The family of farmers had left their destroyed village in Paktya and crossed over into the tribal Khattak region of Pakistan, where they established themselves as tenant farmers for a local wealthy landlord of Teri village. I had just arrived and was to stay with them as a guest, fulfilling my participant observation of Pashtun women’s life. I spent the afternoon talking with women while watching them fill gut skin sacks with fresh cow’s milk and churning it for cream. Evening was approaching, and one of them told me the men of the community wanted to meet me. A man came, wrapped in his blanket and turban, and the women motioned me to follow him.
We entered the low-roofed dried mud brick hut, and I froze, speechless, utterly thrown off by what I saw. As in Afghan fashion, the men sat on the floor lining the walls of the room, each one wrapped in his blanket. They were moving their hand up and down underneath their blanket, so that I could only see the blanket moving. I had never been frightened or felt threatened by men in the Middle East, mostly because I had learned over the years how to behave to earn respect. But this scene completely stunned me. What was I supposed to do, say, think? I stood, frozen, unknowing where to look.
One by one, they removed their blanket to reveal the small bird they were holding, making it bounce on its legs to strengthen them. They were all professional bird catchers and trainers for the Friday fair fights, and every moment of leisure time such as this was spent training their birds’ legs. I melted to the floor to begin answering the multitude of questions launched at me in usual manner at a first introduction.
(Excerpt from Secrets From The Field, finalist for the 2019 Eric Hoffer Award)
It is time, as publication date approaches, to offer serious recognition and gratitude to the people who have made it all possible. They should not be relegated to a single read on a book’s page of acknowledgements, but over and over. They all deserve it.
First and foremost, thank you to all the incredible people from Swat, Pakistan who have shared their lives with me, either in their native home villages or in their lives as exiles. The book is about and for you. I can only hope you feel accurately represented.
Thank you to my supportive and loving husband, Paul, who not only kindled in me the newfound drive to write again but gave me the time and opportunity to do so.
Publishing today is about so much more than writing. Thank you to all those who contributed technical support to the book, Talk Till The Minutes Run Out: to the team at HigherLife, particularly Nicole who has been awesome with timely communication and keeping the ball rolling and never letting me fall behind; Colleen, who helped me launch my online presence; and to Tom and Shea, for helping me take that presence to another level.
There are so many levels of editing and critiquing, and each one enriches the finished product. Thank you to Leilani for the first reading of the novel in its skeletal form, for first driving home the need to shake the social science model if I wanted to write a fiction novel. Thank you to Beebe, whose meticulous editing and suggestions also helped the story to take shape. And to Michelle at HigherLife, with her deeper level of content editing.
My thanks go out to all you who wrote blurbs that will appear on the opening pages of the book, Talk Till The Minutes Run Out: Beebe Bahrami, John Dixon, Robert Nichols, and Whitney Azoy.