Thirty years after having to leave Afghanistan, my native land, I felt inclined to write about what was once known as the darling tourist destination of Asia. After many years of establishing my career and securing a good life for my family here in the United States, I wrote Lost Decency -The Untold Afghan Story.
In writing my memoir, I also took on the path of self-publishing by taking various courses, which helped me develop a project that became a labor of love, crafted carefully and authentically. I had been apprehensive and frankly shy about talking about myself as I wanted to focus on the plight of Afghanistan. After considering creating another historical opinion piece, I decided it would be better to write from first-hand experience. This approach engaged my natural storytelling abilities and enabled me to communicate with a sense of pride and passion for the innocence of a country caught in turmoil.
The decision to write in first person was certainly one of the best decisions I have made in life. I became more and more interested in writing, asking questions of my mother and sisters to validate certain events. This helped me further appreciate the joy of writing authentically about my roots, the family I dearly loved who lived an honest and decent life in what once was our dear Afghanistan.
Then came the request I never anticipated. The first manuscript was 135,000 words in length, and my editors advised me that memoirs were typically much shorter. As a first time writer I was stumped as to what to say or do next. I tried to convince them to keep my writing details intact but was told that I must shorten it or consider publishing two books.
I realized that I did not have time and resources to consider a second book and reluctantly started to trim my writing. I felt sick to my stomach as I tried to take a way so many valuable details and at times just thought of giving up. But I had already set a goal for myself with my family and did not want to let them down.
It was all worth it because my book Lost Decency - The Untold Afghan Story once published, ultimately became a finalist for IBPA’s first year Benjamin Franklin Award.
Readers contacted me and expressed a desire to learn more details about certain stories contained in the book. I have noticed quite a few powerful memoirs that contain more than 100,000 words.
I would appreciate hearing your viewpoints on the appropriate length of a good memoir. Also, what kind of stories would compel you to invest more time reading a lengthier work?