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15 Years Ago, America Destroyed My Country

When I was 12, Saddam Hussein, vice president of Iraq at the time, carried out a huge purge and officially usurped total power. I was living in Baghdad then, and I developed an intuitive, visceral hatred of the dictator early on. That feeling only intensified and matured as I did. In the late 1990s, I wrote my first novel, “I’jaam: An Iraqi Rhapsody,” about daily life under Saddam’s authoritarian regime. Furat, the narrator, was a young college student studying English literature at Baghdad University, as I had. He ends up in prison for cracking a joke about the dictator. Furat hallucinates and imagines Saddam’s fall, just as I often did. I hoped I would witness that moment, whether in Iraq or from afar.  Read more.

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When Ferns Were All The Rage

Every autumn, Victorians swarmed into the woods to collect ferns. From the 1850s until Queen Victoria’s demise, pteridomania (meaning “fern mania”) engulfed Victorians on both sides of the Atlantic. Almost every house had a potted fern. Those who could afford to, kept rare fern varieties “under the ample bell-glass, or in the Wardian case… to enliven the parlor window in the wintry season of the year.”  There were fern books, fern societies, and florists bulked out floral arrangements with ferns. Fern-collecting went beyond past-time to become an occupation.  Read more.