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It is aptly reflected through the lenses of the authors. The perpetrator of violence is the killer, not the martyr. What is the place I am? You know I am a martyr but where is my right hand. What can I do? I can use left hand for carrying my record of deeds.

Oh God. Why are you taking me towards hell, Am I not a martyr?

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By turning the prevalent concept of Jihad upside down, Mahmood Mahrun tries to understand why ferocity and cruelty become acceptable and prompts people to celebrate tragedies. Does intense engagement with an unprecedented act of madness that happened in near past produce a nuanced and enduring narrative? Employing unexplored power of immediacy, the author through his incisive and passionate prose questions what we are presented with.


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The moving and exuberant narrative depicts poignantly how mindless demolition turned the breakers of the statue into idols. What had happened after the Buddha was reduced to ashes and pebbles, the story tells us:. They want to celebrate the completion of the work assigned by the commander of the faithful. Their whole body including their faces, noses, ears and hands wore a nauseating white look, they turned white and resembled the white plaster statues. One said to others, the soil and dust has inundated your faces and heads, you have changed into idols. You should also be blown up, he said and started laughing.

It produced a wave of laughter.

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DON: Not exactly. The main characters of my first two novels were male, and I thought it might be interesting to have a female lead in my third book, so I considered making Leeza my protagonist. However, the further I got into the story, I became more and more intrigued by what could have driven Reef to throw that rock off the overpass. Reef surprised me as I was writing the book—I originally thought the story would take a far different direction, but Reef had other ideas.

I'm always surprised yet secretly pleased when characters won't do what I tell them to do. DON: None of my characters are real people. For example, the character of Frank Colville was modeled after a close friend of mine who once worked in the penal system. But at some point in the process, each character steps away from the model and takes on a life of his or her own. DON: My favourite is Scar. I admire the empathy she feels for others, the way she stands up for people despite what those around her might think. DON: Generally speaking, readers certainly students but many teachers and librarians as well have responded favourably to its use, although there are, of course, some who have criticized it.

Fortunately, Reef discovers during his bus ride with Bigger in Chapter 23 how limiting that language is, and I'm grateful to Robert Frost for writing the words in the novel's epigraph that sum up the frustration all of us feel when we're unable to communicate the things that are most important to us.

In fact, I think that's why I became a writer. Yes, it contains the f-word and several other profanities. But it also contains a character who must face the tragic consequences of his own thoughtless cruelty. Which is more important?

How did you react when your students used profanity in their own writing? DON: I found it useful to ask my students the following two questions: first, does profanity in your writing serve an actual purpose beyond raising readers' eyebrows ; and second, is it something you wouldn't mind your parents reading? After all, writing folders function as—among other things—a record of a student's writing achievement over time, and parents are encouraged to read their contents.

When my students realized that their parents would likely see what they'd written, their desire to use profanity tended to dwindle. Those who continue to include it do so because they can defend its purpose. DON: I began the novel in and wrote about half of it, but then I got sidetracked by several other books. Once my agent sold it to HarperCollins in , it went through the editorial process, and it was nearly a year later by the time it appeared in print as you see it now.

Is it possible to impose a restraining order upon someone when the person being protected wishes to be in contact with the person being restrained?

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DON: At 17, Leeza was still a minor, and parents have the legal right to make such decisions. More important, though, Leeza hadn't expressed to her mother a desire to see Reef. After all, he was the person who had shattered her body and her spirit. It wasn't the restraining order that kept Leeza from contacting him—it was the overwhelming sense of betrayal she felt at learning what Reef had done to her. Although his friendship had helped her cope with Ellen's death, his action had brought her months of physical agony, something she could never forget.

DON: Titles are a funny thing. When I write short stories, their titles never appear until I've finished them. However, the title of my second novel, Stranger at Bay , did not come to me at all. My editor and my publisher offered several suggestions, and Stranger at Bay is actually a combination of two that they suggested. Regarding the title of this novel, stones are significant because they were a source of comfort in Reef's disadvantaged childhood.

His grandmother placed "the first stone" in his hand the day his grandfather pulled over to the roadside when Reef was carsick, telling him that the smooth-edged stone she found was a "sick-stone" that would keep him from throwing up. I used to do the same with my younger daughter, who frequently became carsick when she was years old.

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Focusing on that one thing often helped her forget her nausea. Later, when Reef began bringing them home to his grandmother, stones became a focus for communication. They spent hours together sorting them and talking about how some were like—and unlike—each other, and it was during these times that his grandmother would talk about Reef's mother. After Reef's grandmother died, stones offered another kind of solace as he used them to vent an anger that continued to build inside him during years of being shunted from one foster home to another. It was this anger that led him to throw the rock at Leeza's car, and it was this anger that led him to throw the rock at the greenhouse, shattering a panel that Frank Colville insisted he pay for and repair.