When the sun rose, there was not a sound from the houses in the village. The muezzin’s call to prayer went unheeded. At the second Allahu Akbar, he stopped abruptly, casting an eerie silence. He knew no one was listening. For the first time in one hundred and twenty-two years since the village came into being, not a single person answered the call to morning prayers. No animals stirred to alert the villagers of anything unusual, because they had all either been slaughtered or stolen. Everyone was awake—from the oldest man to the youngest child—and they waited, like they did so often it seemed that year. They were far from the capital where the war was more immediate. There were curfews and disappearances there. 1971 was a year of waiting; waiting for death, or news that the war was finally over and so freedom. On this day, they waited for a visit.
Finally, when the sun was moving high above the trees Nazim, a farmer of twenty-one, stuck his head out of his house. At first, he saw one man. But then appeared behind the one, like the back of a serpent, an undulating line of khaki clad men moving towards the village. He could not count them all, but it looked to be thirty men. If he were to guess. He told this to his eighteen-year-old wife, Nargis, who scrambled up off the charpoy they both shared, and grabbed her two-month-old baby. Nazim’s mother covered her head and rocked back and forth as she rolled a string of wooden beads between her wrinkled fingers. Now she began to pray. She whispered a dua under her breath. She prayed for mercy.
Other villagers ventured out and soon there was a crowd of men standing in the center of the village peering at the horizon.
Once they were close enough, Bappi, the oldest man in the village, though no one was quite sure how old he was, only that he remembered the time of the British, said, “They don’t have rifles but they are wearing the color of the enemy.”
“Maybe they are deserters,” said Jalloo, the wealthiest man in the village. He once had three goats. Before they were stolen by the Pakistani army he could occasionally be induced to share their milk. Now he had two wives. That was one more than every other man in the village.
“Maybe they are carrying pistols,” said Nazim. Nazim was known for his reserve and cool-headed approach to things.
The soldiers finally trooped into the village just when it was beginning to get hot, and the sun was a tight ball blazing above everyone’s head.
But then appeared behind the one, like the back of a serpent, an undulating line of khaki clad men moving towards the village.
The villagers and the soldiers faced off in the center. One soldier stepped forward, smiling. His teeth were white against his sun burnt skin. His mustache was dyed a vermilion henna. He appeared to be the one in charge. He said nothing at first and kept smiling. He took off his cap and wiped the sweat from his brow with a handkerchief and continued to smile. Nazim could not tell how cruel he was from it, but an unfaltering smile was never a good sign.
“A salaam waleikum,” he said and then in Urdu, “There is no need to be alarmed. We have come to appeal to you for help.”
“Why should we help you?” Bappi said; he was the only one besides Jalloo, who could speak some Urdu. “If you are going to kill us, then kill us and be done with it. We have no weapons and nothing of value. Your fellow soldiers took our livestock and stole anything that glittered. This is not a rich village.”
“Don’t listen to Bappi,” Jalloo said quickly. “He is old and a little... you know.” Jalloo pointed to his temple to indicate that Bappi was in his dotage.
Bappi glared at Jalloo and said plainly in Urdu, “Once you invite the devil in, there’s no getting rid of him.” He walked slowly away.
The soldier sighed tolerantly and faced the other villagers. “Who here besides these two men can speak Urdu?”
Jalloo moved closer and said, eagerly: “Only I and the old man speak your language. I can translate for you.”
“Where did you learn Urdu?” the soldier asked.
Jalloo stuck his chest out, pleased to share his story. “When I was a young man I traveled to Islamabad. I lived in West Pakistan for three years and then came back to East Pakistan to marry.”
“Why?” the soldier said, his smile widening. “Our girls were not good enough?”
“Oh, no," Jalloo said and shook his head. “They are so lovely. And fair skinned.” Though he could not fully understand what was being said, Nazim watched Jalloo’s obsequious body language with dread. It would either save them or be their undoing, with only Jalloo benefiting in some way, as it was with most cases involving Jalloo.
Many of the women had moved out into the village center and covered their heads and faces with the ancchals of their saris. They watched the men from behind their veils and tried to understand what was happening. Jalloo, always the politician, appeared to them to be making friends with the soldier and they didn’t know whether or not to be relieved. Some of the soldiers gazed at the bare midriffs of the women. One whispered to another, “Why do they bother to cover their faces?”
