Turning the page to a new reality

October 1, 2005

Always with a love for epic tales, Steven E. Wilson, MD, was, like many, deeply affected by the terrorist attacks of Sept 11, 2001. The events inspired Dr. Wilson to publish his first novel, "Winter in Kandahar."

The refractive and corneal specialist was traveling in Europe in September 2001 and watched from Amsterdam as the horrific events in the United States unfolded.

"It was an amazing week for me-being around Europeans during that time," said Dr. Wilson, director of corneal research at the Cole Eye Institute of the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, OH. "I saw an outpouring of love and support for us [Americans]."

Tale of reality

The novel is an adventure story and a romance that overlays reality. Dr. Wilson uses the history of Afghanistan to explain current affairs and to develop his characters. By using a real place and its real issues, the adventure is both a great read and a valuable lesson.

"It [story] starts off as a total 'guy' novel," Dr. Wilson said. "But, it tells another side of what has happened in Afghanistan: How ordinary people have been affected by 9/11."

The story begins in August 2001 in Talogan, Afghanistan, a place where ethnic divisions have festered for centuries between the Tajik and Pashtun groups. The protagonist of the novel is a young Tajik fighter, Ahmed Jan. He is part of the Northern Alliance, fighting against the Taliban, and is ordered to report to Commander Ahmed Shah Massoud, the "Lion of Panjshir." He reaches Massoud in time to be present for the commander's assassination by al-Qaida terrorists on Sept. 9, 2001.

"It's a story about what happens to people when their lives are forever changed by world-altering events," Dr. Wilson said. "It is also a story of hope."

He explained that Ahmed Jan is a dreamer who initially believes in a peaceful future for the Tajik people and all people of Afghanistan.

"He is courageous and matures into a great leader. He is persistent in the face of overwhelming odds. He has a kind heart and complete devotion for his true love. These are also his biggest weaknesses," said the author.

Dr. Wilson took from this writing project a deep appreciation for the Islamic religion.

"Islam is a peaceful religion. It's been 'hijacked' by a small group of fundamentalist zealots," Dr. Wilson said. "We cannot blame peace-loving Muslims for the transgressions of these few. Those who read 'Winter in Kandahar' will have a better understanding of this."

Adding a new voice

"Winter in Kandahar" was a 2004 Benjamin Franklin Award Finalist for Best New Voice in Fiction.