【似】【乎】【轻】【易】【就】【能】【溅】【在】【他】【的】【脸】【上】。 【他】【却】【没】【有】【任】【何】【慌】【张】，【脸】【上】【还】【带】【着】【浅】【浅】【的】【微】【笑】。 【他】【当】【然】【不】【会】【害】【怕】，【就】【算】【他】【被】【这】【些】【鬼】【尸】【击】【中】【也】【不】【会】【死】【去】，【高】【级】【法】【器】【的】【肉】【体】【可】【不】【是】【用】【来】【看】【的】。 【再】【说】【他】【是】【那】【种】【坐】【以】【待】【毙】【的】【人】【吗】，【这】【些】【鬼】【尸】【虽】【强】，【但】【也】【不】【会】【把】【他】【逼】【到】【这】【个】【地】【步】。 “【是】
【吃】【完】【早】【餐】，【两】【人】【并】【不】【顺】【路】。 【吃】【饱】【喝】【足】【的】【小】【嘉】【木】，【一】【个】【劲】【的】【闹】【腾】，【希】【望】【能】【引】【起】【父】【母】【的】【注】【意】。 【木】【槿】【临】【走】【之】【前】，【亲】【了】【一】【下】【儿】【子】【的】【脸】【颊】。 【而】【顾】【青】【言】，【则】【是】【摸】【了】【摸】【他】【还】【没】【有】【几】【根】【毛】【的】【脑】【袋】，【转】【身】【便】【走】【了】。 【两】【人】【在】【院】【里】【分】【开】，【顾】【青】【言】【一】【个】【人】【开】【车】【前】【往】【商】【场】，【木】【槿】【则】【是】【由】【亮】【叔】【开】【车】，【送】【往】【了】【学】【校】。 【天】【热】【了】，【去】【年】【怀】
【秦】【云】【舒】【抿】【唇】，【平】【白】【无】【故】【惹】【来】【这】【么】【一】【遭】，【但】【想】【到】【这】【位】【张】【大】【人】，【是】【个】【好】【官】，【之】【前】【山】【远】【哥】【就】【被】【他】【看】【中】，【一】【路】【提】【拔】。 “【罢】【了】，【这】【忙】，【我】【帮】【了】。” 【说】【着】，【她】【往】【前】【走】【去】，【和】【谢】【运】【之】【擦】【肩】【而】【过】【时】，【低】【声】【道】，“【到】【底】【后】【宫】，【内】【臣】【进】【来】，【被】【发】【现】，【更】【加】【不】【好】。” 【到】【时】【候】，【可】【不】【是】【掉】【脑】【袋】【的】【事】，【一】【两】【句】【说】【不】【清】。 【谢】【运】【之】【不】【动】【声】