“They’re really Hindus,” whispered another. The whispering stopped when their captain gave them a sharp look.
Nazim tugged at Jalloo's sleeve. “What is he saying, Jalloo bhai? What does he want?”
Jalloo swatted his hand away and asked the soldier, “What can we do for you? How can we help? We do not wish to fight.”
The soldier slapped a small, leather crop gently against his thigh. Nazim stared at it. There were no horses about. One could only wonder why he had it.
He said, “I am sorry for you. It’s most unfortunate. The soldiers who robbed you are not our men, I assure you. They must be those others we are hearing about. A group of unruly men who are terrorizing the villages.”
“Yes, yes, of course,” Jalloo lied. "We have heard of them too.” He glanced askance at his ten-year-old daughter and first wife who had joined the throng of women observing the situation. His heart was thudding in his chest and he had no strategy but to somehow mollify the soldiers, and keep them away from his family, even if it meant inciting the ire of his fellow villagers. He had never heard of a band of terrorizing soldiers. At different times over the past nine months, different groups of men, both Pakistani and freedom fighters had pillaged them.
"Once you invite the devil in, there’s no getting rid of him.” He walked slowly away.
“We are not your people and you will never protect us.” Bappi had reappeared and waved a stick in the air, pointing it accusingly at the soldiers. They stared back at him, slack jawed at his fearlessness.
“Go away.” Bappi spat on the ground. “Or do what you came to do, kill us. Be quick. Understand the women are prepared to kill themselves before they let you touch them.”
No one spoke. The villagers looked from Bappi’s face to the face of the soldier. They waited. A slight breeze rippled the women’s saris. From somewhere, a child’s muffled cry could be heard. A young girl hurried towards the sound and disappeared between the houses.
“The old man has a death wish, it seems,” the soldier said to Jalloo. He seemed amused. "There really is no reason to be alarmed. And the virtue of your women is safe."
No one could understand what Jalloo, Bappi or the soldier was saying. Bappi obviously didn’t trust these men. Many of them wondered why they weren’t all dead by now.
Nazim moved forward again. “Jalloo bhai, tell us now what is being said.”
“We are not going to die,” Jalloo said excitedly. “They have come to ask us for help. They are not like the others.”
Nazim looked at Jalloo and the stony-faced soldiers skeptically. He looked to Bappi whose eyes appeared empty and defeated. Nazim said, “Ask him what he truly wants from us.”
Before Jalloo could ask anything of him, the mustachioed soldier said,
“We believe East Pakistan should be free...eventually. We also believe the partition was a mistake. Many of your Bengali freedom fighters are dying and we need to help them.” He walked towards Bappi. “Arre, father, we are all Muslim. We are all brothers. Please, don’t be angry.” He held out his hand but Bappi refused it. Bappi cleared his throat. For a moment Nazim feared he would spit in the soldier’s face. It would be the end of them. Bappi appeared to be weighing his options, while everyone grew increasingly anxious.
“So, you are deserters?” Bappi asked.
“Yes,” the soldier said. “We are on your side.”
“Yes, I saw what you, my brothers, did in Dhaka on March 27th,” Bappi said. His eyes filled with tears. “I saw the dead boy in the street lying next to a bloated carcass of a donkey because he was out after curfew. I think my brother did that. Because of your curfew my daughter in law could not go to a clinic and died in childbirth. I must thank my brother for that.”
The soldier’s smile, which had appeared glued to his face, disappeared. Nazim didn’t trust the smile but when it disappeared he felt a pit in his stomach. Jalloo, furious, moved towards Bappi quickly.
“You old fool!” He whispered urgently because he was afraid. “Maybe you’re so old you don’t care whether you live or die, but I care. I want to live and so does everybody else.”
In the silence that followed, Saira, a pretty, young woman wearing a pink sari with a deep red border that she had donned to meet the visitors, pushed forward and said, “Bappi dada, please, they won’t hurt us.”
She turned to the soldiers who looked at her with interest because she had boldly uncovered her face and smiled. Their eyes strayed to her flat belly. She wore a thin sliver strand around her middle. A small pendant hung from the chain and settled right above her belly button.
“Jalloo, bhai tell them we will help. We are all brothers and sisters,” she said. At seventeen, she was still an idealist.
