“The problem with English is this: You usually can't open your mouth and it comes out just like that--first you have to think what you want to say. Then you have to find the words. Then you have to carefully arrange those words in your head. Then you have to say the words quietly to yourself, to make sure you got them okay. And finally, the last step, which is to say the words out loud and have them sound just right.
But then because you have to do all this, when you get to the final step, something strange has happened to you and you speak the way a drunk walks. And, because you are speaking like falling, it's as if you are an idiot, when the truth is that it's the language and the whole process that's messed up. And then the problem with those who speak only English is this: they don't know how to listen; they are busy looking at your falling instead of paying attention to what you are saying.”
“Look at the children of the land leaving in droves, leaving their own land with bleeding wounds on their bodies and shock on their faces and blood in their hearts and hunger in their stomachs and grief in their footsteps. Leaving their mothers and fathers and children behind, leaving their umbilical cords underneath the soil, leaving the bones of their ancestors in the earth, leaving everything that makes them who and what they are, leaving because it is no longer possible to stay. They will never be the same again because you cannot be the same once you leave behind who and what you are, you just cannot be the same.”
“Because we were not in our country, we could not use our own languages, and so when we spoke our voices came out bruised.”
“Look at them leaving in droves despite knowing they will be welcomed with restraint in those strange lands because they do not belong, knowing they will have to sit on one buttock because they must not sit comfortable lest they be asked to rise and leave, knowing they will speak in dampened whispers because they must not let their voices drown those of the owners of the land, knowing they will have to walk on their toes because they must not leave footprints on the new earth lest they be mistaken for those who want to claim the land as theirs. Look at them leaving in droves, arm in arm with loss and lost, look at them leaving in droves.”
“If you are stealing something it’s better if it’s small and hideable or something you can eat quickly and be done with, like guavas. This way, people can’t see you with the thing to be reminded that you are a shameless thief and that you stole it from them, so I don’t know what the white people were trying to do in the first place, stealing not just a tiny piece but a whole country. Who can ever forget you stole something like that?”
“Leaving your country is like dying, and when you come back you are like a ghost returning to earth, roaming around with missing gaze in your eyes”
“They will never be the same again because you just cannot be the same once you leave behind who and what you are, you just cannot be the same.”
“And when they asked us where we were from, we exchanged glances and smiled with the shyness of child brides. They said, Africa? We nodded yes. What part of Africa? We smiled. Is it that part where vultures wait for famished children to die? We smiled. Where the life expectancy is thirty-five years? We smiled? Is is there where dissidents shove AK-47s between women's legs? We smiled. Where people run about naked? We smiled. That part where they massacred each other? We smiled. Is it where the old president rigged the election and people were tortured and killed and a whole bunch of them put in prison and all, there where they are dying of cholera - oh my God, yes, we've seen your country; it's been on the news.”
“When things fall apart, the children of the land scurry and scatter like birds escaping a burning sky.”
“There are times, though, that no matter how much food I eat, I find the food does nothing for me, like I am hungry for my country and nothing is going to fix that”
“As for the coldness, I have never seen it like this. I mean, coldness that makes like it wants to kill you, like it's telling you, with its snow, that you should go back to where you came from.”
“Because we were not in our country, we could not use our own languages, and so when we spoke our voices came out bruised. When we talked, our tongues thrashed madly in our mouths, staggered like drunken men. Because we were not using our languages we said things we did not mean; what we really wanted to say remained folded inside. trapped. In America we did not always have the words. It was only when were were by ourselves that we spoke in our real voices. When we were alone we summoned the horses of our languages and mounted their backs and galloped past skyscrapers. Always, we were reluctant to come back.”
“I know that when she looks in the mirror she sees an ugly fat cow and that she hates her body because it’s not what it’s supposed to look like. This is why she is starving herself, which again her parents don’t know. I also know that if she cannot get out of eating she goes to the bathroom and vomits it all. It was all in her diary that I found hidden under the bed while I was cleaning her room; I read it because hidden things are meant to be discovered. I wonder how she lives, how she deals with the hunger, those long, terrible claws that dig and dig in your stomach until you can barely see, barely walk upright, barely think, and you would do anything, anything, for even just a crumb.”
“Others with names like myths, names like puzzles, names we had never heard before: Virgilio, Balamugunthan, Faheem, Abdulrahman, Aziz, Baako, Dae-Hyun, Ousmane, Kimatsu. When it was hard to say the many strange names, we called them by their countries.
So how on earth do you do this, Sri Lanka?
Mexico, are you coming or what?
Is it really true you sold a kidney to come to America, India?
Guys, just give Tshaka Zulu a break, the guy is old, I'm just saying.
We know you despise this job, Sudan, but deal with it, man.
