about the author
Wajma Ahmady, a native of Afghanistan, was raised in Germany and the United States. She has studied comparative literature and creative writing at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), and the New School. In her spare time, she enjoys reading novels by One Austen and spentding time with her nieces. She has taught English as a Second Language and critical thinking and essay writing skills to middle school students in the Social Sciences and Humanities. – One Story, Thirty Stories
The Reading from the Author
Resources & Discussion
Use the following readings and prompts to inspire student writing.
Respond to two quotes at the beginning of the reading before reading the text.
- What resonated with you after you finished reading.
- What clues do first three paragraphs give the reader about the author’s intent?
- What does paragraph 4 tell the reader about the narrator’s values?
- What repetition does author use and to what effect?
- What is the impact of the last line?
Consider the following terms:
Now You Try
Thank you to Sahar Muradi for her help in providing the following instructions. Have students answer the following questions:
- If you had a friend over to your house, what might seem strange to them?
- What is particular to your family, your culture, or/and your house?
- What do you eat?
- What are mealtimes like?
- What do you talk about at mealtimes? (Consider the importance of setting.)
- What resonated with you after you finished reading the piece?
- What did you think of the twist at the end?
- How dos your family celebrate (holidays, birthdays…)
- What activities do you do with your family?
- Make an inventory of your answers first.
- Write a piece.
Student Model "A"
Please Just Eat the Tuna
“Girls, dinner!” yells my mom up to the balcony where my bedroom door is. My friends and I walk downstairs and take a seat at the table.
My family motions for prayer hands and we recite in monotone, “Thank you for the world so sweet, thank you for the food we eat, thank you for the birds that sing, thank you God for everything. Amen.”
All of my friends exchange glaring glances at each other and one pulls out her phone from underneath the table.
“What are you doing?” I want to yell at the top of my lungs so loud that all of the birds rush from their nests in the trees and fly away in a swarm. So loud that the water in our crystal glasses make ripples. So loud that the mirrors and paintings fall from the walls and the half-ripe lemons from the trees inside plummet from their branches.
Do they not see the fine white linen napkins on the table that should be on their laps? The linen napkins that my mother spent hours the day after Christmas dinner soaking in the bleach that will get all over her favorite pair of yoga pants? The napkins that my mother wiped my brother’s tears with from unsatisfactory report cards and lost “nerf” guns and injured elbows and deflated basketballs and comments from my father telling him to stop crying like a little girl.
Do they not see the pan seared tuna on the ornate plates that my parents got as wedding gifts from late grandma Evelyn? The same plates that have endured thousands of dishwasher cycles but Evelyn still seems to be stuck to them? And when one breaks it’s like a piece of Evelyn was severed and thrown out out out the back door. The plates that always seem to stay perfectly white.
Do they not see the table on which they are picking around their tuna like it’s dirt? The table that my parents drove all the way to Philadelphia to buy from a run-down antique store for a discount price. The table that has seen three houses and three families (but never at the same time). The table that has felt tears from burnt chicken and soggy green beans. The table that expands and contracts and expands and contracts but then stays contracted for all too long.
“Put that thing down!” “Were you raised in a cave?” “I’m sorry, is this tuna not to your taste? Would you prefer me to nuke you some ramen noodles?” “Please place your napkin on your lap like everyone else.” “EAT THE DAMN TUNA.” These are all things I am wishing to say.
But instead, I look my mother in the eyes, and understand that we will just order pizza next time.
Student Model "B"
Alexis ducks his head as he gets out of the car, jumping down. I hold the door open for him as he walks inside.
“Should I take off my shoes?” he asks already reaching down to his feet.
“No,” I reply, “it’s fine.” He gives me a puzzled but somewhat excited look. He stands upright again, and rocking back and forth, waits for me to take him somewhere.
“Ya llegamos Ma,” I yell, waiting for a yell in return.
Alexis chuckles quietly to himself.
“Ahi voy.” I hear, my mom racing downstairs to greet my friend. She greets me with a kiss on the cheek and a hug, and I do the same. She extends her arm. “Hi,” she says, trying her absolute best to not have an accent. “How are you?”
“Good, and you?” Alexis replies.
“Good, thanks,” my mom replies, giving Alexis a warmhearted smile. “Preguntale si quiere algo the tomar,” she tells me, as she goes to the kitchen to finish preparing the food.
“Are you thirsty?” I ask Alexis. His eyes keep darting at my mom, slightly dissatisfied with her English.
“No, I’m fine thanks. Has your mom thought about taking English lessons?” he asks.
I feel like I’ve been punched in the stomach. How can he ask that so casually? How can he not see the effort that she puts into saying every single word? How can he be so ignorant to the struggle my mom has to go through just to ask someone for directions? He gives me a stupid wondering look. A smile comes next. I want to smack that annoyingly kind smile off his face. How can he smile so happily after such a jarring question. No, not a question, a suggestion. A suggestion that tears down all the work she’s been through since she’s moved here. A suggestion that tears down all the money that went to English books. A suggestion that all the work she’s had to do is worthless.
“I don’t know,” I say