“She’s not half bad for a Bengali,” a soldier nudged his comrade next to him after Jalloo translated for them. The soldier next to him didn’t respond. His eyes were glued to the dancing pendant above the girl’s belly button. Saira’s mother covered her mouth with the hem of her sari, grabbed her daughter and dragged her back into their house, admonishing her loudly.
The soldier next to him didn’t respond. His eyes were glued to the dancing pendant above the girl’s belly button.
Another young soldier, younger than all of them, had broken rank and stood apart from the rest. He looked at a small boy who was smiling at him shyly from a window. The boy ducked his little black head up and down in an impromptu game of peek a boo. The soldier looked away and clenched his jaw. The village reminded him of the one he was from in Sindh. The young woman who had addressed the soldiers reminded him of his mother because every woman reminded him of his mother and Bappi reminded him of an old man from his village who was stoned to death because he had denounced the war on East Pakistan. He shifted his weight uncomfortably; he had been standing still for so long. He also felt all eyes were on him. As a child, he had avoided throngs of people and wide-open spaces. There were times he had felt as if space was an organic thing, yawning and contracting before his eyes like an exposed heart muscle. Those were the times he ran to his mother for comfort, and sat next to her until she shooed him away. He felt an attack coming on as he watched the villagers negotiate with the commanding officer, a man he secretly feared. He looked at the women and wanted to run to them, to be wrapped in the folds of their soft cotton saris, to be reassured. He ached for his mother, to whom he had promised to return in time for his sixteenth birthday.
“1971 has not been a good year for our people,” the soldier with the fierce mustache was saying. “We must try to preserve our rights and freedoms. The rights and freedoms the British took from us in ‘47. They left us a mutilated country and we must heal it. Let us do it together.”
He held his arms open wide as if to embrace all who were present. No one responded. He held his arms open for a moment longer, and then dropped them.
Jalloo translated for the wary villagers and one by one, they began to murmur their agreement. Bappi had disappeared and the knots in people’s throats and shoulders began to loosen. His anger was confusing them. Here it was, nearly mid-morning and there was not a whiff of mass execution in the air.
“If they haven’t killed us by now, they won’t,” said one woman, Fariah, to her friend, Ayesha.
“All the same,” her friend responded. “Our daughters should be locked up. Look at Saira,” she gestured towards the house where she lived. “Mine just got her period, so I think she’s safe.”
“But these men are Muslims.”
“Don’t be stupid, Fariah. Men are men. And you’ve heard the stories.”
Fariah glanced at the village well. Yes, she had heard the stories about the other villages visited by Pakistani soldiers. The women and girls, old, young, infirm had all been raped because those were the orders and some who could not bear the shame had jumped into the wells. Some to avoid the assaults, others to avoid facing their families. There was a word for a woman who had been raped by a Pakistani soldier, Birangona, a war heroine, a martyr. So many of these “heroines” were shunned and found life unbearable. They were never allowed forget.
The mustachioed soldier was explaining how the freedom fighters in the POW camps were dying because of inadequate blood supply for transfusions. Many of them could be saved, he said, if only they had blood. If each member of the village, save for the youngest, oldest and most infirm, would donate blood, then hundreds of soldiers could be saved. The war was ending, he said. In Islamabad they had accepted defeat as inevitable now that India had entered the mix and he and his men realized that Muslim turning on Muslim was an egregious sin.
As he spoke, droning on and on in Urdu, and Jalloo translated, Nazim looked at the faces of his fellow villagers and wondered how much of this they believed. He wanted to say to the soldier, you’re only realizing now that turning on fellow Muslims is a sin?
Jalloo began to realize that if these soldiers wanted to kill them off they would just shoot them, like they did in all the other villages. Surely, they needed the blood.
The soldier stopped talking. Jalloo translated and the villagers conferred amongst themselves. Nazim looked at his wife and mother. His infant son was fast asleep in his mother’s arms.
“I don’t know,” he said. “How much blood do they need again?”
“A half liter from each of us,” Jalloo said.
“That sounds like a lot,” Nazim said.
“Not my daughter,” said Fariah. “She is ...unwell.” She was too embarrassed to utter the word, menstruating.
“So is mine,” said Ayesha, quickly.
“Well, what are we to do?” Nazim said.
“We are all connected. Our blood runs through their veins, their blood runs through ours,” Saira called from the window, breaking into the quiet. It startled everyone.
