Mohsin Hamid was born in Pakistan but has spent about half his life in the US. In July 2001, he finished the first draft of his novel The Reluctant Fundamentalist, the story of a young global citizen named Changez. He’s a Princeton grad from Pakistan with a blue-chip job on Wall Street. But he struggles to embrace America and its vast opportunities while also keeping his sense of himself as a Pakistani Muslim.
Hamid’s agent, reading the book, was appreciative but nonplussed. “He said ‘Look, I just don't get it. … Where is that [tension] coming from?’" Months later, it became all too clear.
After 9/11, Hamid completely rewrote his novel, setting it before and after the attacks, using them as a way to frame Changez's identity crisis as a Pakistani and Muslim. The book is unsettling: the protagonist reacts to the attacks with a smile of pleasure. But the author hopes the novel will help readers understand how people could celebrate the destruction of others in the name of warfare, religious or otherwise: “I think also it's a reaction that all of us probably, or most of us are guilty of in different contexts.”