It was challenging to portray this character correctly, but it was fun to become someone else. I want to be accurate when I am presenting Laila because she is from a different culture than I. That is a difficult thing to do, but as a reader I can get inside this character’s mind and try to think how she would.
By taking on a this persona it was also very rewarding. It was rewarding because I got to write something from someone else’s point of view. I got to step into someone else’s shoes and become that person. This was like playing dress up for me, only as a future English teacher this is a more adult version of it. I am very glad that my prompt was a choice for this blog.
This letter is from Laila, she is a character from Khaled Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns. She is a young who has had some tragic events happen in her life that have forced her to marry when she was just fifteen years old. Below is a letter written in the perspective of Laila about living in Afghanistan during the 1980s-1990s.
She is now thirty years old and reflecting back on her life.
I would like to start by introducing myself. My name is Laila and I am now in my early twenties. I have lived in Afghanistan all my life. As a child, my
father encouraged me to go on to a higher education after graduation. Most girls in my country are forced to get married after they are finished with school. Some girls do not even finish school and are pulled out to get married. The parents of these girls cannot always provide for them. That is one reason why girls are married so young, and the marriages are arranged.
I have seen many of my friends have this fate. I thought I would not follow the norm for women in my culture but I did.
I have experienced death. The death of my two brothers as they fought in the war, and the death of my parents. My parents and I were packing to leave Afghanistan one day and we are bombed. Both of my parents lost their lives and I lived through it. I was severely injured from the bomb though.
When I woke up I did not know where I was. I later learned I was at my neighbor’s’ house, Mariam and Rasheed. Mariam mainly takes care of me and Rasheed just watches me. I later found out that he was courting me for marriage. I felt like I no choice but to marry him.
I found out I was pregnant before the marriage. The baby belonged to my friend who had left Afghanistan because of the bombing and Taliban rising to power. I thought I would never see Tariq again. So I did what I had to do to survive and not be thrown out on the streets, so I married him. He was in his fifties when we got married.
From there things started to go downhill. I became afraid of him because he would have a temper or be in a mood. One tiny thing could set him off. I was hit, beaten, threatened, and I was almost killed. I bore him two children too, something his first wife could not give him. That did not matter though, he still abused me.
His other wife, Mariam, and I became close after I had my first child, Aziza. Mariam had always wanted a child but was not able to. She looked at Aziza as her own and helped me out with her more than I needed. That was the point where we became friends. Before Aziza Mariam despised me. We then started to stand up for each other against Rasheed. Poor Mariam, I cannot imagine the abuse she has faced before I came. How many years she cried out for help and no one hear her.
No one could do anything about it. In my country, the government does not believe in the police interfering with problems at home. No, that is up to our husbands. That is one reason why so many women are abused.
Mariam and I escaped from the horrors of Rasheed’s house. Mariam was taken away from me though. I did not know how I could move on with my life. I saw the sparkle in my children’s eyes and realized that I had to move on. I had to find a better life for my children, and I did just that.
Now here I am in my thirties with my three children and my husband. My life is good and I am safe now. Every morning and every night my husband reminds me that I am safe. It is a good reminder for me to hear.
If there was one thing I learned from those years it is this, you have to just keep going because eventually something better is coming. If I were to give up I would not have another child and a husband whom I love very much. I would still be living under Rasheed’s reign of terror and I would have lost myself.
As you read Mariam’s story and my story it may tear you apart. That is not why we are telling our stories though. We believe our stories can speak for many more Afghan women. We want you to be informed and help us change this norm.