“What is she on about now?” Jalloo muttered under his breath. He gave the soldiers what he intended to be a placating smile but only appeared simpering.
Saira’s mother was standing in the doorway and rushed inside. Seconds later, the shutters rattled shut.
“Your Bengali girls are robust,” the mustachioed soldier said, to no one in particular. He cleared his throat and rejoined the troops who were starting to break rank because of the heat.
He wanted to say to the soldier, you’re only realizing now that turning on fellow Muslims is a sin?
“What choice do we have?” Nazim asked Jalloo.
“We have a choice,” Jalloo said indignantly. “I told you, he is asking us, not telling us, to help them. He believes in unity, not this carved up carcass of a country.”
“But the freedom fighters are fighting to keep us separate,” Nargis said.
“Quiet, woman. Don’t talk about what you don’t understand,” Jalloo said. “These men are not going to kill us; that’s all we need to know.”
"Then don't talk about unity and that nonsense, Jalloo, mia," Nazim said. "Because now all any of us wants is to live. We are not as foolish as you think."
The villagers fell quiet as they pondered this. Finally, Jalloo said,
“If they are helped, they will reward us with our lives.”
"What kind of a bargain is that?" Nargis said under her breath.
The villagers looked towards the soldiers who were now scattered. Some sat under a tree. Some stood around talking and smoking. The mustachioed soldier looked at Jalloo questioningly.
“We have to make a decision,” Jalloo said.
“Ask him if the women can be spared from it Jalloo bhai,” Nazim said.
“Yes, yes. That is wise.”
Jalloo stepped forward and said,
“We would be glad to help you, but we have one request.” The soldier raised his eyebrows in question.
“I know you need as much blood as possible but, you see, the women, well some of the women are contaminated,” Jalloo stated matter-of-factly.
“I don’t understand,” the soldier said.
“Well, they are not pure at this time, if you know what I mean.”
“Aah,” the soldier nodded in understanding. “Well, we cannot impose upon you. You are already being more than charitable. To make it fair we won’t take from the women.”
“I was hoping you would say that,” Jalloo said, relieved. “Besides, the blood of a man is far stronger than the blood of a woman. It is pure...”
“Yes, yes,” the soldier said impatiently, cutting him off. He looked at the women. “Translate for me,” he said to Jalloo. “Tell them your men and boys are brave, a credit to their nation. We commend them for their sacrifice. You should be proud of them.”
When Jalloo finished translating. The women looked at one another and remained silent.
“Do you think they would be willing to feed us and give us some water?” the mustachioed soldier asked Jalloo. “We have been marching for days.”
The women served the soldiers in the village center, refusing to allow any one of them into their homes. Upon Jalloo’s urging they gave them the meals they had prepared for their families. Nargis was sullen as she heated the meagre meal of lentils and fish on their small stove.
“This was meant to feed us for two days,” she said when Nazim walked into the house. “What are we supposed to eat?”
“Starving for a few days is better than dying now,” Nazim said. “That is Jalloo’s reasoning.”
He handed her a stack of banana leaves and silently watched as she ladled the food on to them. One by one he took them out to the hungry soldiers. When Nazim left with the first meal Nargis looked at the banana leaves with her family’s last remaining food and spat into them. She watched as Nazim carried them out into the center, revealing nothing.
It was the hottest part of the day. Too hot to do anything, the leader declared.
Jalloo then insisted on providing straw and jute mats, which were taken from the villagers’ beds and laid on the dusty ground, underneath the trees, so the men could nap in comfort.
“Why don’t you offer them our prayer rugs as pillows?” Nargis said to Jalloo as she watched him lay down the mats.
Jalloo threw Nazim a sharp look. “Control your woman’s tongue,” Jalloo said. “She will get us all killed.”
The soldiers sated and quenched found shade, covered their faces with their caps and fell asleep while the villagers, hungry and weary from anticipation watched them from their doorways and windows. The soldiers slept for two hours. The muezzin’s call to late afternoon prayer rang out, stirring them awake. The women carried water to them so they could perform their ablutions.
“If Jalloo asks me to wash their feet, I will stab him in the eye,” Nargis whispered to Fariah as she carried a brass jug of water to the awaiting men.
