An American Family: A Memoir of Hope and Sacrifice by Khizr Khan

An American Family by Khizer KhanThis well-written and powerful memoir is an immigrant success story, a family tragedy, a road map of the life of every immigrant who arrives in America with the hope of a better future. The message is that our diversity makes us stronger. Like Khan, immigrants are attracted by the freedoms and values and want to be part of the American dream.

Khizir Khan came into the spotlight during the last election with his speech at the Democratic National Convention where he paid tribute to his son, Captain Humayun Khan, who was killed in Iraq. Khan is the son of a Pakistani farmer who encountered the US Constitution as a college student, and was powerfully moved by it. He came to America, attended Harvard Law School and rediscovered the Islam of his birth. Khan evolved into an American citizen and patriot and his memoir reminds people of why Americans should welcome newcomers from other countries.

Khan’s interest in America stems back to his college days in Pakistan, when he read the American Constitution. Growing up a third world country under martial law, this son of a poor farmer had no opportunities. He knew that his station in life didn’t depend on how hard he worked and it is a harsh look at Pakistan.

He and his young family emigrated to the U.S. and struggled financially which is not uncommon as most immigrants who reads this book will recognize those years. An American Family is a story of one man’s life and a testament to family values, hard work, perseverance and love: throughout the book are snippets of teachings Khizr Khan gained from his grandfather who raised him.

He writes of his beliefs, democracy and how to lead a full life. There are descriptions of martial law in Pakistan, and the contrasting descriptions of freedom in the United States. There are analyses of Islam and finally, those small, family moments that unite us all regardless of race, religion and country of origin.

The memoir is not just of struggles but of heartwarming stories of strangers who helped him along the way: offering him a place to stay, bringing his family food on their first day, or helping him with his career. He accepts this help as a sign of God’s largesse, and that Americans are a kind and generous people. This, he feels, is our country’s best quality: this adherence to human values regardless of where we came from.

Luba Sawczyn is the Branch Manager of the Graham Public Library.  She can be reached at lsawczyn@alamancelibraries.org or (336) 570-6730.