Khizr Khan, the Muslim-American Gold Star father who delivered a rousing speech at the 2016 Democratic National Convention, is here in Miami to present his two recently published books. An American Family: A Memoir of Hope and Sacrifice is for adults; This Is Our Constitution: Discover America with a Gold Star Father examining the Constitution and other key documents that shaped our nation, is aimed at readers ages 10 and up.
In An American Family, Khan writes of growing up in rural Pakistan as the oldest of 10 children and chronicles his 1980 emigration to the U.S. with his wife, Ghazala, where they became American citizens and raised their three sons. Their middle child, U.S. Army captain Humayun Khan, was killed in 2004 while stopping a suicide attack in Iraq and was posthumously awarded a Purple Heart and Bronze Star.
Asked what inspired him to write his memoir, Khan explains that last year, he and his wife were approached by a couple. “They shook our hands and gave us their condolences on the death of our son, and asked us if we were writing a book about our lives,” he recalls. “We told them we were not, but at various events so many others were curious about our experiences that I began to consider it.”
Revisiting his past while writing An American Family was not easy, Khan notes: “Parts were and remain painful. In the book, I wanted to present my life truthfully without being negative. I wanted to convey how far we have come and how grateful we are for what we’ve been blessed with, but also to show that our dignity and respect didn’t come from sitting at home. We made some deliberate steps and were not afraid to stand up for what we believe in.”
A visit to Khan’s hometown middle-school sowed the seeds for This Is Our Constitution, in which the author shares his personal perspective on the relevance of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. “I told the students about reading the Declaration of Independence when I was in law school in Pakistan, and how deeply it affected me to learn of this nation that had declared—and won—its independence,” he says. “I was watching keenly and realized how interested these students were and what amazing questions they were asking.”
Inspired, Khan decided to share his perspective. “I want children to realize that the essence of these documents is the right to human dignity. These rights are inalienable, but we have to preserve them and breathe life into them. It is imperative—in fact it’s obligatory—that we be aware of that, without any partisan taint to the conversation. I hope that both my books will help readers appreciate that—and inspire them to act.”