When she returned to her home Nargis rolled out her prayer rug towards Mecca. She began to pray but then stopped, stricken by the sight of Jalloo, Nazim, and the other men in the village praying with the soldiers. The entire village square had become the floor of a mosque, three rows of men, and boys genuflecting in almost perfect unison in the heat and dust. Nargis’ eyes met Fariah and Ayesha’s, who were next door. They also stopped to watch the spectacle. Ayesha shrugged and smiled. Surely, this is good news her expression said. Nargis shook her head in disbelief and turned back to her own prayers. During the meditation, she said under breath, “Allah, give our foolish men strength.”
"Starving for a few days is better than dying now,” Nazim said. “That is Jalloo’s reasoning.”
When the prayers were finished the most able bodied of the men, young and old, were promptly asked to lie down on the jute and straw mats. The youngest boy was thirteen. The mother of the thirteen-year-old slicked down her son’s cowlick with her own spit, as if he was going to get his photo taken, and gently nudged him towards the mats. He looked back at her and then obediently lay down and held out his skinny arm.
The soldiers had all the equipment needed to extract blood from the willing arms of the patriots as they were being called now, and set about the task methodically. The women hovered nearby, teary eyed, as they watched all the men in their families lie down on the mats. Nargis watched a soldier tie a tourniquet tightly around her husband's sinewy arm. She felt a chill as she saw his blue veins bulge and the needle sink into him. A yellow tube filled with his blood. It dripped into a plastic bag that another soldier held above his head. Her husband smiled at her to reassure her and then closed his eyes. She turned to look at the youngest boy. His wrists and arms were slender; the soldier was having trouble locating a suitable vein. She could see the boy’s arms were becoming bruised as the soldier jabbed at him repeatedly. She suddenly felt that the blood being drained was not theirs but hers and she became light-headed and dizzy. She sat down in the dust and clutched her head. She felt her mother-in law’s hand on her shoulder and looked up at her.
“They’re killing them,” she said softly.
“No, no,” her mother-in-law soothed. “How can that be?”
“Look,” Nargis said, “his bag is full but they are still taking. Look!”
Several women looked towards where Nargis was pointing. One man was lying on the sheet, unconscious. His bag was full but the needle was still in his arm and the soldier kept pulling the blood out of him. Nargis looked for Nazim’s eyes. Soldiers were blocking her view of him. He was struggling to remove needle, but a soldier held him down, his boot on his chest, while another pinned his arm to his side. Suddenly Nargis screamed and ran towards him but her mother-in-law held her back. The thirteen-year-old boy looked up at the almost full bag and then down at his arm. He tried to pull the needle out. The soldier assigned to him restrained him but he began to fight back and another soldier hit him, knocking him unconscious. His mother saw his eyes close and started to crawl towards him. A soldier grabbed her and carried her into a house, where he dumped her in a corner. The remaining women grew hysterical and tried to either run to their men or attack the soldiers and were beaten back. In their naïveté, and disbelief many of them first thought the soldiers were preoccupied and so did not realize that too much blood was being taken from the men’s bodies. But then, when the soldiers began to hold them back, pushing them with their bodies and pointing pistols, which had appeared from nowhere, at their heads, they knew they too would be killed.
The men who were not already unconscious began to panic. They tried to pull the tubes out of their arms but the soldiers overpowered them, beating them about the head with the butts of their pistols. One soldier sliced cleanly through Jalloo’s wrist and threw it back onto his chest. The blood bubbled through his fingers as he tried to stop it. The mustachioed solider was nowhere to be found. Through his pain and confusion Jalloo searched for him, clutching his wound. They allowed him to get up from the mat because they knew he was bleeding out and would soon be dead. He staggered to his wives and daughter and collapsed at their feet as one held him and the other tried to stem the blood, which just kept flowing out of his wounds.
When it was over, there lay in the center of the village, where they had prayed an hour before, twenty-eight of the most able-bodied men and boys, drained of life. Some had been shot but most had simply been exsanguinated. The dust was thick with their blood, the smell of their blood clung to the still air. It was sickly sweet. Swarms of flies descended on the bodies and two vultures appeared and circled above the center of the village slowly. Suddenly the women heard a cry, as Saira burst out of her house carrying a knife. She charged at a soldier standing near the group of women and struck a blow to his neck. She did it with both hands and those standing closest heard her let out a grunt as she brought the knife down. All the strength she had went into that blow and it proved fatal for the soldier. She stood over his lifeless body. Suddenly she clutched her throat and made a terrible gurgling noise. She looked incredulous as the blood began to flow between her fingers from the wound in her neck. She fell to her knees and looked towards where the shot had come from. The soldier still held his quivering pistol up as if he was going to fire a second time. He looked to see all eyes on him and he felt the space in front of him stretch out and then close around him tightly. His chest and throat tightened; he dropped his pistol to the ground and began to shake. Another soldier picked up his pistol, took his arm and led him away, whispering to him that he had done the right thing. Saira died wide eyed, surprised, still clutching her throat. Her mother covered her face with the anchal of her pink sari.
