Stories about Razia's rebellious young adulthood are interspersed with stories from her childhood. Why did you decide to arrange the stories in a nonlinear fashion?

I wanted readers to step into Razia’s chaotic reality, to have a feeling of being displaced in time and space. Also, when placed side by side with how she grew up, her misadventures seem even stranger. In "The Grass Pulled Up," Razia and her girlfriend are hitchhiking to Key West and get picked up by a born-again Christian couple. There’s a situational comedy right there, but read along with the story before it, "Skin," the reader can see Razia was once just as religious as the couple—so religious, her idea of childhood play was burning porn to save the souls of the beautiful women in the magazines.

The story "The Old Italian" is all of the sudden very dark. It ends by claiming that, as the new immigrant group to move to the neighborhood, "We didn't know how to take care of life. We didn't know how to grow anything, and when we touched the world, it died." Do you believe that, or did you believe it at a time?

Jaishri Abichandani


By Bushra Rehman
Sibling Rivalry Press, 150pp., $14.95

This story is about the ways neighborhoods change in New York, about “white flight” specifically. In this story, the Italian neighbors are unhappy that Pakistanis and Dominicans are moving into Corona. Razia, as a child, starts to internalize this hatred. This is why she says the statement above. I wanted to include this feeling because, later in the book, Razia is accused of being shameless, and she is shameless precisely because she has experienced shaming. At some point she just grew tired of this feeling and decided she would be shameless. Being free from shame is a beautiful freedom.

You've just had a baby and now you're releasing your novel. How are you managing both those things at the same time?

Well, at this very moment, I’m rocking her chair with one foot while writing to you. I was reading this interview with Ani DiFranco where she was asked how motherhood affected her work, and she said it affected her work by interrupting it. I laughed out loud because it’s so true. It’s this strange tension of having no time to write and all the time in the world to write, because she’s a newborn and I’m sitting still for hours every day holding her.

As difficult as it is, I do think having this interruption, this dreaming space, this nothing space, will be helpful for me as a writer. I’ve learned how to type with one hand, and I’ve slowly been working on the second Razia book during marathon feeding sessions. I’m noticing the world of the book is opening up in a way it wasn’t before I had Rosina. I’m less afraid to make slash-and-burn edits or add material where Razia is emotional and vulnerable. The intensity of the love I feel for my daughter has definitely broken me open.

I also feel more driven as a writer. If I can help support us with my writing, I can spend more time working from home, closer to Rosina.

« Previous Page