Tuesday, March 17

Limits

The ideas for my books set in Afghanistan - a woman desperate to learn how to read, children running away to an orphanage, a would-be doctor with no patients and a village that gossips about a woman who performs abortions - emerged from my imagination, pure and simple.

As such, the ideas were based on my life experiences. That is probably why I regard Interruptions, Fear of Beauty and Allure of Deceit as my favorite books.

I wrote about the limits of research for Portland Book Review: 

"The stories of my characters are ... woven with my memories: The exhilaration of my mother reading aloud, transforming a nightly fairy tale into heart-wrenching moments. The hints that my brother, sister and I might be a burden after her death. Summers spent on an uncle's farm, running with cousins through fields and patches of woods. Sessions with students, adults and younger, who confided about their struggles to read. The confusion after a long wait in a clinic with a friend distraught over a pregnancy and sensing a change of heart. Arguments with my son and fears for his safety as he set off on more than one ill-considered adventure."

"My research does not aim to provide a travelogue on Afghanistan, but rather prompt an examination of the comforts and opportunities in my country."

I conclude by pointing out that imagination goes into research, unearthing new details, making careful choices and connections. Yes, imagination is required for research, but somehow many readers do not use the word that way.

And I certainly must admit to finding the courage to start writing my novels while examining old, old books deep in the stacks of Yale's Sterling Library.

Libraries are truly magical places, as discovered by Sofi in Fear of Beauty.

Photo of Sterling Memorial Library, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and Emilie Foyer; photo of Sterling stacks, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and Ragesoss, to whom I'm grateful for taking a photograph of the inside of this wonderful place.

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