Monday, February 3, 2020

"It's a tender novel": Rajia Hassib on Hezada! I Miss You

Set against the fascinating backdrop of a traveling circus, Hezada! I Miss You is a meditation on sorrow—how people deal with it, how they attempt to escape from it, and how, for some, it’s inescapable. It’s a tender novel that should be read slowly, each line given the careful consideration it deserves for the beautiful, heartbreaking insights it holds.”

Rajia Hassib, author of In the Language of Miracles and A Pure Heart 


Rajia Hassib
Rajia Hassib and I have yet to meet. When I meet her, I'll first make sure she accepts hugs, and then I'll hug her so tightly. It will be one of those, stop-hugging-hold-shoulders-admire-the-hugged-then-hug-again hugs. A double hug. Triple hug. 

The first time I met her words was in a recommendation from my friend Michael Noll when he was running Books are not a Luxury. I bought In the Language of Miracles and fell in love with it. 

I fell hard. 

Then I sent her a note to thank her for the book. Because when you read a book so deeply considered in its rendering, so full in how it grows around you, you must thank the author. 

She responded. 
I felt wowed. 
(I've yet to achieve desensitization when encountering the walking gods I imagine writers to be.) 

Later, I gathered up my gumption and asked if she'd share an essay about her childhood library for the Summer Library Series. She said yes. And then commenced to write about her library: the world's most famous, if not first, library (read here). 

So. Wow.

Later, she wrote a piece for the Book Your Stocking series. And, again, she wrote it with the same seriousness that I'm learning marks all her work (read here).

In this way, the word appreciate--even when mining the depths of that word--does not begin to describe how I think about her. 

This is probably where I should have stopped asking her to write things. In a fairy tale, I would have known better. What has she asked of me? Nothing. Geez, Louise. 

I didn't know better, or I buy too hard the old "you-won't-know-if-you-don't-ask" wisdom, so I asked--I asked if she'd read Hezada! I Miss You. I just thought, the author of In the Language of Miracles would understand what I'm trying to do. 

Politeness says that you should not ask people you admire to do things. 
Then again, when you find a working writer whose work you admire to the moon, and she keeps writing back, don't you help hope by asking? 

Although, when recounting all of this to you, I clearly should have asked her where to send armfuls of gifts instead of yet another thing. I should have just sent her the book when it came out. 

But she did read it. And she saw it! She saw it the way I hoped when I used hope to get me through the hardest parts of the book. And as I have a very tense relationship with the novel, I think I need her words about it as much, if not more than, any reader. Perhaps it was my heart that asked her and elbowed my brain aside.

So, this is my plan: at the end of the Hezada! book tour, I'm disappearing for a while and taking A Pure Heart, Rajia's newest novel with me, which seems the better way to recover.