There is always a point at which the country where I live and write threatens war again toward the country where I was born, when I read a sentence or two in English somewhere and I feel as though this threat is something in the language itself. Once again I feel like the language belongs to them and not to me, and that the words of the language find their truest arrangement when spoken from a position above the rest of the world.
I'll feel like I've been a fool for thinking that I could make the English language my own through stories. And I'll look at the words and think—I thought we had something, you and me. All those mornings and evenings together in the quiet of my room. I thought we were building something new together. And then I'll remember that the words have only been mine for a very short time. They themselves have been around for much longer. Just like war has been around for a lot longer than I've had time in which to hate it.
You might be a fool for thinking of yourself as a writer anyway, but to be a writer in the language of the country threatening war on the country where you were born, that takes a special kind of foolishness. I'd put that foolishness up against anybody's. Particularly when the threat is entirely foreseeable. I titled my short story collection Better Than War in 2014. I had a feeling that for a book by an Iranian-American, it was going to be an appropriate title for some time to come.
If you're going to be a fool though, you might as well be the greatest fool. That's what I tell myself when I sit down in the morning now and try to use the English language to write stories that articulate a love for Iranians and a love for Americans. There’s no other way to do it. Be a fool for long enough, and you start to get a little better at it. The nice thing is that after a couple of hours, my relationship with the words comes back again, little by little, and I remember that there is something between us that nothing can come between, not even war. I remember then that the language and I came to each other as innocents, and as such, we've got no secrets. Each time a child learns a language, the words have a chance to be beautiful again. And then that is the time when the words let me in on their biggest secret, so big that I think everyone knows it in their secret hearts: They tell me—we've never once been beautiful in the service of war.