Life just doesn't care about our aspirations, or sadness. It's often random, and it's often stupid and it's often completely unexpected, and the closures and the epiphanies and revelations we end up receiving from life, begrudgingly, rarely turn out to be the ones we thought.
I would give them (aspiring writers) the oldest advice in the craft: Read and write. Read a lot. Read new authors and established ones, read people whose work is in the same vein as yours and those whose genre is totally different. You've heard of chain-smokers. Writers, especially beginners, need to be chain-readers. And lastly, write every day. Write about things that get under your skin and keep you up at night.
Sometimes, Soraya Sleeping next to me, I lay in bed and listened to the screen door swinging open and shut with the breeze, to the crickets chirping in the yard. And I could almost feel the emptiness in Soraya's womb, like it was a living, breathing thing. It had seeped into our marriage, that emptiness, into our laughs, and our love-making. And late at night, in the darkness of our room, I'd feel it rising from Soraya and setting between us. Sleeping between us. Like a newborn child.
Throughout the last century there were multiple attempts at giving Afghan women more autonomy, to change marriage laws, to abolish the practice of bride price and child marriage, and to enforce women to be involved in school. Every time, the reaction from the traditionalists was one of contempt and scorn and at times outright rebellion. I think the emancipation of women in Afghanistan has to come from inside, through Afghans themselves, gradually, over time.
My memories of Kabul are vastly different than the way it is when I go there now. My memories are of the final years before everything changed. When I grew up in Kabul, it couldn't be mistaken for Beirut or Tehran, as it was still in a country that's essentially religious and conservative, but it was suprisingly progressive and liberal.
At times , he didn't understand the meaning of the Koran's words . But he said he liked the enhancing sounds the arabic words made as they rolled off his tongue . He said they comforted him , eased his heart . "They'll comfort you too . Mrariam jo , " he said . "You can summon then in your time of your need , and they won't fail you . God's words will never betray you , my girl . (pg.17)
But it is important to know this, to know your roots. To know where you started as a person. If not, your own life seems unreal to you. Like a puzzle. Vous comprenez? Like you have missed the beginning of a story and now you are in the middle of it, trying to understand.
She is furious with herself for her own stupidity. Opening herself up like this, voluntarily, to a lifetime of worry and anguish. It was madness. Sheer lunacy. A spectacularly foolish and baseless faith, against enormous odds, that a world you do not control will not take from you the one thing you cannot bear to lose. Faith that the world will not destroy you.
In the coming days and weeks, Laila would scramble frantically to commit it all to memory, what happened next. Like an art lover running out of a burning museum, she would grab whatever she could--a look, a whisper, a moan--to salvage from perishing to preserve. But time is the most unforgiving of fires, and she couldn't, in the end, save it all.
I foresaw my life unfolding as an interminable stretch of nothingness and so I spent my years on Tinos floundering, feeling like a stand-in for myself, a proxy, as though my real self resided elsewhere, waiting to unite someday with this dimmer, more hollow self. I felt marooned. An exile in my own home
Never mind that to me, the face of Afghanistan is that of a boy with a thin-boned frame, a shaved head, and low-set ears, a boy with a Chinese doll face perpetually lit by a harelipped smile. Never mind any of those things. Because history isn't easy to overcome. Neither is religion. In the end, I was a Pashtun and he was a Hazara, I was Sunni and he was Shi'a, and nothing was ever going to change that. Nothing.
I remember reading 'The Grapes of Wrath' in high school in 1983. My family had immigrated to the U.S. three years before, and I had spent the better part of the first two years learning English. John Steinbeck's book was the first book I read in English where I had an 'Aha!' moment, namely in the famed turtle chapter.
I wanted to tell them that, in Kabul, we snapped a tree branch and used it as a credit card. Hassan and I would take the wooden stick to the bread maker. He'd carve notches on our stick with his knife, one notch for each loaf of naan he'd pull for us from the tandoor's roaring flames. At the end of the month, my father paid him for the number of notches on the stick. That was it. No questions. No ID.
She lived in fear of his shifting moods, his volatile temperament, his insistence on steering even mundane exchanges down a confrontational path that, on occasion, he would resolve with punches, slaps, kicks, and sometimes try to make amends for with polluted apologies, and sometimes not.
But Laila has decided that she will not be crippled by resentment. Mariam wouldn’t want it that way. ‘What’s the sense?’ she would say with a smile both innocent and wise. ‘What good is it, Laila jo?’ And so Laila has resigned herself to moving on. For her own sake, for Tariq’s, for her children’s. And for Mariam, who still visits Laila in her dreams, who is never more than a breath or two below her consciousness. Laila has moved on. Because in the end she knows that’s all she can do. That and hope.
there is a God, there always has been. I see him here, in the eyes of the people in this [hospital] corridor of desperation. This is the real house of God, this is where those who have lost God will find Him... there is a God, there has to be, and now I will pray, I will pray that He will forgive that I have neglected Him all of these years, forgive that I have betrayed, lied, and sinned with impunity only to turn to Him now in my hour of need. I pray that He is as merciful, benevolent,... Read more »
I became what I am today at the age of twelve, on a frigid overcast day in the winter of 1975. I remember the precise moment, crouching behind a crumbling mud wall, peeking into the alley near the frozen creek. That was a long time ago, but it’s wrong what they say about the past, I’ve learned, about how you can bury it. Because the past claws its way out. Looking back now, I realize I have been peeking into that deserted alley for the last twenty-six years.
It would be erroneous to say Sohrab was quiet. Quiet is peace. Tranquility. Quiet is turning down the volume knob on life. Silence is pushing the off button. Shutting it down. All of it. Sohrab's silence wasn't the self imposed silence of those with convictions, of protesters who seek to speak their cause by not speaking at all. It was the silence of one who has taken cover in a dark place, curled up all the edges and tucked them under.
I want to tear myself from this place, from this reality, rise up like a cloud and float away, melt into this humid summer night and dissolve somewhere far, over the hills. But I am here, my legs blocks of concrete, my lungs empty of air, my throat burning. There will be no floating away.