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Acceptance of Interracial Relationships
In Desert Heat and Native Tongue, my characters, Hugh Wilkes and Rustam Balkhi have several hurdles to leap. One of them, which is pretty damn high, is the fact that Balkhi is Muslim. It’s not a problem between the two of them—after all, Wilkes’ army career means he’s had lots of dealings with Muslims and is perfectly happy and comfortable in their company—but more an issue with other people.
Part of the story in Desert Heat is the reaction of some Muslim extremists to their countrymen acting as translators for the British Army. They don’t agree with helping the “infidels” and have been known to act violently—or worse—towards those that do. This is a very real worry for Balkhi, who has been working with the army for a while now, and knows he must consider whether it is safe for him to return to his home village and his family or not, or whether he’s putting himself and his relatives in danger.
Another thing that would certainly displease the extremists is the fact of Balkhi’s sexuality. Throughout the course of his and Wilkes’ story, something happens which reminds him how precarious his situation already is, and cements for him the fact that he will, for the time being at least, have to keep away from his family, and certainly not let them know he is gay. It’s hard for him, but he’s a practical man and knows it’s best for all concerned.
Wilkes, on the other hand, has a very open-minded family. They don’t yet know he’s gay, but although he’s pretty sure it won’t be an issue, the one thing he is sure of is that his family won’t have the slightest problem having an Afghan Muslim in their home. It may be a double whammy—discovering Wilkes is gay and dating someone of a different culture—but he’s grateful to know that at least he can still be safe in his childhood home with his family, unlike Balkhi.
Acceptance is something that varies from person to person, and while it’s a shame that Balkhi has such a tough time of it, it was important to me for the story to reflect real life situations.
Thank you so much for reading.