3-Minute Interview: Tamim Ansary

The 60-year-old Bernal Heights resident grew up in Afghanistan but moved to America at 16. His memoir “West of Kabul, East of New York” is this year’s pick for The City’s “One City, One Book” citywide reading program.

Is this the first time one of your books has been chosen for a citywide reading program? This book was chosen also by Waco, Texas, a few years ago and another small town, Orland, in Illinois, but this is the first time a major city has picked it.

Do you think San Francisco will be a different audience? It’s more the natural audience. The book is my experience of fragmented and jagged identity. People in San Francisco are very familiar with that kind of issue. And, of course, the largest Afghan community outside Afghanistan is in the Bay Area.

What prompted you to write this book? I started writing the book a year or two before 9/11 and I wasn’t writing it with a sense of crisis. I was writing it as an exploration of identity. The more I delved into it, the more … I realized, I’m actually two guys, and I’ve never stopped being that other guy.

When is the last time you returned to Kabul, and how was it different from when you were a child? It was back in 2002. The physical destruction was just shocking. And yet, I feel like there were certain aspects of Afghan culture I remembered really well, and were still there — [such as] a certain kind of serenity that’s very sociable.

3-Minute InterviewBay Area NewsLocal

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Chelsea Hung, who owns Washington Bakery and Restaurant in Chinatown with her mother, said the restaurant is only making about 30 percent of pre-pandemic revenues. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Chinatown’s slow recovery has business owners fearing for the future

Lack of outside visitors threatens to push neighborhood into ‘downward spiral’

San Francisco Symphony Music Director Esa-Pekka Salonen and members of the orchestra were thrilled to be back inside Davies Symphony Hall on May 6 in a program for first responders featuring string works by Jean Sibelius, George Walker, Carl Nielsen, Caroline Shaw and Edward Grieg. (Courtesy Stefan Cohen/San Francisco Symphony)
SF Symphony makes joyful return to Davies Hall

Esa-Pekka Salonen conducts program for first responders and community leaders

Students in an after-school community hub move quickly through a social circle as they play a game at the Mission YMCA on Friday, May 7, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Parents scramble for ‘Summer Together’ spaces

City program offering free camps sees high demand, confusion over enrollment

Jazz pianist and composer Jon Jang is an instructor at Community Music Center in the Mission District. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Jon Jang composes bittersweet symphonies

Musician-activist’s works are steeped in civil rights history

Keith Doran, left, and the author celebrate a short but successful outing on El Capitan. (Courtesy photo)
Climb on: 50 lessons in 50 years, part 3

Series offers tips for adventurers seeking fulfillment outdoors

Most Read