Announcing Ali, the Iraqi by Joshua Sabey

Later Dad will tell me why he believes it is right for Ali to remain Muslim. He will invite me into his room and sit me on the edge of the bed, his computer across his lap, and read a line from his journal: 

Ali has an old faith and an old country and we have a new faith and new country. If we were to convert all of the Muslims, that would be the end of us. Their culture is too old, we would be the ones that were assimilated. We might not even know it but we would become Islam like Christianity became Rome. 

If you live in Utah, then you have no excuse: get yourself to Writ & Vision in Provo tonight at 6:00 for the launch of Josh Sabey’s new book, Ali: The Iraqi. If you don’t live in Utah, you may still be able to catch a flight, or start driving, or just move there. It will be worth it. This book is that good.

Ali: The Iraqi is a novel based on a real relationship between Joshua and Ali, a student from Iraq who stayed with his family as part of a brief summer exchange program. As Joshua explains here, this visit, which included his family attending a mosque and Ali attending LDS sacrament meetings, provoked deep, life-altering questions about his own religion and the nature of religious belief. Ali ended up running away the night before he was supposed to return to Iraq and then, a year later, returning to stay with Josh’s family and requesting political asylum.

Josh’s interactions with Ali caused Josh to ask some important questions about family, place, and, most importantly, religious belief. Out of these questions, this remarkable novel was born, with Ali Alsamer (a fictionalized last name used to protect a very real person and family) as a consultant and co-author.

Ali: The Iraqi is a fictional exploration of what it means to have a family and a religion, and what it means to leave them, or change them, or add to and subtract from them. Its two protagonists—Paul and Ali—are based on the author and co-author, but the events themselves are projections and thought experiments based on real conversations. Sabey mixes memory and speculation with stories from both his and Ali’s cultures to create a devastatingly beautiful picture of how we shape each other with our histories and our beliefs.

But don’t take our word for it. here is Chapter 5, which begins with Ali attending and LDS Church for the first time and bearing his testimony and ends with Paul having a perplexing dream about Ali as a boy prophet. Take a look.

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