Secret Sky

As of yesterday, I hadn’t read a novel in years. Seriously. The last piece of fiction I read was six months ago, and it was a 5-page O’Henry short story.

I blame grad school. But anyways, I had a conversation with some friends about it, and resolved to read a novel soon. Then I had a really rough day yesterday, so did my shopping-spree-at-the-Dollar-Store routine to cheer myself up. I just go there and buy stupid unnecessary things like glitter notebooks and duck stuffed animals. (I was standing in line, and another lady smiles at me and says “You must be an elementary school teacher!”  I replied, “Um, I just never grew up.” )

So I’m buried in books. I have around a thousand books, all tomes on Communism and Hitler and Russian Literature and Western Philosophy. I haven’t read them all, of course, and I nearly break my back every time I have to haul them to another apartment when I move. So I made a pledge: no more buying books. It’s stupid of me really — I hoard and collect books and then don’t buy meat and milk. And I’m not even reading them. I blame Ray Bradbury for it, as I read Fahrenheit 451 when I was far too young.

So I made a pledge that in 2017 I wouldn’t buy any more books. Unless they were for work (teaching), or were under a dollar.

There, at the dollar store, was a novel with a pretty cover of a sunrise and a leaf-pattern design: Secret Sky. It was a YA teen novel about a couple in Afghanistan. “Forbidden Love” it said in the subtitle, which of course means honor-killings. I almost didn’t get it, except that the author was an Afghan herself, though one generation removed (barely western-born, she was conceived in Afghanistan and raised by refugee Afghan parents).

I stayed up till 1 a.m. finishing it last night. It’s barely a romance novel — it is really about family honor and loyalty and religious violence. Parts of it could be better written I think — phrases here and there that smacked of individualism/liberation felt too ‘western’ — as a first-generation American myself (my mother immigrated here in the 1970’s), I think I can catch when phrases sound more “western” (e.g. like me) than “old-world” (e.g. like my mom). The trouble-making couple are, of course, pretty ditzy goopy teenagers, but that is the point — that in this world, that is what happens to them, so it works. Also, there were a few characters that were too evil (e.g. do thugs always need to have bad breath and greasy hair?)

But it felt real enough. It hurts a bit too much. I’ll sort it out later. The most painful part of the book wasn’t the main characters, but watching otherwise decent folk do horrible things in the name of religious purity. I hate honor killing. I hate rape. It just shouldn’t exist, but it does. I know that sounded really stupid, but I’m crying.

I’ll make a longer post later. In the meantime, this is what her and her husband wrote about having to face the ideology of radical islam itself. I think they are both war journalists:

The fight against radical islam isn’t about keeping America safe. It is about saving those boys who would have been, but are lost to the ideology and become the brutal killer-rapists-enforcers. They are the most violated of all.


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