"God bless your hands," I say as she rises.
"May the blessings be abundant as rain upon your own, she murmurs. Then I see her eyes widen as they fall upon my work. As she turns, her lips begin to move, and though her accent makes it difficult to be sure, I think that the prayer she whispers is of a different import entirely. I look down at my tablet then and try to see my work as it must appear to her. The doctor gazes back at me, his head tilted and his hand raised, fingering the curl of his beard as he does when he considers some matter that interests him. I have him, there is no doubt of it. It is an excellent likeness. One might say he lives.
No wonder the girl looked startled. It puts me in mind of my own astonishment when Hooman first showed me the likenesses in the paintings that had enraged the iconoclasts. But it is Hooman who would be astonished if he could see me now: me, a Muslim, in the service of a Jew. He did not think he was training me for such a fate. For myself, I have grown accustomed to it. At first, when I came here, I felt ashamed to be enslaved to a Jew. But now my shame is only that I am a slave. And it is the Jew, himself, who has taught me to feel this.
Reprinted by arrangement with Viking, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., from People of the Book Copyright © Geraldine Brooks, 2008
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