deserving blame or censure as being wrong or injurious
She did not know what this word harami—bastard—meant. Nor was she old enough to appreciate the injustice, to see that it is the creators of the harami who are
culpable, not the harami, whose only sin is being born.
highly offensive; arousing aversion or disgust
Mariam did surmise, by the way Nana said the word, that it was an ugly,
loathsome thing to be a harami, like an insect, like the scurrying cockroaches Nana was always cursing and sweeping out of the kolba.
shy or modest, often in a playful or provocative way
Nana smiled demurely when he said this.
She waited until he had left the kolba, before
snickering and saying, “The children of strangers get ice cream. What do you get, Mariam? Stories of ice cream.”
showing pensive sadness
Mariam knew the story from Nana herself, and, though Nana dismissed the episode, Mariam could tell by the
wistful light in her eyes that she had been happy.
Nana always gave a slow, burdened smile here, one of lingering
recrimination or reluctant forgiveness, Mariam could never tell.
very thin especially from disease or hunger or cold
He was a
gaunt, stooping old man with a toothless smile and a white beard that dropped to his navel.
quieted and brought under control
Despite her rants against him when he wasn’t around, Nana was
subdued and mannerly when Jalil visited.
a headscarf worn by Muslim women
Her hair was always washed. She brushed her teeth, wore her best
hijab for him. She sat quietly on a chair across from him, hands folded on her lap.
a sudden and decisive change of government by force
He was the one who told her in the summer of 1973, when Mariam was fourteen, that King Zahir Shah, who had ruled from Kabul for forty years, had been overthrown in a bloodless
fail to work properly
“You know,” he said, “the picture quality isn’t that good. Neither is the sound. And the projector’s been
marked by or showing hopelessness
Jalil looked at her with a
a stronghold for shelter during a battle
Herat was visible from here, spread below her like a child’s board game: the Women’s Garden to the north of the city, Char-suq Bazaar and the ruins of Alexander the Great’s old
citadel to the south.
infringe on the rights of
She thought about going outside and looking for her, but she dreaded the confrontation, the
not transmitting or reflecting light or radiant energy
With wonder, she ran her fingers over the beautiful marble horses that stood along the edge of the pool and gazed down at the water with
having or revealing little emotion or sensibility
She passed old vendors with leathery faces sitting under the shade of plane trees, gazing at her impassively behind pyramids of cherries and mounds of grapes.
put out, as of a candle or a light
For a moment, Mariam heard Nana’s voice in her head, mocking,
dousing the deep-seated glow of her hopes.
She put her hands on the walls. They were so tall, so
foreboding, Jalil’s walls.
a severe or trying experience
This . . .
ordeal. . . must be very hard for you. So difficult.
a feeling of being close and belonging together
It was the thought of these
intimacies in particular, which she imagined as painful acts of perversity, that filled her with dread and made her break out in a sweat.
curved or curving in and out
Her eyes traced the sleek shape of the table’s legs, the
sinuous curves of its corners, the gleam of its reflective, dark brown surface.
unpleasantly harsh or grating in sound
raspy voice reminded Mariam of the sound of dry autumn leaves crushed underfoot.
inclined to a healthy reddish color
In the mirror, Mariam had her first glimpse of Rasheed: the big, square,
ruddy face; the hooked nose; the flushed cheeks that gave the impression of sly cheerfulness; the watery, bloodshot eyes; the crowded teeth, the front two pushed together like a gabled roof; the impossibly low hairline, barely two finger widths above the bushy eyebrows; the wall of thick, coarse, salt-and-pepper hair.
violent and needless disturbance
She looked through the ill-fitting drawers, at the mismatched spoons and knives, the colander and chipped, wooden spatulas, these would-be instruments of her new daily life, all of it reminding her of the
havoc that had struck her life, making her feel uprooted, displaced, like an intruder on someone else’s life.
This endless conversation, the tone
plaintive but oddly cheerful, flew around and around in a circle.
shower with love; show excessive affection for
doted on their mothers and wouldn’t spend a rupiah on them, the wives.
undergo or be subjected to
Mariam wondered how so many women could
suffer the same miserable luck, to have married, all of them, such dreadful men.
give encouragement to
And then suddenly, as if
emboldened, the other women pushed past Fariba and swarmed Mariam, forming a circle around her with alarming speed.
breathe excessively hard and fast
Mariam backed away. She was
hyperventilating. Her ears buzzed, her pulse fluttered, her eyes darted from one face to another.
impressive in appearance
This man’s will felt to Mariam as
imposing and immovable as the Safid-koh mountains looming over Gul Daman.
deprive of oxygen and prevent from breathing
The loss of peripheral vision was unnerving, and she did not like the
suffocating way the pleated cloth kept pressing against her mouth.
protect from impact
And the burqa, she learned to her surprise, was also comforting. It was like a one-way window. Inside it, she was an observer,
buffered from the scrutinizing eyes of strangers. She no longer worried that people knew, with a single glance, all the shameful secrets of her past.
the act of acceding to demands
They had been halfhearted tokens of penance, insincere, corrupt gestures meant more for his own
appeasement than hers.
unshaken in purpose
Undaunted by the chilly weather, families had flooded the city on their frenetic rounds to visit relatives.
causing or able to cause nausea
Mariam, who’d had a
queasy stomach all night, boiled some water and made herself a cup of green tea sprinkled with crushed cardamom.
make uneasy or cause to be worried or alarmed
disquieting to her that Rasheed owned something whose sole purpose was to kill another person.
Then there were days when the dreariness didn’t seem quite as
unrelenting to Mariam.
the act of defending against criticism or censure
In these dreams, Nana cackled with delight and
harass, as with questions or requests
Other days, Mariam was
besieged with anger.
marked by defiant disregard for danger or consequences
It was Rasheed’s fault for his premature celebration. For his
foolhardy faith that she was carrying a boy. Naming the baby as he had. Taking God’s will for granted.
a loud bombastic declamation expressed with strong emotion
But it did no good, all this fault laying, all these
harangues of accusations bouncing in her head.
It was kofr,
sacrilege, to think these thoughts. Allah was not spiteful. He was not a petty God.
a source of materials to nourish the body
“You make the night to pass into the day and You make the day to pass into the night, and You bring forth the living from the dead and You bring forth the dead from the living, and You give
sustenance to whom You please without measure.”
liable to lead to sudden change or violence
She lived in fear of his shifting moods, his
volatile temperament, his insistence on steering even mundane exchanges down a confrontational path that, on occasion, he would resolve with punches, slaps, kicks, and sometimes try to make amends for with polluted apologies and sometimes not.
There was always something, some minor thing that would
infuriate him, because no matter what she did to please him, no matter how thoroughly she submitted to his wants and demands, it wasn’t enough.