Alta Live: Wajahat Ali

What’s so funny about growing up in a country where people regularly tell you “Go back to where you came from”? Quite a lot.

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How do you love a country that treats you as both a citizen and a suspect, and turns on you on a dime?” asked Wajahat Ali, who joined Alta Live to promote his new book, Go Back to Where You Came From. “The book,” explained Ali, “is about trying to love a country that doesn’t love the rest of us back.” A Fremont native and the child of Pakistani immigrants, Ali based the title on a racist taunt, an ironic joke, and a subject line that he sees regularly. “I get that email almost every day, which is hilarious, because I always joke, Well, Fremont, California? The Bay?” said Ali. “If you could subsidize my rent, I’d love to.”

Anjali Khosla, who wrote about Go Back to Where You Came From for Alta’s weekly newsletter, and Ali identified 9/11 as a turning point for racism against South Asian Americans, when both of them were in college and went, in terms of how they were viewed, from “model minority” to “suspect.” “I’m 20 years old, I’m trying to figure out my major,” Ali said. “But then overnight, we have to be community activists, representatives of this thing called Islam, defend, like, all our people, also figure out your major, and then also condemn violent acts done by violent people we’ve never met for the next 20 years. And it was never enough.” Despite its heavy subject matter, Khosla insisted, the book is as funny and entertaining as it is serious and vital, and it will resonate not only for South Asian Americans but also for other oppressed U.S. minorities.

Check out these links to some of the topics Ali and Khosla brought up this week.

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