Talk Till The Minutes Run Out: An Immigrant's Tale at 7-Eleven

Benedicte Grima

Book Cover

GENRE

HISTORICAL FICTION CRIME

    Core Theme

    FAMILY STRUGGLE

    TIME PERIOD

    2000s,1980s & '90s

    COMPARABLE TITLES

    AMERICA AMERICA, BROOKLYN (2015), THE IMMIGRANT TALE

    CHARACTER LIST

    β€’ NUR ALI: EARLY 50S. PATRIARCH, NERVOUS, HARDWORKING, HOMESICK

    β€’ SHAHGOFTA: NUR ALI'S WIFE, LATE 40'S, MATRIARCH, STRONG, SMART BUT UNEDUCATED

    β€’ MADMAD ALI: NUR ALI'S BROTHER, 40S, ANTAGONIST, SELFISH, DESIRE TO PUSH OUT NUR ALI'S FAMILY

    β€’ MICHAEL: NUR ALI'S COWORKER, LATE 20S, CHRISTIAN FROM PESHWAR, HELPFUL, ATTENTIVE

    β€’ IQBAL: NUR ALI'S ELDEST SON, 30S, ALOOF, FOOLHARDY, NAIVE

    β€’ BACHA GUL: NUR ALI'S FRIEND: 40-50S, GOSSIP FRIEND, FELLOW PASHTUN, ALSO 7-ELEVEN EMPLOYEE

    Logline

    Using prepaid phone cards, aging patriarch Nur Ali, exile from Swat, from his 7-Eleven counter where he has worked 12-hr night shifts 7 days a week for 15 years, manages his family and guides them through life and turmoils in the village between 2009 and 2011.

    Target Audiences

    Age: 18-34,35-54,55+

    Target Gender: Universal

    Setting

    7-Eleven convenience store in U.S., Village in Swat, Pakistan.

    Based on a True Story

    Yes

    Publishing Details

    Status: Yes: with a Publisher

    Publisher: HigherLife

    Year Published: 2019

    Starting Description

    Nur Ali is on the phone with another Pakistani exile at his 7-Eleven across town. They discuss a recent arrest and deportation, and lament the slander their community is increasingly met with.

    Ending Description

    Homesick, and having endured being absent for his son's weddings, his family's move from their village to Karachi, and his grandson's death, Nur Ali, knowing he runs the risk of being arrested upon arrival, boards a plane. A man beside asks where he is headed. "Home."

    Group Specific

    Muslim immigrants, politically-minded, immigration activists, Middle East interested

    Hard Copy Available

    No

    ISBN

    978-1-7332289-8-5 (paperback); 978-1-7332289-9-2 (ebook)

    Mature Audience Themes

    Information not completed

    Plot - Other Elements

    Other

    Plot - Premise

    Tragedy

    Main Character Details

    Name: Nur Ali. He has a stress-related skin ailment, and is constantly scratching his arms. He wears a straggly beard and baggy clothes purchased at Goodwill. He co-workers complain that he is rude to customers, dirty, and smells.

    Age: 50s

    Gender: Male

    Role: Protagonist

    Key Traits: Masculine,Uneducated,Patriotic,Religious,Blunt,Desperate,Faithful,Naive,Leader,Strong Moral Code,Complex

    Additional Character Details

    Name: Shahgofta

    Age: 50s

    Gender: Female

    Role: Sidekick

    Key Traits: Modest,Obedient,Uneducated,Confident,Religious,Faithful,Flexible,Blunt

    Additional Character Details

    Name: Bacha Gul

    Age: 50s

    Gender: Male

    Role: logical

    Key Traits: Masculine,Obedient,Uneducated,Confident,Religious,Patriotic,Selfless

    Additional Character Details

    Name: Mahmad Ali

    Age: 50s

    Gender: Male

    Role: antagonist

    Key Traits: Masculine,Uneducated,Villainous,Aggressive,Narcisstic,Manipulative,Unapologetic

    Development Pitch

    With immigration issues leading the headlines, this story gives readers new engaging insight on what it's like to be a Muslim living in the U.S. The character, Nur Ali, differs from most characters of immigration literature who tell their own story as one of struggle and ultimate success with assimilation. His story, told by an anthropologist familiar not only with his exiled life but his home life in rural Pakistan, represents that of an entire culture of underground exiles living and working under the radar, here only to earn what they cannot back home, send money home, and return to retire. He is respected among the exile community, who turn to him for many matters. He is easy to envision, either interacting with other exiles in his community, or on the phone with family in his village in Swat, Pakistan. He speaks minimal English and is even shown interacting with U.S. law enforcement when reporting store robberies. Action is advanced via telephone conversations on the store landline. His despair grows as the story progresses.

    Brief

    Using prepaid phone cards, aging patriarch Nur Ali, exile from Swat, from his 7-Eleven counter where he has worked 12-hr night shifts 7 days a week for 15 years, manages his family and guides them through life and turmoils in the village between 2009 and 2011. Hardship and misfortune drive him to his breaking point, and Nur Ali does all he can to make his way back to his family in Pakistan.

    What We Liked

    - The story is a tale of exile and family suffering. The patriarch leaving the family to provide for them will resonate with many families in America and is certainly familiar to many immigrant communities who have made the same sacrifices;
    - This story is definitely paced more naturally for a dramatic film. A majority of the story is told through dialogue, visualizations of the protagonist's home, and the flashbacks he has of this beloved place;
    - The drama fluctuates between store robberies and the threat of deportation in America, juxtaposed by familial drama and Pakistani army encroachment on the family based on false accusations. The payoff would come late in the film, just after the death of a beloved new
    grandson where the characters are all rushing to secure their lives before they derail completely;
    - For TV, think Breaking Bad pace but entirely over cell phone conversations. It could reasonably be turned into drama with enough hyperbole at each of the numerous points of misfortune that take place in the protagonist's family.

    Synopsis

    Nur Ali (known as Qaida or Qaidada) is an exiled patriarch of a large Pushtan family in Pakistan. Living far from his family, he works tirelessly as the night cashier at a 7-Eleven somewhere in the Eastern US. The story takes place from 2009-11 where Nur Ali struggles to maintain control of his family as they lose interest in helping one another. His health is always in flux, but he cannot afford to get sick if he is to keep his family afloat so he works through his pain, relying on the hours of phone calls he has with family and friends to keep him sane.

    The second act takes place around the time when Nur Ali's wife notices threat from the Pakistani army who are looking for Nur Ali's brothers. The men are supposed Taliban sympathizers and the army has come to arrest them. Nur Ali moves his wife and some of his in-laws to Karachi with his maternal cousin to help them handle the army threat and the birth of a new grandson. Chaos ensues as Nur Ali's brothers go rogue and try to usurp the family compound and the role of Qaida or patriarch.

    A year of division and bad weather force the family into near poverty and Nur Ali has had enough. He is emotionally void and desperate to go home. He begins reaching out to family he has helped, but no one will repay him for his generosity. He stops sending them all money, and the family sees him as a failure. Instead he saves only for his nuclear family and his plane ticket home to Pakistan.

    A wreck of nerves and anxiety, Nur Ali sees no way to avoid blow after blow. His family is in shambles, broke and his newest grandson has died of a lung infection. He saves quietly for months, tells no one, and then with the help of a few friends, leaves for Pakistan with the US gov't following his every move home.

    About The Author

    Benedicte Grima did ethnographic fieldwork over a ten year period in the Swat Valley in Pakistan and wrote the book out of these findings. The author has also written The Performance of Emotion among Paxtun Women, published in 1992 by University of Texas Press.