After the recent attempted car bombing by a Pakistani-born American citizen in New York’s Times Square, Pearl Abraham’s fictional exploration of the radicalized mind in “American Taliban” (Random House) is especially pertinent. The book is loosely based on on the story of John Walker Lindh — the young American who joined the Taliban, returning to America in 2001 to face prosecution. The subject matter is a departure for Abraham, whose 1995 “The Romance Reader” established her as a powerful voice in Jewish-American literature. Like her protagonist Rachel Benjamin, Abraham was a prodigious and often stealth reader of secular literature at an early age who also left behind her Hasidic family. She went on to study literature at Hunter College and writing at New York University. She currently teaches writing at Western New England College.
The Sisterhood: In your first novel, “The Romance Reader,” Rachel Benjamin is claustrophobic in her parents’ Hasidic world. In “American Taliban,” John Jude Parish, is the only child of generous, perhaps over-indulgent, parents. Are these characters more alike than they seem on the surface? Read more.