How to Be a Muslim: An American Story - Memoir by Haroon Moghul

Memoir is a “tricky genre to review”, asserted Roxane Gay during an author event for her most recent title Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body at Ann Arbor’s Hill Auditorium this past Friday.



However, Haroon Moghul so creatively crafts his story that there were no tricks for me in this writing. Moghul’s memoir How to be a Muslim: An American Story artfully weaves insightful personal reflection on faith, leadership, and bipolar disorder with dry hilarity and punny chapter titles that are often nods to the musical magic of Green Day, Cat Stevens, and Jay-Z. The book makes for an emotional rollercoaster of a read as Moghul deftly describes his struggle with his two selves: the outer, public figure Haroon who was “thrust into the spotlight” as an NYU campus leader post-9/11, and the inner, personally and spiritually tormented Haroon vacillating between“amateur atheism” and God-consciousness.

Moghul addresses themes such as hypocrisy, the spectrum of mental health, bigamy, and monogamy in wildly entertaining and thought-provoking ways. Free of tired, apologetic “Intro-to-Islam” tropes, Moghul instead relies on the religious/spiritual and philosophical framework of poet-philosopher Muhammad Iqbal, who wrestled with Islam and the West as well as the “self” and society prior to the decisiveness of the 9/11 moment. Indeed the amorphous unit that is popularly perceived of as the “Muslim World” experienced dissonance, along with richness and cosmopolitanism prior to that moment.

Any child of the 90’s will appreciate Moghul’s apropos references to the decade’s sartorial sensibilities (JNCO jeans, anyone?) and the memorable music of Mariah Carey. Besides suggesting to read Moghul’s reference A First-Rate Madness by Nasser Ghaemi, I cannot provide a reader advisory, “If you like ‘x’, you’ll also like ‘y’” because this book occupies a place of its own. Read it.


This looks really interesting. Great review! I can't wait to read it.

Seems like an interesting book to read, what with the recent immigration bans and such.

I don't read a lot of memoirs but I may check this one out. It seems to touch on a lot of current pressing issues.

Thanks for reviewing this book! I'm putting myself on the hold list right now!!

Added to my wishlist. Thanks for covering socio-cultural issues and bringing something relevant and interesting to the aadl blog :)

Thanks to this post I happened to stumble upon a talk he did at NYU on CSPAN so I watched it and he's a fantastic speaker! I'm the hold list and I can't wait to read it!

I really enjoyed reading your review! It is really well written. Thank you for reminding us that the separation of a "Muslim World" did not start with 9/11, nor is it a monolith somehow separated from modern society. I want to read it!