Dr. Stephen Sohn
The journey that this article took to publication was quite long. I wrote the initial draft of what would be published in JNT around 2008, when I was working on my first book, Racial Asymmetries. At that point, I was grappling with the problems of narrative discourse, something that would feature prominently in that monograph. Over the course of writing that book, I estimate I generated about an extra five hundred manuscript pages.
What I’ve learned over the course of my career is that I’m generally a very inefficient writer. I tend to write by feel rather than by structure. When I first read Mohsin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist, I loved how I, as a reader, felt hailed by this text in such complicated ways. I knew immediately that this kind of novel is one that I wanted to write about in order to explore how the novel so cleverly works with its storytelling conceit to unsettle and to provoke. At the same time, the novel struck me precisely because of its intriguing reformulation of the model minority thesis in the post-9/11 moment. The novel fully manifested for me the ways in which racial formation is a mutable and violent process.
These issues, both narratological and contextual, were ones that drove this piece forward. Unfortunately, when I finished writing the piece, I realized, at that time, that the focus of my book was changing, which meant that my reading of Hamid’s novel did not fit. But despite this development, I knew that I would eventually find a way develop the argument further. When I consider what compels me to return to such article-length projects (even after many years), it is always in the spirit of my love for a text. With Hamid’s sophisticated rendering of the ways in which the body is racialized over time and how that racialization is enhanced and highlighted through the narrative discourse, this novel is the kind that deserves multiple critical engagements. I’m glad to be able to add to an already rich conversation about Hamid’s novel. Of course, I’m also enthused that he continues to write such wonderful fictions. Definitely check out his latest, Exit West.
Dr. Stephen Sohn's essay, "Model Minority Terrorist: Post 9/11 Asian American Racial Formation and Brown Peril Narrative Discourse in Mohsin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist" appears in JNT 50.2