JM: That's such a striking encapsulation of the aspirations of a child. In both of your novels, you identify with young children quite closely, and the narrative follows them from very early youth into adulthood -- their lives shape the stories you tell. Did you frame each novel with a child's perspective by conscious decision, or was it an intuitive preference?
KH: On some level, it feels natural to me; again, part of it is my upbringing, for the stories we were told basically started with a childhood and ended with death. There's an old-fashioned quality to both of my books -- each is basically the story of a life. So it feels natural to me to start at the beginning. But I also feel a kinship with children, and I am very much intrigued by the relationship between child and parent. In Afghan society, parents play a central role in the lives of their children; the parent-child relationship is fundamental to who you are and what you become and how you perceive yourself, and it is laden with contradictions, with tension, with anger, with love, with loathing, with angst. I find it endlessly fascinating, the way children and their parents push and pull each other, and the way in which they both tear each other down and build each other up -- the way in which they hurt and soothe each other.
Both of my books, in some sense, have been about the loss of innocence. I think of my own childhood with a very fond heart. I had a beautiful childhood growing up in Afghanistan, and I'll always think of being a child in a very romantic way because of my own particular circumstances. So I always find myself drifting back to childhood, and writing, I guess, about my own childhood in some way.