216 Chapters
Medium 9780253220042

1. Santa Claus in Baghdad

Elsa Marston Indiana University Press ePub

A STORY FROM IRAQ (2000)

 

Amal listened gloomily to the little speech that Mr. Kareem had prepared. He spoke in a halting fashion, almost as though he were making an apology, but clearly he was as happy as a bird.

“And I know,” he concluded, “that my students will greet their new teacher with respect and helpfulness, and will show how well Mr. Kareem has taught them about our glorious literary heritage.” He laughed awkwardly at his little joke, and some of the girls responded with polite smiles.

A shy bachelor, Mr. Kareem inspired more respect than affection among his students. Many complained of his tough assignments and rigorous grading, although Amal thought he was quite fair. In any case, no one could deny that Mr. Kareem taught with competence and, in his stammering way, enthusiasm. He loved the works of the old poets and tried valiantly to convey to his students the richness of Arabic literature.

Another teacher leaving us, thought Amal. How many—four this fall?

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Medium 9780253000958

At Play in the Paradise of Bombs

Scott Russell Sanders Indiana University Press ePub

Twice a man’s height and topped by strands of barbed wire, a chain-link fence stretched for miles along the highway leading up to the main gate of the Arsenal. Beside the gate were tanks, hulking dinosaurs of steel, one on each side, their long muzzles slanting down to catch trespassers in a cross-fire. A soldier emerged from the gatehouse, gun on hip, silvered sunglasses blanking his eyes.

My father stopped our car. He leaned out the window and handed the guard some papers which my mother had been nervously clutching.

“With that license plate, I had you pegged for visitors,” said the guard. “But I see you’ve come to stay.”

His flat voice ricocheted against the rolled-up windows of the back seat where I huddled beside my sister. I hid my face in the upholstery, to erase the barbed wire and tanks and mirror-eyed soldier, and tried to wind myself into a ball as tight as the fist of fear in my stomach. By and by, our car eased forward into the Arsenal, the paradise of bombs.

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Medium 9780253000958

A Road into Chaos and Old Night

Scott Russell Sanders Indiana University Press ePub

When I first read a handful of his essays in college, I didn’t much care for Ralph Waldo Emerson. He seemed too high-flown, too cocksure, too earnest. I couldn’t imagine he had ever sweated or doubted. His sentences rang with a magisterial certainty that I could never muster. In the library, his portrait gazed from the wall with a superior air; his name was carved in stone alongside the names of other literary immortals. More like an angel than a man, he seemed to float above the messy Earth where I labored in confusion. He rarely told stories, rarely framed arguments, rarely focused on any creature or place, but instead he piled one oracular statement atop another like a heap of jewels, each one hard and polished and cold.

While resisting Emerson, I fell under the spell of another citizen of Concord, Henry David Thoreau, who was agreeably cranky and earthy. Here was a man who rode rivers, climbed mountains, ambled through forests, and told of his journeys in wide-awake narratives, as I aspired to do. He built a cabin with his own hands, hoed beans, baked bread, and chopped wood. Thoreau kept his feet on the ground, his eyes and ears alert to the homely world—ants fighting on a stump, mud thawing on a railroad bank, men building a bridge, skunk cabbage perfuming a swamp. He led an outdoor life, keeping his distance from the gossipy town. He stood up against slavery, protested the Mexican war, went to jail for refusing to pay the poll tax, and wrote prose that seemed to me as wild as the loons he chased across Walden Pond.

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Medium 9780253018571

How to Freak Out Your American Roommate

IU Press Journals Indiana University Press ePub

THE FIRST TIME you meet your first roommate, you are jetlagged from the nineteen hours of flying to the United States. You barely register the names of his mother and father and siblings as he introduces them to you. But you do register how friendly and chatty they all seem to be. It strikes you, also, how everything he says appears to end with an inflection, so that he always seems to be asking a question. And when his family leaves, he tells you how he thinks it’s awesome? That you are like from Africa? And everything? You do not understand why being from Africa is “awesome,” but you smile and say thank you. He tells you then that he is from Maine, and when you reciprocate by telling him that this is “awesome,” he looks at you with a mildly puzzled smile and asks why. “Exactly,” you do not say.

You are wide awake that night when he begins to unpack his suitcases. And since you have nothing else to do, you ask if there is anything you can do to help. You install his television and his refrigerator, both of you, and he tells you that, although he understands you might want to buy your own fridge, he has brought a relatively big one so that you might share his, since he figured you couldn’t possibly bring one all the way from Africa. You tell him—and you really mean it—that this is very considerate of him, that it’d be nice to share his fridge. You can use his electric kettle as well, he says, and his printer, too. And, oh, his mom had gotten him a lot of snacks—too many, in fact—so you can help yourself to those as well. “Oh, nice!” you respond, laughing.

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Medium 9780253018632

Watermelon Song · Fiction

IU Press Journals Indiana University Press ePub

Dust Wells

JASER SPENT AN hour reconstructing the weather-beaten kite he found on the roof with the straws, sandwich wrappers, coffee cups, feathers, and bones from dead pigeons he found up there. Then he drew his notorious Sambo graffiti tag over the faded superhero with black Sharpie and launched the kite into San Francisco’s blustery sky. The kite bandied lopsided. In the turbulent gusts, the ripped plastic sputtered like machinegun fire—brrrrp, brrrrrrrrp, brp. Pieces broke off like shrapnel. The Sambo kite spiraled downwards, banged into a brick wall, nosedived into an alley. A kid from the Chinatown YMCA scooped it up and wildly ran away chased by others.

THE JUDGE HAD sentenced Ja’ser Bivens to three years in the penitentiary for spray-painting Lil’ Black Sambo caricatures and his tag Shine on hundreds of billboards and buildings. He also tacked on $300,000 for clean-up costs, which was quite the financial predicament for someone without assets who was about to be imprisoned.

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