I’d never left the country but reading this book I made a friend in Kabul who knew my darkest secret.
Earlier this year I finished writing a toolkit for youth service practitioners in trauma informed practice. Eventually I will make a post about this, but the whole time I thought of my favourite book growing up. — A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseni.
Before I became an adult that could save up for a passport, I would accredit my love of books to answer the question if I had travelled the world as a child. I consistently read books based in different countries and about other cultures. I could tell you about Jalalabad road in Afghanistan and the Union Carbite factory in Bhopal, India. I knew that countries with desserts had winters that could make your nose near fall off. Or how they say hello in Botswana.
I was an ambitious primary school child and the childrens selection in Norburys public library was small. It didn’t take me too long to make it through the series of vampire books that were not twilight. I was also uninterested in the bootleg version of Harry Potter. Eventually, I made my way to the adult readers section, borrowing books with the prettiest covers. The egg yolk yellow of the copy I loaned caught my eye before I made it to year 6, and it changed my life forever.
This book was never intended for a young child, although I still feel as though I needed it at that time. By this age, I had already experienced years of childhood sexual abuse, that I had never honestly spoken of out aloud. When I first read a thousand splendid suns I found affirmation and validation with words to understand my trauma and my bodily responses around it -
It might seem silly, but as a child I was anxious about moving my eyes around their sockets, in full belief of my mum’s tale about a wind change causing permanent damage. After a few times reading the uncle scream “Lower your gaze when you’re talking to me” I put the book down to double check I knew how to drop my gaze. This movement triggered the feeling I usually feel when my eyes are lowered. Like Mariam, as she feels the eyes of her abuser watching whilst the family lives normally.
Although I couldn’t communicate what had happened to me at the time, I found joy in experiencing what psychologists call self-disclosure. Being alone with the story of Mariam, helped me feel valid and less lonely.