"Talk Till The Minutes Run Out" w/ Benedicte Grima

Please join us for a reading & discussion with

Author of


Every day we encounter employees of gas stations, donut and fried chicken shops, convenience stores and driving companies.  Often on their phone. Ever wonder what they talk about? Meet the illegal immigrant who works 12-hour shifts behind a convenience store counter seven days a week for cash. Enter the mind and soul of a man who, on the phone while handling customers, orchestrates his family as clan elder back in his village in the northern mountains of Pakistan.  Witness American inner-city culture as he sees it and reports it back home. Experience the downfall of a victim of the great immigrant dream: making money in America to send home and then returning to retire rich in his homeland. For this one immigrant, the myth slowly crumbles around him after fifteen years of estrangement while slowly amassing a fortune.  He differs from the protagonists of most immigrant literature in that he harbors no aspirations to assimilate into American culture.
The story is set in an inner city 7-Eleven, from where Nur Ali runs his life in the village, and communicates his impressions of America to his wife, SHAHGOFTA. The main character is developed by way of telephone dialogues with his wife and with co-workers like BACHA GUL, and other colleagues in the immigrant community, as well as interactions with law enforcement and store customers. The novel toggles between current time in the 7-Eleven and his life in Pakistan, covering home and family, work, life in America, his immigrant status, and his eventual return home.  

“Novelist Benedicte Grima has taken an under-represented world she knows well from her own work over several decades as folklorist and ethnographer and offered up the reader a rare and stunning glimpse of those islands of immigrants who survive abroad while not assimilating to their foreign surroundings.  Seen through the eyes of the well-meaning, bumbling, unprepared and deeply culturally entrenched family patriarch…this is an important story for our times and should be read by anyone who wants to understand more deeply what it means to belong in our vastly interconnected world.”-Beebe Bahrami, Anthropologist and Author of books: Camino de Santiago, The Spirtual Traveler, Café Oc, and Café Neanderthal.

About the author

From her website: "I am a published writer, who spent a career as a linguist (professor, translator/interpreter). Born in Algeria of Francophone parents, I was raised bilingual (English and French), and spent a lifetime of travel in Africa, Asia, Europe and the U.S. I underwent intensive training and degrees in Iranian languages (Persian & Pashto at the Institut de Langues Orientales). My anthropological fieldwork in Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as among exiled communities, over ten years, yielded two books and several articles. Trained as a writer (Bard College) and anthropologist (Univ of Pennsylvania), I have blended the two skills to produce life stories. I am currently completing a fiction novel about a Pashtun immigrant at a convenience store. I also combine the arts of writing with anthropological interviewing to write/ghostwrite memoirs. I’ve helped clients, mostly the elderly, to organize and write their life stories. I have also begun writing my own memoir which I will not complete and submit for publication yet."
Event date: 
Monday, January 27, 2020 - 6:30pm to 8:00pm
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