Monday, January 9, 2017

Book Review: Adnan's Story: The Search for Truth and Justice After Serial by Rabia Chaudry (audio)

Did  you listen to the podcast, Serial? Did you love it? Yeah, me too. I knew this book came out last year and was mildly interested, but when I saw that Rabia herself narrated the audiobook, I was hooked. I am often skeptical of non-professional narrators but Ms. Chaudry did a Serial-companion podcast for a long time and is a professional public speaker so she is actually excellent.

Also, obviously, she's the best person to write this book. Aside from Adnan himself, she knows the most about this case (and being a lawyer and on the outside, she might even know more than Adnan.) Adnan Syed was her little brother's best friend throughout their childhoods in Baltimore so she feels like his big sister, too. In  1999, when she was in law school, Adnan, a high school senior, was arrested for the murder of his ex-girlfriend, Hae Min Lee. And Ms. Chaudry, Adnan, and his family have been fighting to prove his innocence ever since.

This book naturally gives much more backstory and context than the podcast could do in 12 episodes. Also it has the benefit of being written after the fact, when more facts have come to the surface, when evidence has been synthesized and examined much more than Sarah Koenig had time to do on Serial, and when, thanks to Serial's insane popularity, thoughtful people came forward to volunteer their time and expertise to come to the truth of what happened that cold winter's night, 18 years ago. Ms. Chaudry also has the benefit of herself being a Muslim of Pakistani descent, to inform her perspective on the racism and anti-Muslim sentiment that informed the investigation and trial. I admit, I initially was skeptical that anti-Muslim views had as much of am impact as she claimed, but by the end of the book, I was convinced.

It's nearly impossible to prove an absence. It's much harder to prove that you are innocent than you might think. This book is chilling in that it makes it obvious how easily a person can be accused and essentially framed for a crime, if the police are convinced he did it. True that today, thanks to our always-online world, it would be easier to prove minute-by-minute where you were 6 weeks ago but seriously, if I asked you to account for every half-hour of your day on Nov. 28, could you do it? What if your life hung in the balance? It's a scary thought. I am really impressed with the man Adnan has become (even if he does seem a little paranoid about being perceived as manipulative, but given all he's been through, that one tic seems more than reasonable). It's hard to know the real truth and Ms. Chaudry is, admittedly, a far from unbiased reporter, but it does certainly seem like a miscarriage of justice has been done here, not only to Adnan, but also to Hae, whose killer seems to have gotten away scot-free.

If you're into true crime, this book is a must-read. You don't have to have listened to Serial first—Ms. Chaudry will fill in all the facts—but I'm pretty sure you'll want to. And it's great so you should. And if you already did, this book will give you a much-needed second bite at that fascinating story.

I checked this eaudiobook out of the library via Overdrive.

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