The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus


New York Times columnist promotes new book on campus

Author and New York Times columnist Anand Giridharadas spoke on campus Tuesday in Caruth Hall. Giridharadas visited SMU to promote his new book, “The True American: Murder and Mercy in Texas,” which will be released May 5, 2014. He currently writes the “Admit One” column for the art section of The Times, and the “Letter from America” column for its global publication. From 2005 to 2009 he reported on India, from a base in Mumbai, for The Times and the International Herald Tribune. He has also written “India Calling: An Intimate Portrait of a Nation’s Remaking.”

Standing with his new book in hand, Giridharadas read excerpts from his novel, telling the story between the journeys of two men Raisuddein Bhuiyan, a Bangladesh Air Force officer temporarily working at a minimart in Dallas, and Mark Stroman, a self-titled ‘American terrorist’ and revenge seeker.

Bhuiyan came to the United States hoping to live the American dream, but shortly after 9/11, Stroman walked in the minimart where Bhuiyan worked and shot him, almost taking his life. Giridharadas documents the story between the two men and the time between their two encounters: when Stroman shot Bhuiyan and when Stroman sat next to the execution chamber, awaiting the death penalty for his crime.

Bhuiyan was a guest speaker at the event. “He [Stroman] was sitting there and he was hoping that we would hear some good news. Can you imagine that you are a human being and having two hours until your death? I felt a tremendous amount of pressure on my shoulders. I wanted to tell him that I forgive him and that I never hated him. He was waiting to die and I was going to fight in an hour to save his life,” he said when describing his second meeting with Stroman.

Giridharadas read a part from his book where Stroman offers his perspective and reason as to why he acted out violently against Bhuiyan. Giridharadas read Stroman’s words: “I began to feel a great sense of rage, hatred, lost, bitterness, and utter degradation. Although revenge wasn’t my motive, I did want to exact a measure of equality. I wanted those Arab’s to feel the same sense of insecurity about their immediate surroundings. I wanted them to feel the sense of vulnerability and uncertainty on American soil much like the mindset of chaos and bedlam that they were already accustomed to in their home country. This was not an act a crime of hate but an act of retribution and recompense. This was not done during peace time but at war time. I, Mark Anthony Stroman, felt a need to exact some measure of equality and fairness for the thousands of victims of September 11, 2001, for the United States of America and it’s people, the people of this great country.”

Giridharadas explained the dynamics of Stroman’s case. Explaining that when Stroman was arrested and Bhuiyan has won trial, there was no doubt about any of the facts of the case, there was no dispute that Stroman was there, that he shot Bhuiyan.

“His only chance of getting off, of escaping death row, was to convince the jury of one of two propositions: the first was that he would change, if they gave him a chance to live he could change, and the second was that there was something in his past that made him less responsible for his deeds. He had to argue those two things and it is in hearing those arguments that we get to learn a little more about Stroman,” said Giridharadas.

“Surviving, thriving, and slowly building an American existence, because although this happened to him, he wanted to continue to make a life,” explained Giridharadas as he discussed his inspiration behind the makings of his book. The story of these two men is powerful and inspirational – Giriharadas knew he had to tell Bhuiyan’s story, a man who saved his attacker from the death sentence. Racism, hatred, and hurt aside, Bhuiyan chose to forgive.

“The reason I wrote this was out of an even bigger interest in America and the future of a country that has always seemed bright until the last few years. It is a story of the American dream, differently and collectively experienced today,” said Giriharadas.

Shot by the man he was trying to save, Bhuiyan believes that hate is not a solution. The path to forgiveness was difficult, but Bhuiyan knew that revenge and violence were not the answer – God saved his life and gave him the chance to live for a better purpose. His faith guided him through his struggle, alongside a strong support system of family and friends.

“In Islam once you forgive someone, that person is a free man. I had to do something more to save a human life,” said Bhuiyan.

When asked about the American dream today, Bhuiyan thoughtfully concluded, “The American dream is still alive – it is still a dream to pursue. This is such a great country, nothing can stop you. Anything is possible. If you can imagine it, you can do it.”

Giriharadas gave away copies of “The True American: Murder and Mercy in Texas” to all attendees at the SMU event. He wants to spread the word about Bhuiyan and Stroman’s story – he wants to get the students and faculty at SMU talking.

“Students entering America’s job market see something that is failing them. This book is an exploration as to why America still works.”

Giriharadas’ book documents an instance of hope in America. He believes in the United States and all that it holds, and he wants his readers to share this hope, encourage change and create a positive future.

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