He brought her stories, long and intricate narratives that he laid at her feet like a dog with a bone. She would have preferred love, or at least more of his wild, open-hearted sex, but that was complicated; after all, she lived in another time zone now, and the divorce, far beyond messy, had left him in debt. For weeks, he’d camped out in his friend’s van—demoralizing for a middle-aged man. He had an apartment on the third floor in what she knew was a rough neighborhood, backing up against the desert. He had a son also, and that’s where his energy needed to go. Stories were what he could manage for her.
My mother’s last remaining sibling is dying, and quickly, it now seems. I received the call last night from my mom and exchanged emails this morning with my cousin but didn’t really have time to think about it until the subway ride in from Brooklyn to Grand Central this morning.She is walking, still, and planning a trip to the San Diego beach in June (it keeps Eros alive, my uncle once told me with a wink, and in a case of too-much-information to share with a niece) but one eye won’t quite open and her speech isn’t coming out correctly and the body of my aunt Stana seems to be collapsing, her skin folding over itself, in response to the cancer.
April 6, 2014, marks the 20th anniversary of the horrific genocide in the African country of Rwanda, when an average of 8,000 people were killed per day over a period of 100 days.
Victims of the 1994 genocide are engraved in a wall in the Kigali Genocide Memorial Center in the capital of Rwanda.
In 1994, I followed the news out of Rwanda as we learned that over a period of 100 days, those identified as Hutus killed some 800,000 others identified as Tutsis, mostly with machetes. Recently returned from a decade working as a foreign correspondent, I considered returning overseas to cover the immediate aftermath, but only briefly: I was pregnant with my third baby, and I knew from experience a pregnant me could not manage the extended stretches without sleep and food which would be required to report on this story, at once complex and horrifyingly simple.
Last month Masha Hamilton published her fifth novel, What Changes Everything, while working around the clock as the Director of Communications and Public Diplomacy at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan. Against a background of suicide bomb attacks and early Fourth of July celebrations in Kabul, Masha talked to Melody Nixon long-distance about Afghanistan, storytelling as a human right, and the delicate act of writing in a war zone.
Melody Nixon (MN): Can you describe to me what is outside your window right now?
Masha Hamilton (MH): It’s nighttime here, it’s dark. Outside my window there’s a big tent where we’ll be gathered tomorrow with our Afghan colleagues, and partners, to mark an early Independence Day. Now it’s fairly quiet, but sometimes I do hear helicopters flying low overhead. There’s not a lot of green on the compound, but right outside my window there is a bit of lawn, which I’m very grateful for. In the distance you can see the beginnings of the Hindu Kush mountain range, beyond Kabul.