Susan Muaddi Darraj won the American Book Award for her short story collection, A Curious Land: Stories from Home (2015), which depicts the lives of Palestinians over the course of nearly a century. A Curious Land also received the Arab American Book Award and the Grace Paley Prize for Short Fiction. Her first book, The Inheritance of Exile, was published in 2007. A former literary magazine editor, Darraj currently serves as a board member of the Radius of Arab American Writers (RAWI) and a committee member of the One Maryland One Book program. She is an Associate Professor of English at Harford Community College, and she teaches in the graduate writing programs at Johns Hopkins University and Fairfield University.
Brotherly Love, 2018
Dressed for work, George came down the stairs. His parents weren’t talking, so he took some bread, slathered some hummus on it, and jammed it into his lunch tin.
“Have a good day,” he said to silence. Mama shuffled around in the kitchen, slamming dishes, wearing her martyr expression, and Baba sat drinking his coffee. As George shut the door, he heard his mother mutter to no one, “She’s not getting my gold.”
He headed down 16th, then to Shunk Street towards Broad. His work boots felt heavy on his feet, and he wished he’d worn his short-sleeved uniform shirt because it was still warm for September.
There were two cars to work on today — a transmission job on a ‘70 Chevelle. Easy. The other one was more tricky — a ‘61 Buick Electra that wouldn’t start, and its owner was worried like it was his child. It would take George most of the day to experiment, to figure it out. That’s why he loved mechanical work — he liked puzzles that actually had a solution. That felt fair.
Today, when he arrived, Mr. Lerner would ask him how things were going with Linda. When George told him he’d proposed, he’d say in a drawl, “Aaaand?” Then George would say, “She said yes,” and Mr. Lerner would offer him a firm handshake, tell him women ruin your lives, and then chuckle and say, “Go on, clock in.”
That would be it — that was how people normally reacted to good news. No yelling. No tears. No “You haven’t given any of the girls at church a chance.” That was his mother. His father had just stared at him in shocked silence, until Mrs. Khoury yelled, exasperated, “Talk! Say something to your son.”
And Mr. Khoury had sighed, and muttered only, “This was always my nightmare about America.”