In a sense, the writing of my book was a long journey which began with falling in love. Thirty-seven years ago I looked up from my desk to see a slim, young man with handsome features walk into the office directly across from mine. With the door open, I could study his profile as he sat in a chair in my line of sight. He had skin the color of caramel, and jet black hair which fell over his ear and was long enough in back to skim the top of his white collared shirt. I tried to get back to work but every so often, I found myself looking up to confirm his presence. As he left the office, he looked over at me with deep, brown eyes under a canopy of long eyelashes. I won’t say it was love at first sight, but it was certainly attraction at first sight. Eventually, we were introduced, started dating, fell in love and decided to marry. A not so unusual story except that I was a nice Jewish girl from suburban Connecticut and he was a Muslim from Pakistan where marriages were customarily arranged by your parents. In those days, communication between the U.S. and Pakistan was difficult. A phone call had to be “booked” two weeks in advance and unless you had a lot of disposable income, your conversation was limited to five minutes. When my husband called to inform his parents he was engaged and wanted to arrange for our marriage in Lahore, there was a few seconds of stunned silence from his parents’ end, and then a very brief exchange of information that mostly related to the dates of arrival and departure.
I can still remember every detail of my wedding journey. My soon-to-be husband had flown home a few days ahead of me, and I had about a twenty hour trip to contemplate what might await me when I reached my destination. As the first foreign bride in his family and the only one to be chosen by the groom, would I be accepted? Strangely, I had few misgivings. Maybe it was because I had faith in my then fiancé’s judgment, or maybe it was because I had the advantage of existing in a time period when Pakistan and its people were rarely scrutinized in the media. It could be I was just incredibly naïve. Still, I had the same case of nerves most women have when they are faced with the prospect of meeting their fiancé’s parents for the first time. As I stepped into the main hall of the airport, I saw my fiancé in front of a large crowd of smiling people. At first I thought they were waiting for other passengers, but no, they were his parents, brothers, aunts, uncles and cousins, there to welcome me!
From the first day of my marriage I was treated as a member of the family and over the years I began to feel as much at home with my husband’s family as I did with my own. After 9/11, I found the average American’s perception of Muslims and Pakistanis disturbing. About five years ago, a desire to enter the conversation about Islam and Pakistan led me to come up with an idea for a short story. When I discussed my idea with my husband, he commented that it sounded more like a book to him. I had doubts about my ability to write a novel. At that time I had only tried my hand at short stories, the longest one being a mere five thousand words. I couldn’t imagine writing fifteen times that number of words. But, both the story in my head and a desire to give this gift to my husband’s family kept me going. Five years later, Beneath a Shooting Star, was published.