Although much of Dave Eggers’s The Monk of Mokha is set on the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula, it remains a distinctly San Francisco book. His real-life account of a young immigrant’s embrace of the American Dream merges a number of the city’s characteristic ingredients: progressive politics, ‘disruptive’ capitalism, artisanal coffee. It is an adventure story worthy of San Francisco native Jack London.
The real-life hero of Eggers’s book is Mokhtar Alkhanshali, the son of Yemeni immigrants who was raised in San Francisco’s hardscrabble Tenderloin district. Although Mokhtar’s neighbourhood lies adjacent to the high-rises and pricey bistros inhabited by the city’s gilded generation of tech entrepreneurs, it feels in many ways like an entirely different world: a demimonde of homeless people, sex shops and low-level drug dealers.
Mokhtar grows up a tough, street-savvy kid who barely makes it through high school. But a seed of ambition is planted in him early, compelling him to grasp the greasy pole of American aspiration. He finds work as a salesman at Banana Republic’s flagship store, then as a car