DUR e AZIZ AMNA is the author of American Fever, a coming-of-age story replete with warmth, poeticism, and wit. It is a story about home and homeland and refuses to settle for easy definitions of either. The Guardian calls American Fever “a subversive debut” and the Los Angeles Review of Books calls it “a quiet triumph.” Over a series of emails, FARAH ALI and Dur e discussed how Dur e avoided sketching reductive pictures of Pakistan and America, illness as a vehicle for revealing uncomfortable truths, and the ways certain ideas are shattered after leaving home.
Moving Beyond the Trappings of Multilingualism: Farah Ali interviews Dur e Aziz Amna
Shazmina’s best friend, Gul Noor, died on a Monday, pinned down under the wheels of a speeding bus on the long road that stretched all the way down to the beach. Or maybe it happened on a Tuesday or a Saturday. Shazmina was never sure about the names for the days of the week. Monday-Thursday-Tuesday-Wednesday-Saturday melted, one into the other, like the trickles of oily water the buses left in their wake.
Three weeks ago, my 11-year-old Indian American cousin woke me up with a series of heartbreaking text messages. Didi you up? Mom dad and everyone else can’t stop watching the news. Theyre thrilled. Kashmir sounds like kishmish. Whats the lime of control btw? Why do hindus dislike muslims? I had not yet gotten out of bed in my small, sleepy university town in Western Massachusetts. But my aunt and uncle were up early in the morning as friends and neighbors, fellow upper-caste pajama-clad Indian Americans with unbrushed teeth and undemocratic hearts, had gathered in their New Jersey apartment to watch the Home Minister of India officially and unilaterally revoke the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, live from the parliament.
Part of what makes Jammu and Kashmir special is what makes India special. As a kid, I used to mug up from my school textbooks that India is the land of festivals, colors, dances, languages, religions, so on and so forth, but I was unable to appreciate the water in which I was a fish. Now when I go for months without hearing words that I don’t understand, as every cashier in every store asks me to ‘have a good one’ in the exact same tone and pitch, I have to listen to a Rajasthani or a Tamil song just to reorient myself. I need to know that there will always be so much that I don’t know. Therefore, I must constantly remember India, much of which is sort of me but not quite me, because it makes me feel bigger than myself.