A master piece by a Pakistani born writer,The Last White Man gives readers a different perspective to life. He formulates an idea where whiteness has disappeared and only brown people exists. It is about one’s identity and how we can feel lost without it, be it brown, white or tan, our skin color is not just color, it defines us.
The book is about a young man, Anders, who wakes up one morning to find out he has turned “a deep and undeniable brown.” Initially, he shares the discovery only with Oona, his lover. He calls in sick to work, and hides behind a hoodie and a pair of sunglasses, but soon the entire town begins to transition. As time goes on, the whiteness begins to disappear and after the death of Ander’s father people forget that it ever existed. The author, Mohsin Hamid told that all of his characters experience the loss of whiteness in one way or the other, resulting in profound destabilization.
The Pakistani author coined the idea and concept for Ander’s transformation after he experienced racial profiling following Sept 11 attacks. Oona’s mother frequents QAnon-esque internet forums that drum up her fervor to protect “our people,” making her horror that much greater when Oona and then she herself transform. Militant white mobs rioting in the streets to protest the change bring to mind the white supremacist “Unite the Right” rally and the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
The idea of racial change is not new; Black novelists have long used it to question and criticise the disproportionate weight of race in society. Fantastical depictions of race have long served to highlight how absurd it is that this social construct should hold so much power, from George Schuyler’s seminal satire Black No More, in which the protagonist changes his skin colour from Black to White through a medical procedure, to Percival Everett’s darkly hilarious Erasure, in which a Black writer participates in a different kind of transformation by sardonically playing to racial stereotypes to great success. In keeping with this tradition, Hamid’s book asks readers to think about the ways in which something as superficial as skin tone affects people.
By Amna Sheikh (email@example.com)