The Other Americans by Laila Lalami

I picked up The Other Americans as one of my Read Harder books. It’s for task three because the victim in this mystery is not a woman. I loved everything about this book because it is one of those fictions we have that tell us the truth. More than that, the writing is magnificent. The author gives us a set of beautifully flawed characters, most of which the reader can relate to and understand. Honestly, there was only one character whose point of view I can’t even begin to comprehend, some who I fundamentally disagreed with but understand their actions, and other’s who spoke right to my heart.

We like to pretend in the US that the whole country is a melting pot, but I’ve lived in more than my share of white communities if that’s the case. There are those communities, like the one in this book, that really do have overlapping cultures and backgrounds, with an assortment of people grasping for control of their own lives. As most people already know and acknowledge, when we perceive the world through different levels of privilege and opportunity, we have a tendency to only see what isn’t there. We see more missed opportunity than opportunity. We see more people who are not ourselves getting further ahead. We also have a natural tendency to blame outward while internalizing everything that everyone else says is wrong with us.

It’s in this mess of conflicting attitudes, cultures, backgrounds, opportunities, and experiences that our victim finds his end. Throughout the book, we hear from multiple points of view and therefore multiple cultures and backgrounds. We see how love intertwines with the story and the hard choices the characters make because of it. We see a community of people who hide a lot of themselves from each other in acts of self preservation that ultimately serve to convulote the investigation of the death of our victim.

All the while, it also elaborates on how there are the Americans that everyone pictures, and there are the other Americans. The characters do not conform to the picture of Americans that the media typically shows, even when we think they do at first. These are the other Americans, the ones who may strive for the American Dream, but who the deck is stacked against, with few exceptions.

The Other Americans is a beautiful book that I would love to see on any award list and even in an American Literature class. It brings so much more with it than a simple story. Add it to your Goodreads and Litsy TBR!

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