Dur e Aziz Amna is the guest who’s keeping Melanie on her toes in this insightful, wide-ranging, and delightful conversation.
Aziz Amna grew up in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. She graduated from Yale College and the Helen Zell Writers’ Program at the University of Michigan. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Financial Times, and Aljazeera, among others. Winner of the 2019 Financial Times Essay Prize, she was longlisted for the Sunday Times Audible Short Story Award 2020.
Her brand-new debut novel is American Fever. And it’s a powerhouse of a novel. The protagonist, Hira, is an adolescent Pakistani girl who comes of age as an exchange student in rural Oregon.
Hira's voice is impressive, with observations ranging from who she is to who she is not. Here's one example, “I don’t yet know how to react to life—its sadness and disappointments—without blaming those around me, because I am only half formed and so it feels to me that I am nothing but the sum of other people’s actions.”
Another quote from Hira as the older narrator is, “At 16, I was tired of limits, aghast that life could be so small. Tired of the same girls I had known all my life, girls who called their periods their ‘visitors’… who didn’t know, didn’t desire to know, how powerful and clever and beautiful they were, who had already decided on the low, petty ceilings of their limits.”
Finally, from Hira, as narrator/observer, comes this, “Stereotypes happen when you don’t understand the thing itself, and so you interpret it. This is not an account of how America was. It’s an account of who I was.”
The conversation between Dur e Aziz Amna and Melanie touches on themes such as:
- emigration and immigration
- what “home” means
- racism and Othering
- the challenges presented when we stereotype something
- the place of one’s culture and tradition
- the hubris, ignorance, and fear of at least some of “America” and Americans
The two women also talk quite a bit about happiness and well-being in the 2nd half of this episode. Dur e has a lot to say about this and does so with style and grace.
This show is for snuggling down with a cuppa on a lazy early evening and spending the hour with friends enjoying each other's company.