Dave Eggers’s remarkable tale of a Yemeni immigrant chasing the American dream offers hope in the age of Trump
The culture war dividing the US is being fought over the relevance of empathy. On the one hand a president and a ruling party that denies the imaginative possibility – or importance – of trying to walk in another’s shoes; on the other, a liberal tradition that celebrates America as the all-born-equal nation and believes understanding is synonymous with compassion.
Some of the recent writing of Dave Eggers is a kind of thought-experiment in that latter position. Since the success of his fortune-making memoir about bringing up his kid brother, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, he has been moving as far as he can from the notion of an insistent “I” in his books. Instead, he is on a mission to use the platform he has created as a writer/activist to give direct voice to the marginalised or unheard.