Author of CRP selection said book recounts divided America

man speaking to woman on stage
Anand Giridharadas is interviewed by Jennifer Jameslyn, coordinator of the CRP committee.
Image Credit: Jess Weal
man speaking into microphone
Anand Giridharadas
Image Credit: Jess Weal
books on table
Image Credit: Jess Weal

The author of "The True American" wrote about an incident that followed the 9/11 terrorist attacks and said today's America is just as contested and divided as it was nearly 16 years ago.

Anand Giridharadas talked about his book at the Community Reading Project lecture March 23 in the Kirkhof Center before hundreds of students, faculty and staff members.

Giridharadas said his book starts with a simple question: "Where are you from?" That question was posed by Mark Stroman, an avowed "American terrorist," to a Bangladesh immigrant, Raisuddin Bhuiyan, in late September 2001. Stroman didn't like the answer Bhuiyan gave, so he shot and nearly killed him.

"After 9/11 Mark became possessed by the idea that he was going to fix this country," Giridharadas said. 

"The True American" follows the paths of Stroman and Bhuiyan. Stroman lands on death row in Texas for killing another store clerk after shooting Bhuiyan. Bhuiyan publicly forgives Stroman and wages a legal battle to free him from execution. For Giridharadas, a journalist, the two men represented a divided America.

"We often tell the story of our country as a nation of immigrants who were fleeing persecution," he said. "Raisuddin was on the good path. He was an Air Force officer in Bangladesh; but something in him found a trajectory ahead of him that he wanted."

Giridharadas said through his investigations, he learned Stroman was "failed by the systems," his parents, schools and prisons. Stroman turned toward white supremacy in the prison system, Giridharadas said.

"The question of who is an American is as contested as it as ever been, in terms of race, gender status and sexuality," he said. "And sadly, this book has come back to life today."

The CRP selection for the next academic year was announced: "All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation," by Rebecca Traister. Learn more at www.gvsu.edu/read/.

Established in 2008, the CRP is sponsored by Brooks College of Interdisciplinary Studies, University Libraries, Herrick District Library and the Grand Rapids Community Foundation.