An Indies Introduce Q&A with Khashayar J. Khabushani

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Khashayar J. Khabushani is the author of I Will Greet the Sun Again, a Summer/Fall 2023 Indies Introduce selection.

Khabushani was born in Van Nuys, California, in 1992. During his childhood he spent time in Iran before returning to Los Angeles. He studied philosophy at California State University, Northridge, and prior to completing his MFA at Columbia University he worked as a middle school teacher. This is his first novel.

Wes Minter of Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park, Washington, served on the panel that selected Khabushani’s debut for Indies Introduce. “I am absolutely awestruck by the beauty of this debut,” Minter said of the experience. “A tale of sexual and cultural awakening that unfolds in slow time, with a beauty and easy lilt that instill a sense of great peace in the reader. Balancing the character's vulnerabilities with a fortitude of self and profound familial affections, Khabushani paints a compassionate portrait of youth with an immediacy and generosity that make this book universal.”

Here, Khabushani and Minter discuss I Will Greet the Sun Again.

Wes Minter: I Will Greet the Sun Again is full of incredibly detailed moments in K’s coming-of-age but is there a particular scene or detail in the novel that, once committed to the page, stands out as an anchor in the book, revealing what you as the writer wanted K’s journey to reflect?

Khashayar J. Khabushani: Midway in the book there is a scene that takes place in the bathroom, and bathtub, between K and Johnny — his closest friend, childhood neighbor — which, for me, serves as an anchor in K’s coming-of-age journey. I felt it was very important that K inhabit and pursue the sexual desires he holds and carries for Johnny, even if the outcome of acting on those desires didn’t entirely align with his wants, and expectations. It was the gesture, I believed, and willingness to act that mattered most. If he was willing to act on his sexual desires, I asked myself, what else would he be willing to do? To me, I see this bathroom scene as a portal, or pathway, into a life of adolescence and young adulthood K dreamed of having for himself.

WM: The story is K’s, but the book is host to a supporting cast of characters, each rich and beguiling in their own right. Was there a personality in K’s world who was particularly enjoyable (or difficult) to write?

KJK: Ugh, I love having this chance to spend time thinking of the story’s characters. I love them all, really.

My gut says that it was Justin — K’s older brother, the middle child — who brought me the most joy, and difficulty, to write. He is both a deeply loving and hurtful character. He brings comfort to K as an older brother, but also invokes confusion, sadness, harm. In some moments K looks up to Justin, admires him; in others, K wants to be nothing like him. To capture the fullness of Justin was a difficult, fulfilling endeavor.

WM: One of the book’s distinct powers is your ability to move the reader through many years so smoothly with a fairly compact page count. Were there challenges in abbreviating parts of K’s story or was the book’s timeline clear throughout the process?

KJK: In this regard I’m especially grateful for my editor. She saved me from myself! It’s funny how it goes: on one hand, I envisioned and wanted the chapters to be even shorter / more abbreviated than they are (I was deeply influenced and in awe of We the Animals and The House on Mango Street); on the other hand, during the revision process, I couldn’t stop expanding, adding different elements of K’s story, as he grows up, in regards to his relationship with his father, and his closest friend, and of course with his mother and two older brothers. The story is told through the eyes of K, in his voice, and yet I was equally drawn to the supporting cast of characters — their wants, despairs, and joys over the years — and so, yes, I found it to be so challenging and at times felt incredibly lost as to how to contain and move forward this story which, for me, is driven by deep, deep emotion.

WM: A lot of pivotal moments in the novel take place in or around water. Was there a symbolic significance to this recurring imagery?

KJK: In my experience with Islamic prayer, and this was especially the case as a boy, I felt and feel especially moved by the role water plays. (I’m pointing to wudu, the ritualistic time set aside before prayer to clean and purify oneself prior to stepping before God). In the book, I wanted to show K as he moved through the process of wudu, as he learned of the significance it has, but also, when he’s in the ocean, or the bathtub, or in the stream with his brothers in northern Iran, I saw water acting in the way it is used for wudu: a chance for K to be cleansed (especially after a harrowing encounter of abuse with his father), and also, as a kind of portal which allows him to both find and forget himself.

WM: In K’s voice, you write, “[...] when I’m older I’ll get to write how I want to write, stories that aren’t old or long or in English that’s hard to understand. I want to write using my rules and not the way Baba says I’m supposed to, perfect and neat.” Can you share any rules you yourself followed to create this magnificent book?

KJK: Ahhh. I love this question so much. In writing this book, I felt that capturing K’s voice — a voice that maintained momentum, openness and deep, deep honesty — was the most important element of it all. And if that meant using limited diction, or specific, unusual syntax, or stripping away quotation marks, whatever it took — even if it meant writing in a way that differed from my literary heroes and influences, those who, to begin with, gave me the courage to even start writing — I was willing to follow these set of principles, in service of K.

I Will Greet the Sun Again by Khashayar J. Khabushani (Hogarth, 9780593243305, Hardcover Fiction, $27) On Sale: 8/1/2023.

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