A Thousand Splendid Suns starts with a term of abuse thrown at one of the protagonists — Mariam — by her mother: "harami." The word means illegitimate and would be deeply hurtful to someone from a culture that prizes patriarchy. To be without her father's name and patronage is Mariam's curse. It shapes her character and her destiny. What is interesting is that despite Jalil Khan's rejection and Nana's warnings, Mariam worships her father. Her feelings for Nana are more ambivalent. Nana's depression and epilepsy make her a difficult parent but she tries to forearm Mariam by telling her, " ... a man's accusing finger always finds a woman. Always." Mariam will remember this all her life.
- What does the location (on the outskirts of Gul Daman) of the hut that Nana and Mariam live in tell us about their position in Jalil's life and in the community?
- What kind of a mother is Nana? Do you believe Nana's account of Mariam's birth?
- Can we understand Jalil's refusal to see his daughter when she comes to Herat? Could he have been thinking of her welfare by arranging her marriage to Rasheed?
- What is your take on Mullah Faizullah explanation of Nana's behavior? Is Nana a sympathetic character?