Suggested Questions for Discussion
1. To what extent is The Perfect Gentleman the story of a Muslim boy, as opposed to that of any boy, or of anybody?
2. Imran Ahmad has said about the writing of the book: ‘The Perfect Gentleman is not written as a reflection on things past – with the benefit of hindsight and maturity – but as a narrative which takes place in the moment.’ Do you agree that the book excludes a perspective derived from ‘hindsight and maturity’ or do you think it plays off the opposition between a child’s and an adult’s perspective? What is your evidence?
3. Why does The Perfect Gentleman change narrative tense in the fourth chapter?
4. Which events and experiences in the book strike you as most crucial in shaping Imran’s identity as both British and a Muslim – as a British Muslim?
5. Autobiography does not straightforwardly offer the ‘truth’ about a life; it always involves the selection and shaping of particular events. What is the logic behind the choice of episodes that Imran has selected?
6. What is the importance of cars in the book?
7. Imran’s life is touched at several points by racism, either directly or indirectly. Which incidents in particular stand out? What is Imran’s attitude towards these incidents and what techniques does the book use to critique racist attitudes?
8. The Perfect Gentleman tackles a potentially highly sensitive topic: what it means to be a Muslim in the West today. How does the book present this topic and how do you respond to its presentation?
9. What is The Perfect Gentleman’s attitude towards women? Does it change during the course of the story?
10. Why is there no focus on radical Islamism or terrorism in this book?
11. What are the main changes in thinking which Imran undergoes during his life?
12. Media reviews have included the statements:
‘What a very strange book. There’s more to it than meets the eye … this Trojan horse of a book.’
The Book Magazine
‘… in my opinion one of the most important books I’ve read in the last couple of years. It’s a quietly subversive masterpiece of militant moderation, and everyone should read it.’
Jonathan Pinnock – writer, blogger
What are they talking about?
Questions courtesy of:
Professor Ruth Evans
Department of English
Saint Louis University
Saint Louis, MO