Just Another Jihadi Jane (Working Titles 1.6)

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Tabish Khair

The Massachusetts Review presents the sixth Working Titles e-book:
Just Another Jihadi Jane: A Novel Excerpt by Tabish Khair—available now!  

From Just Another Jihadi Jane:

DON’T ASK ME for too many details. The devil is in the details, they say. Well, the police are there too, and the antiterror squad. There is death in the details, and there is guilt, crime, and persecution. Details leave scars; they call for vengeance. No, I won’t give you too many details. I will give you names of places and people, but seldom the exact ones. Like it or not; make what you can of what I say⎯for you are a writer, and I will leave this story in your safekeeping. Remember, I am a woman who started off with the conviction that there should be nothing but truth. The One Truth, the Only Truth. I was suckled on that conviction. Ameena wasn’t. I felt I had the truth; Ameena was seeking the truth.

Yes, her name is false, too.

When did I first meet Ameena? I don’t recall. But Ameena told me, in those days in Syria when she could only whisper of the past in a dark room, she told me that it had been in the playground of our school, where she had been sheltering behind the slide, smoking a cigarette. It was a cold grey day, with a hint of rain, a normal day in that part of England.

It was a school with a small playground, strewn with litter around the corner, netted from the streets with high wire, and a grubby, grey building with ugly graffiti at the back, also the sort that is normal in that part of England. “You’d come up to me, you know, and told me that A shouldn’t smoke,” Ameena said to me, “You were a scarfie, a ninja, no, a nunja; remember A used t’call yer that? All wrapped up, not a strand of hair showing, solemn as always. A’d noticed yer before; yer wor t'most solemn girl in t’ class. You never joked with t'boys. But wor always fallin’ over to help smaller kids.”

“What did you do?” I had asked her, caressing her feverish brow in the dark. We were in a school building then too, in Syria, but it was a very different landscape, a very different education.

“A think A told yer to bugger off,” she said, and the memory, the coarse language, so unusual in that place, all of it made her laugh, which caused her to double over in pain from the lacerations on her body….

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