“Being a writer means being a spy”
In 2015, I was privileged to meet Nadia Hashimi. She is the amazing author of When the Moon is Low, The Pearl That Broke It’s Shell and The House Without Widows (on my TBR shelf), who balances her time between a busy family, writing and her career as a Paediatrician. As the mother of 4 myself, I can imagine the challenge of writing on her days off and setting deadlines for her books in alignment with the due dates of her children.
Her parents moved from Afghanistan to the United States in the early 1970s, making a living at their convenience store/Italian deli. Her family was very happy that they had come to the United States, so much so that her in-laws celebrate the anniversary of their immigration. It was hard not to consider how different her life could have been had she remained in Afghanistan where opportunities for women have been limited.
Nadia tells tales of strong women and her goal is to she convey what has happened (and continues to happen) to women through fiction. She weaves her stories with research gathered through interviews, the library and from her trip to Afghanistan in 2002. Her experiences growing up have “fed into the book” as well as an influence from everything else that she has read.
Thank you to Nadia for taking the time to answer Novel Questions!
What is your favourite childhood book? Why?
The joys of parenting are many but revisiting adored books, from my early years, with my four children has got to be in the top ten. We’re the proud parents of four readers, our eldest is 7 and our youngest 19 months old. They adore books and, with the older two, we are now at a stage where we can do chapter books together. I love re-reading Roald Dahl’s books with his bright humor and playful characters. One of my favorite books growing up was Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle In Time, which I recently purchased to read with my children as well. It pushed the limits of my imagination and made me reconsider the physical world around me, which is exactly what the best books do.
When I was in 2nd grade, I dreamed of one day becoming a writer. At some point, I even filled a one-subject notebook with a fantasy tale set in outer space. But somewhere between 2nd grade and high school, I set that particular ambition aside and decided I wanted to become a physician. I have no regrets. I enjoy working as a pediatrician and it is a privilege to be a partner in the care of a child. At the same time, writing stories that are read by people around the world and exploring universal themes of struggle, resilience, family, and hardship is just as rewarding. In my journey, I’ve learned that writers and doctors can both be healers. I suppose that’s the link between my two careers.
This is an easy one. Coffee shops. Amazing things are quietly happening in coffee shops all the time. A steady stream of coffee is a necessity as well as the unexpected moments of inspiration: two friends recounting the early days of their marriages, a student hunched over text books with a highlighter in hand, a saleswoman rearranging appointments in a crowded date book. Sometimes watching what others around me are doing its part of the motivation I need also. Being a writer means being a spy. People watching is a delicious way for me to explore human dynamics and makes my characters three-dimensional. It is also an incredibly effective way to procrastinate.
It would be just as impossible to name my favorite child (and, yes, my little ones have tried to squeeze that information out of me too). I’m proud of each of my stories because of the conversations they have inspired.
I received an email from an Australian man who read The Pearl That Broke Its Shell. He told me that he had an awakened empathy for the struggles of women around the world. A young American woman who works with refugees in Europe shared a copy of When The Moon Is Low with her mother, a mid-westerner whose world views are diametrically opposed to those of her daughter. Her mother read Fereiba’s story and felt compelled to reach out to her daughter. A divide between them narrowed. I’ve even heard from a physician was was moved enough to travel to refugee camps in Greece to volunteered her time and expertise.
My children’s book, One Half From the East, has taken me into schools where I talk with young people exploring whether it is gender or expectation that limits an individual’s potential.
My latest adult novel, A House Without Windows, has had book clubs discussing the Afghan judicial system’s propensity to find women guilty but also has women considering how different it is from what the American justice system does for/to American women who are victims of sexual assault. Conversations are awareness and awareness is the first step to action. I am proud my stories have become campfire around which these issues can be discussed.
One big perk of being an author is being asked to read advance copies of upcoming novels. My last read was Gurjinder Baran’s Someone You Love Is Gone (upcoming publication date 8/29/17). It is a lovely, lyrical story of three adult children grieving their mother’s death (and life) in very different ways. It was beautifully layered and nuanced examination of how a tragedy can span generations.