1.

What is it like to lose everything? Younis was first asked this question by a well-meaning development worker, a friendly young man whose specialty was working in war zones. They sat across from each other in cheap plastic chairs beside a bomb-scarred house that served temporarily as a hospital. Just for a chat, he had been told. Just to see if he needed help, to see if he could be helped.

“It must be so difficult,” said the man, whose face was serene, “to wake up one morning and see that life as you knew it has ended, that so much has been destroyed.”

Despite his youth, Younis sensed immediately that the man was trying to get him to do something dangerous. His first instinct was to play it off, to make a grim joke of it—the house was getting old anyway; destruction as a form of camouflage; at least now we don’t have to maintain the roof—anything to deflect the course of the inquiry.

So, let’s get this straight: your book gets a couple decent reviews and all of a sudden you think you’re hot shit, right?

Um, well, I don’t…

 

Sure you do. I can see it right there.

See what? Right where?

 

I saw a huge sort of aura around you when you walked in, but then I realized it was actually just your ego.

I don’t really know what you’re talking about.