Responding to a shortage of doctors in rural areas in 2013, Dr. Virji, a Muslim, moved from the urban East coast to a small town in Minnesota.  Welcomed at first, he and his family began, after Trump's election in 2016, to experience withdrawal, suspicion, and outright racism in his own and neighboring towns, despite having established solid, trusting relationships with patients.  His children were being ostracized in school.  Discouraged, he took steps to accept a job in Dubai, but changed his mind after a local pastor invited him to speak in her church to correct common misconceptions about Muslims and to engage his neighbors in deeper dialogue about their differences and commonalities.  The lecture was so successful, he took it further into other towns and parts of the country.  He has stayed in Minnesota and witnessed change because of this invitation and his candid, open-hearted response. 


This story, simply told, engagingly written, and candid in its discussion of the causes and very personal, local effects of institutional, publicly tolerated racism, shines a strong light on a social pathology that has spread notably since 9/11 and again after the 2016 election.  It testifies to the courage it takes for individuals to speak out about xenophobia, racism, and religious intolerance and to invite the very people who perpetuate those practices to hear a different perspective.  Never falling into a predictable victim narrative, the story is nuanced and sometimes surprising in the way it shows how medicine offers an access route across tightly held political and religious boundaries.  His position as local doctor affords Dr.Virji a degree of trust others might find it harder to gain.  The pastor's role in gaining him access to a public podium is no small part of the story, making it a kind of parable of the neighborliness invoked in the book's subtitle.  A timely and worthwhile book to read and share.


Convergent Books

Place Published

New York



Page Count