Posted on December 7, 2022 at 8:00 AM by Sadye Scott-Hainchek
Today (and for the next two days), we're interviewing author Samman Akbarzada.
Akbarzada is a writer from Afghanistan in her early twenties and the author of two books.
Her debut novel, Life is a Movie, is the story of a working child in Kabul, Afghanistan, and her poetry book, A Glimmer in the Dark, was released recently.
Writing, apart from being her favorite respite, has been put forth as a means to give poignant depth to unforgiving tragedies occurring in her motherland.
SADYE: How many languages do you work creatively in, and do you find differences in either the writing process or the creative content between each of the languages?
SAMMAN: The voices in my head have been in English since I was a little girl, and I find it quite odd when I think about it because it's not my first language.
I grew up watching the old Disney, so it gets the credit. The first two-line poem that I wrote about the rose was in English, so that stayed with me.
As a teen, I fell in love with English literature and songs and the meantime with poems written in Persian. I do write in Dari, but not as much.
A Glimmer in the Dark is parted into thirteen chapters; each chapter starts with a Dari poem, the first ten are my mother's, and the last three are mine. It contains over three hundred pieces in English.
The poems living inside its pages include pieces from my eighth-grade days in 2016, as I wrote in the classroom that might never see the daylight again. Seated beside the window, scribbling secretly under the desk, as a naive dreamer girl, lost in her own little world, my Afghan dream.
And the timeframe ceases in March 2022, as I stared at the glooming window to my left, wondering what just happened to us. It's a six-year timeline, a portion of my life that will live on through these pages.
Writing in Dari is like my hands clasped around a cup of steaming hot green tea, watching the golden hour sun wear off from the red Afghan traditional rug little by little.
It's like listening to my mother's voice, it's like my father's advice, like dancing wind chimes, like my best friend telling me we will meet again tomorrow in the school which is not closed for girls.
Writing in English is like listening to my favorite indie genres of music, roaming in the woods as the zephyr pulls me deeper and deeper, voluntarily wandering away and away, like I have that wooden cabin to myself, like swinging over heights I'm not afraid of, as if I belong.
SADYE: You’ve been interested in writing for most of your life. Do you remember the first story or poem you wrote? What inspired you to continue writing and, eventually, seek publication?
SAMMAN: This used to be my favorite question, but now I teared up coming across it again.
The first time I answered it was for my first-ever interview, but you know what happened to that? I went and requested the magazine to delete it from the face of the internet.
I went everywhere and erased traces of my existence because that's what happens when a barbaric, misogynist regime takes over your home. And you watch them from draped windows with hopeless eyes and numbing fear.
I hear all the time from people that they can't even imagine what it might be like, and it makes me glad.
I hope no one ever gets to experience what the Afghans, especially the females in Afghanistan are going through right now. But I do hope for you to not become numb to its tragedy.
I don't want to drift away from the question too much, so here we go.
I was a six-year-old girl back then who was awestricken by the woman writing across her. We were on our rooftop. My mother was writing a poem in her notebook.
I couldn't help but smile admiring the way she would look at the sky, ponder, gaze at the abyss, and then she would continue writing. I asked her, “Mother how do you write?”
She said, “Look for the things you want to write about, if that's not possible, imagine it.”
I told her that I want to write something. When she asked about what, I said the first thing that popped up in my mind, which was a rose.
She put a chair for me in front of the scenic sight where I could see white roses. And that's where it all began.
Whatever I am, whatever I may become, it's all because of her. Her loss has left me with immense grief, but I'm holding onto her last words to me which were to be happy and write.
I will write for her and take her with me every step of the way, and hopefully one day when it is liberated, to our motherland.
Her Dari poems are included in my recently published poetry book, A Glimmer in the Dark. The inclusion of her beautiful poems made this poetry book the most special book in the world for me.
Living in Afghanistan, or I can imagine in any war-torn country, everybody has their own thing to escape and put on rose-tinted glasses and see the ruins in pink for a little while. Writing morphed into that respite for me.
My inspirations range from the mornings I woke up to shaking windows and shooting missiles, the working child I used to see near my school, our neighbor whom I saw crying to my mother, and a million untold stories of silenced souls.
The inability to do something for them drove me insane, so I found myself abandoning the fantasy realms and writing about the world I lived in to gain peace of mind and to cope.
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