This article appeared in the August 19, 2022 edition of the Monitor Daily.

Read 08/19 edition

After 20 years, a writer reunites with teacher who helped him soar

Courtesy of Jamil Jan Kochai
Novelist Jamil Jan Kochai credits teacher Susan Lung (left) for teaching him not only to read English but also to love it, changing the direction of his life.
Peter Grier
Washington editor

“Let me tell you a story.”

That’s how Jamil Jan Kochai began. It was a natural opening – Mr. Kochai is a writer of fiction. His first book, “99 Nights in Logar,” is up for a national award for debut novels. His second, “The Haunting of Hajji Hotak and Other Stories,” has just come out.

But the Twitter thread he posted this week wasn’t fictional. It was a true story about language, learning, and those who help us along the way.

Mr. Kochai came to the United States with his parents from Pakistan as a small child. He did not speak a word of English. School was a struggle. When he entered second grade at an elementary school in the Sacramento area, he knew only 10 letters of the alphabet.

Ms. Lung made the difference. She stayed and helped him learn the language after almost every school day. By third grade he was winning reading awards.

Then Mr. Kochai and his family moved away. He thought about Ms. Lung often as he blossomed into a published author. He wanted to thank her. But they’d lost touch. He didn’t even know her first name.

He wrote about her help, and his search, in a literary publication when his first book was published. Long story short, last week after a book reading in California the teacher, Susan Lung, and student met in person for the first time in 20 years.

It was the kind of emotional ending good stories require.

“My father always used to say … that every child is a rocket filled with fuel and all they need is a single spark to lift off into the sky. Ms. Lung, he said, was my spark,” said Mr. Kochai.

This article appeared in the August 19, 2022 edition of the Monitor Daily.

Read 08/19 edition
You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.