Posted on December 8, 2022 at 8:00 AM by Sadye Scott-Hainchek
Today (and tomorrow), 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 has the situation in Afghanistan, since the Taliban takeover, affected your writing process and inspiration?
SAMMAN: After my evacuation from Kabul with a backpack and a broken heart, I couldn't write for over a month, and something like that had never lasted for so long before.
It scared me to death as if the ghost of me was left behind in my abandoned room, slamming on the windows, voicing silent screams. I could declare nothing, only ponder over what could've been and almosts.
For as long as I could remember, I was a writer, but suddenly I was not, who even was I? Then I watched movies, lots of them, and came across this conversation from the movie named Limbo:
“In Afghanistan, we have a story about a bird who forgets how to sing.”
“What happens to the bird?”
“He dies of sadness.”
I replayed that scene over and over until it was etched into my psyche like a prayer. I started journaling, which turned to poems.
And eventually I started continuing the work on my novel, which I finished, and then started over with a new one while still waiting for the stagnancy of the immigration process to end.
I haven't been a cheery writer for the most part but with the fall of Afghanistan to the hands of tyranny, a certain kind of grief took over.
It wasn't just the fall of our homeland, it was the fall of a million broken dreams, the fall of happier alternative lives, the fall of the future where we could see children eating cotton candy instead of selling it, the fall of women and their existence, the fall of our norm and order.
SADYE: What have been the most surprising, rewarding, and challenging parts of your writing career?
SAMMAN: Willingness to learn when you are passionate about something will lead you to surprising places.
The surprising part that hit me when I started writing my first novel was the amount of effort it takes to get something written, articulating it with scenery, connections, and originality, and then keep doing it on repeat while the world around you expects you to not be a recluse, not worry as if you have an idea of where things are going.
And then one day you scroll through three hundred pages, wondering how it happened.
Receiving the publishing contract for my debut novel, Life is a Movie, which is the story of a working child and his mother in Kabul, Afghanistan, left me in a kind of euphoria that I'm afraid I will never get to experience again.
It was the first day of Eid al-Fitr 2021 when I received the email, and I screamed that my book is getting published, running to my mom. I sobbed in her arms as she laughed holding me tight, my siblings and my dad started cheering up, pure bliss.
Having the honor to share my mother's poems alongside my own in our book, A Glimmer in the Dark, will always be the best thing that ever happened to me.
Writing about unknown sufferings in the language of the people who are the most unaware brings me a bit of peace.
I had a phone call recently, and the reader, a US senior citizen, explained how new all of this was to him, that in the western world you will find people who have no idea what a working child or malnourished infant living in a war zone even is.
Raising awareness is the least that I can do for now, and I believe with my whole heart it will bring goodness to both realms.
The challenging part was getting published.
My only source and connection was Google, and I exploited it, literally, for years, going through every nook and link, literary agent, and printing press, until I got that contract.
I couldn't even self-publish because Amazon doesn't function in Afghanistan.
Convincing publishing houses to take a leap of faith in a girl on the other side of the world with no audience (except my tight-knit Instagram followers who've been my supporters from day one and I love them!) was quite an experience.
But it taught me a lot of things, and I will always remember that dreamer girl who didn't give up. It draws me to all the undercover dreamers. I see you, and I feel you.
I know it might sound superstitious, but trust me, no dream is too big as long as your will is igniting, as long as you keep going.
Pause if you have to, but don't forsake. Hold on a little longer. You will get there, I promise.
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Categories: Author Interview