New in paperback! Pen/Hemingway finalist Jamil Jan Kochai breathes life into his contemporary Afghan characters, moving between modern-day Afghanistan and the Afghan diaspora in America. In these arresting stories verging on both comedy and tragedy, often starring young characters whose bravado is matched by their tenderness, Kochai once again captures “a singular, resonant voice, an American teenager raised by Old World Afghan storytellers.”*
In “Playing Metal Gear Solid The Phantom Pain," a young man's video game experience turns into a surreal exploration on his own father's memories of war and occupation. Set in Kabul, "Return to Sender" follows two married doctors driven by guilt to leave the US and care for their fellow Afghans, even when their own son disappears. A college student in the US in "Hungry Ricky Daddy" starves himself in protest of Israeli violence against Palestine. And in the title story, "The Haunting of Hajji Hotak," we learn the story of a man codenamed Hajji, from the perspective of a government surveillance worker, who becomes entrenched in the immigrant family's life.
The Haunting of Hajji Hotak and Other Stories is a moving exploration of characters grappling with the ghosts of war and displacement—and one that speaks to the immediate political landscape we reckon with today.
By Jamil Jan Kochai. Paperback. 288 pages. Published by Penguin Books, 2023.