The premise for99 Nights in Logarcame from one very vivid memory of a fearsome family guard dog. "He was this massive, beastly dog and he hated me for some reason," says author Jamil Jan Kochai.
Kochai was born in Pakistan and grew up in the U.S. As a kid, he traveled to Logar, Afghanistan, to visit with his family. One day, the guard dog got loose. "He was such a powerful dog that they were literally afraid he might kill someone," Kochai recalls.
As his cousins, uncles and father looked for the dog, Kochai and his brother sat under a mulberry tree. "I still remember the trees, and the winds, and watching the fields," he says. "The sun was setting at the time and it gave the land this like magical, overwhelming hue."
This memory inspired99 Nights in Logar— a coming-of-age novel about a boy named Marwand who embarks on a quest to find a missing dog during a family visit to Afghanistan.
Kochai talks with NPR about how he constructed the novel's multi-layered stories, and about how he hopes the book will help counter some American misconceptions about the country.
On what inspired him to write stories within stories in his novel
I was about halfway through the novel, about 100 pages in ... and I was just stuck there. I was staring at the screen, I was staring at these blank pages, I didn't know where to go. And it was around that time that I readOne Thousand and One Nights.... It had been sitting on my shelf for years and years. ... I was just so blown away — by not only just the stories of the novel itself ... but of the stories within the stories, and the stories within those stories. ...