Bappi thought dimly that the scene before him looked like a day in 1947 when cows were slaughtered in celebration of independence from the British. They had slaughtered twenty cows that day, the village square was red with their blood. The soldier with the mustache walked towards him.
“You see, old man, you were spared. I didn’t lie to you.”
Tears spilled down the old man’s cheeks as he watched the soldier command his men to line up and march out of the village in an orderly fashion. Some women watched them leave, others tried to revive their loved ones. When it was clear that no one survived, some of the women walked to the well to fetch water to wash the blood from the bodies. There was much to be done. An imam had to be located because the village cleric was dead, and all the bodies buried before the next day.
Jalloo’s second wife, a teenager, heavy with child, held his body. She had never loved Jalloo but she could not imagine her life without him. The muezzin’s call to evening prayer sounded distant. Some of the women covered their heads. No one moved to pray. The little boy who had played peek- a-boo with the soldiers sat in his doorway, sucking his thumb and staring at the scene before him. He got up unsteadily and walked to his mother. She picked him up and held him to her. He pushed up onto her shoulder so he could have a better look. He wanted to find his father, but the sun was beginning to set, the light had become dim and all he saw were shadows and people crowded around the others lying on the ground. Many years later, when this little boy was a father himself, his daughter would ask him if he believed in ghosts. “No”, he would say. “But vampires are real.”
I often say I'm an American because my family was forced to flee what was then East Pakistan in 1971. My young father's life was in danger because he was identified by the West Pakistani government, who didn't want to grant the nation independence, as someone who was fomenting anarchy. All intellectuals were targeted. He was on a hit list and so he had to pack up his new bride, her three young children and his new baby, me, and flee to the United States. The story I heard was that our Pan Am flight touched down in Karachi and he was taken off the plane by the police. My mother, who had been widowed once before, expected the worst. As she watched him being led off the plane she thought it would be the last time she would ever see him again. Fate, and American friends, intervened and he was questioned and released.
Growing up, trying to navigate both Bangladeshi culture and my Americanness, I didn't pay attention to the war of '71. But one story captured my imagination. The story goes: During the war, West Pakistani troops marched into a Bangladeshi village and tricked the men and boys into donating blood to them. When they started taking the blood, they kept going and drained every last one of them of life. This story haunted and terrified me, so much so that over a decade later it was a story I fictionalized and workshopped in graduate school. The line, "vampires are real" kept reverberating in my head. And so I wrote. I thought it was a legend I was inspired by. Perhaps because it is so horrific I couldn't imagine it would be fully true. Imagine my surprise when the editor of the Roanoke Review, Mary Crockett Hill, informed me that she found a Newsweek article dated August 1971 that described the murders of villagers through blood letting in the village of Haluaghat by the West Pakistani army. So, sadly, my story "Kurbani" is very much based on facts. The war for independence and ensuing genocide wrought upon the Bangladeshi people is a cornerstone of the Bangladeshi identity and frustratingly unknown to most of the world. My destiny was very much informed by it. I believe I am a storyteller, in part, because of it.
For more background on the political situation in East Pakistan in 1971, please see also "The Genocide the U.S. Can't Remember, But Bangladesh Can't Forget" by Lorraine Boissoneault, Smithsonian.com.
Sharbari’s fiction has appeared in The Gettysburg Review, The Asian Pacific American Journal, Catamaran, Caravan Magazine, Inroads, and Wasafiri, among others, and is forthcoming in Painted Bride Quarterly. She was on the writing team for Season One of the TV Series, “Quantico” on ABC. Her debut book The Ocean of Mrs. Nagai: Stories was released in November 2013 by Daily Star Books. She is on the faculty of the MFA program at Manhattanville College and the Film Television MA Program at Sacred Heart University.