Jan 17 2015
In light of recent events in the world, especially in Paris, I felt it was important to write about one of my main characters in the book, Saif Ullah Muhammad. Also, I need to acknowledge that one of my main themes in the beginning of Assassins Wall is the idea of terrorism, coincidently enough, taking place in Paris.
You need to know I've sat and thought about what to write in this blog for over a week. First, out of the shock of what happened in Paris, and second because part of what I write about in the book has ties and reverberations with what is going on in the world right now. Coincidence? Yes. Did I know this type of terror event would happen over two years ago when I wrote this book? No, I did not. But did I know the kindling was there to potentially start a fire. Yes, I did: if there were a spark.
In the beginning of the novel the reader, as well as the main character Lexi, are asked questions about three Arab men standing in Gare de Lyon train station. Who are they? What are their intentions? Where are they from? And are they suspicious looking terrorists? And using those stereotypes I lead the reader and Lexi along a path; a path very similar to how we as human beings learn in life. First, judgment starts with the veneer and stereotypes, and ultimately, as we go further into the novel and dare I say life, those stereotypes are never as clear and concise as we believe them to be; often times turning out to be the complete opposite of what we have judged via the veneer.
And finally that brings us to Saif. We start in Gare de Lyon with three potential, I use this lightly, "terrorists" in the train station, full throttle hitting every stereotypical mark. Then later in the novel to balance out this pendulum, there is Saif. He is so important, now more than ever. Saif is there to hopefully help the reader open their eyes and question preconceived notions about religions, intentions, and ethnic groups; especially now with all the hate and judging that has been going on in the world. This balancing, this questioning of stereotypes is more important that ever... Saif hopefully makes us, as the audience, ask the question... Is it correct to only judge a person by their appearance, clothing, ethnicity and race? Even in the year 2015, we have a hard time with this question. I ask if we as human beings have an obligation to judge only once you know the individual, their heart, their integrity, and their values... I leave it up the reader to answer... or starting thinking of an answer.
What is funny, ha, ha, about all of this is that as the writer and creator of this story you would think, as a woman, I would identify first and foremost with the other American woman in the story, Lexi. The irony is, I don't. I found time and again that when my heart had something to say it seemed to always come out of Saif's mouth. He was the glue for me. He is the heart of this story. He reminds us to question stereotypes and that they aren't always how life works. That it is dangerous to judge mainly on the veneer; the veneer is only 10% of the reality inside. I ask this of every reader; to judge every human being as an individual. To perhaps recognize the easy answer of stereotypes never fully represents the complexity of life and people.
That is why for me at least, and in light of recent events, Saif Ullah Muhammad is integral to Assassins Wall. He is the piece of the puzzle that fits all the other pieces together, making up the whole picture. As the writer I hope, in the slightest way, this story brings a little self-consciousness to my audience about such matters and begins a dialogue within your own heart.