I am an award-winning playwright who writes about people caught between cultures.
TO THE DEATH OF MY OWN FAMILY is an intensely dramatic nonlinear play about an Afghan-American woman who returns to Afghanistan to help her father escape, only to witness the carnage of her entire family. Upon her return to the U.S., she is detained, interrogated, and forced to justify her journey in order to reclaim her citizenship. We then learn about a deeper, darker secret that has haunted the family for many years, but which they do not want to confront until they are forced to confront each other in the face of death. It is a one-woman show with over 20 characters, but it is not a monologue; rather, time is suspended and no one in the audience knows how long they have been in the theater. In actual time, it runs over an hour in 41 pages, but you would never know it. It also has an alternative structure with more characters, equally as powerful.
9/12 begins with a family celebration: an anniversary and the announcement of a young woman’s engagement to be married. It is followed the next day by the unexpected death of that same young woman, Bayan Daoud, a Middle Eastern graduate student whose life exemplifies the dreams of every immigrant, but now portends the disintegration of the U.S. constitution and redefines what it means to be American. When Naomi Leonard, the student’s mentor and a professor at a prestigious New York City university, learns of Bayan’s death, she is unnerved. It can’t be true. Neither can she get any specific information about how it occurred. And as the parents of two college-age children, friends of Bayan, Naomi doesn’t know what to think or say. So her husband Larry, a writer born and raised in Brooklyn, wants to take immediate action and go directly to the dean of her department to discuss it “Brooklyn” style. Instead, Naomi talks him out of it and tells him to go finish his latest novel at the library. On his way, however, Larry chooses to stop at one of his usual haunts to play pool and where he often works out the plot lines of his fiction.
Thus begins a journey that never quite gets Larry to his destination. Because of certain books in his backpack on the infrastructure of New York City, which he is using for research on how terrorists could use the Internet to destroy the city, Larry Leonard is detained in some abandoned subterranean room not far from the subway platform. He is interrogated about his extensive travels and teaching in countries in various parts of the world, especially in Asia when he was in the Peace Corps. Naomi, who was born and raised in Japan, but is a naturalized American and has a personal history that does not exactly conform to the pattern of the usual immigrant, is taken into custody. Within moments, they become the subjects of an intense and secret investigation in the bowels of the New York City subway system where they are cut off from the outside world.
Then their lives are completely torn apart: their daughter Mariko, an undergraduate at Brown, and their son, David, a graduate student at Yale, are whisked away from their studies and brought in for questioning. As a result, the privacy and civil liberties of the Leonard family are decimated in the name of Homeland Security because of circumstances both past and present which, under normal conditions, would not raise questions in a free society, but which now threaten to destroy everything the Leonard family has lived and worked for, and no one in the Leonard family will give in.
Also isolated are the interrogators: a senior male agent who spent time, perhaps too much time, fighting in and out of Vietnam; and a black female agent who cannot escape a heritage that she despises. Thus, as the lives of the characters begin to unravel, the layered nuances of a multi-ethnic society reveal a see