Reviewed By: Lynneah C. Brown
Reviewers Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Florida International University, Department of Biomedical Engineering
As advisors, we interact with students from various backgrounds and journeys. It is important to understand one’s culture and background to help with inclusiveness amongst our college community. In the non-fiction book, The Terrorist’s Son, by Zak Ebrahim, readers get to go on a journey with Zak from the time that he is a young child up until he becomes a young adult. During this time, you see him go through physical and verbal abuse as a result of his father’s actions as an extreme terrorist. The reader learns that what Zak went through shaped his views on violence and hate in our society and helped him develop a passion to promote peace and love amongst citizens of the world.
The book sets a tone of frustration and shame as Zak’s father, El-Sayyid Nosair, participates in two terrorist attacks in the U.S. – the shooting and killing of the Jewish Defense League leader and the bombing of the World Trade Center (WTC) in 1993. After the shooting and killing of the Jewish leader, Zak and his family endure “death threats and media harassment, nomadic living and constant poverty, a thousand “fresh starts” that always led to something worse” (p.12). The harsh treatment continues throughout his childhood and beyond his father’s second act of terrorism on the WTC. Zak knew that there had to be a better life than he had living in the shadow of his father – but it took being picked on in school, his family being abused by this step father, and the emptiness he felt as he longed for a father figure in his life to realize that hate and bigotry were not the answer. His father would have raised him with the same spirit of hate and radicalism but he chose a different path. Zak chose empathy over hate; embracing other cultures and backgrounds and advocating for peace in order to inflict change. Today, Zak advocates for peace at local schools and presents at federal agencies to help build “better rapport with the Muslim Community” (p.92).
Prejudice and bigotry flood our world today, and sadly, on our college campuses. Advisors must have an open-mind regarding cultural perspectives. Every student has a story, and more often than not, our advising sessions may not be conducive to opening the pages of those stories. It often takes multiple visits and building trust amongst our students to allow us in. Just as important, however, is that advisors have to be willing to go in. After reading this book, I learned that you never really know what a person has gone through or is going through.
At first, I was not sure how this book related to academic advising, but while I was reading it, and certainly after completing it, I saw its significance. The book allows the reader to become globally aware of the challenges that a particular group of people face in America – it highlights prejudices that can deeply impact the well-being of our students. It is important that academic institutions, advisors, staff, faculty, and students not judge others based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, or religious beliefs. We never know what a person is really going through. Keeping an open mind allows for advisors to treat every student the same and to be an effective professional in academia, but most importantly, an empathic human being. This is our story of choice.
The Terrorist’s Son: A Story of Choice. (2014). Book by Zak Edrahim with Jeff Giles. Reviewed by Lynneah C. Brown. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, Inc. 105 pp. Price $16.99. ISBN 978-1-4767-8480-9.