Come, Ethiopia, move, move, move; Israel, Kazakhstn, Niger, brothers, let's go!”
“You pray and pray and pray and nothing changes, like for example I prayed for a real house and good clothes and a bicycle and things for a long, long, time, and none of it happened, not even one little thing, which is how I know that all this praying for Father is just people playing.”
“It's not the lying itself that makes me feel bad but the fact that I'm here lying to my friends.”
“When things fall apart, the children of the land scurry and scatter like birds escaping a burning sky. They flee their own wretched land so their hunger may be pacified in foreign lands, their tears wiped away in strange lands, the wounds of their despair bandaged in faraway lands, their blistered prayers muttered in the darkness of queer lands.”
“If these walls could talk, the buildings would stutter, wouldn't remember their names.”
“I think the reason they are my relatives now is they are from my country too - it's like the country has become a real family since we are in America, which is not our country”
“Heaven is boring. Didn't you see, in that picture book back when we used to go to school? It's just plain and white and there is not even any color and it's too orderly. Like there will be crazy prefects telling you all the time: Do thus, don't do that, where are your shoes, tuck in your shirt, shhh, God doesn't like it and will punish you, keep your voice low you'll wake the angels, go and wash, you are dirty, Bastard says.
Me, when I die I want to go where there's lots of food and music and a party that never ends and we're singing that Jobho song, Godknows says.”
“...and the women spread their ntsaroz and sit on one side, the men on the other, like they are two different rivers that are not supposed to meet.”
“If Messenger would be to open his mouth right now, his voice would be a terrible wound.”
“Aunt Fostalina says when she first came to America she went to school during the day and worked nights at Eliot’s hotels, cleaning hotel rooms together with people from countries like Senegal, Cameroon, Tibet, the Philippines, Ethiopia, and so on. It was like the damn United Nations there, she likes to say.”
“Further and further we go, and the sun keeps ironing us and ironing us and ironing us.”
“We're hungry but we're together and we're at home and everything is sweeter than dessert.”
“That crown on her head is very heavy, that's why she is smiling like that, smiling like she just ate a whole bunch of unripe guavas. It's heavy because it's made of gold, Godknows says.
I thought crowns were made of thorns. I saw a picture of it in the Bible, when they were killing Jesus, Sbho says.”
“Why do you want to see her thing? Don't you have yours to look at if you really want to see one?”
“Now when the men talk, their voices burn in the air, making smoke all over the place. We hear about change, about new country, about democracy, about elections and what-what.
They talk and talk, the men, lick their lips and look at the dead watches on their wrists and shake their hands and slap each other and laugh like they have swallowed thunder.”
“He doesn't tell Aunt Fostalina she looks good, like I've heard other people do; he tells her she looks like sunrise.”
“Heroism's just doing more than you want to do or think you can. Sometimes it's just doing the crappy things, the unhappy things other people won't do....It's not just jumping out of a plane onto a glacier ten thousand feet up because there's nobody else there to do it. It's getting out of bed in the morning when it seems like too much trouble.”
“So, if I'm no cheerleader of sports, why write a chapter about it? Sports do have some positive impact on society. They solve problems, such as how to get inner-city kids to spend $175 on shoes. They serve as a backdrop for some of our most memorable commercials. And they remain the one and only relevant application of math. Not only that, but we have sports to thank for most of the last century's advances in manliness. The system starts in school, where gym class separates the men from the boys. Then those men are taught to be winners, or at least, losers that hate themselves.”
“Isn't it fun when one's friends get exactly what suits them?”
“It wasn't a perfect body but it was the body she deserved. Not just from every bar of chocolate or bag of crisps or laden plate of food that she'd eaten. This body was also testament to all the hours in the gym and cycling up hills on her bike and glugging down two litres of water a day and learning to love vegetables and fruits that didn't come as optional extra with a pastry crust. She'd earned this body.
This was her body and she had to stop giving it such a hard time.”
“The Earl and Countess of Langford!"
That announcement caused an immediate reaction among the inhabitants of the ballroom, who began looking at one another in surprise and then turned to the balcony, but it was nothing compared to the reaction among the small group of seven people who'd been keeping a vigil of hope. A jolt went through the entire group; hands reached out blindly and were clasped tightly by other hands; faces lifted to the balcony, while joyous smiles dawned brightly and eyes misted with tears.
Attired in formal black evening clothes with white waistcoat and frilled white shirt, Stephen Westmoreland, Earl of Langford, was walking across the balcony. On his arm was a medieval princess clad in a pearl-encrusted ivory satin gown with a low, square bodice that tapered to a deep V at the waist. A gold chain with clusters of diamonds and pearls in each link rode low on her hips, sawying with each step, and her hair tumbled in flaming waves and heavy curls over her shoulders and back.”
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