Question: How did you choose your characters?
Fassihi: Well, you know, it was… I thought a lot about what, who I would put in the book and what stories I would follow. There were several obvious characters such as the Nasser family, a Christian family whom I got to know from 2002 when I first went to Iraq, right up to the time that I left, and [Amal Haddad] who was an art gallery owner. These were people that I had become very good friends with and I spent a lot of time with, so it was easy to track what had happened to their lives. I’ve seen it intimately. There were also several other characters that I wanted to include. I tried to make sure that everyone was represented, you know, that I will have Sunni characters in my book and Shia characters because so much of what has happened in Iraq really depends on who you ask. People have different opinions and their experience of the US invasion and the aftermath is different based on, you know, what a sectarian line, if I [want to]. So, the book has a story of two young Shia clerics that I’ve befriended after the invasion, who quickly rose to the top of the Shia hierarchy and to prominent positions. And also some Sunni, the Sunnis, our Sunnis staff and Sunni tribal leaders. So, I really tried to pick, you know, characters who were really representative of Iraqis and the experience that they were going through.