I was seeking the latest book by my Sultana’s Dream editor Hanifa Deen’s when I found On the Trail of Taslima. This is a biography of Taslima Nasreen, a former medical doctor and protest writer who shot to fame in 1993 when her book was banned and a warrant issued for her arrest in her homeland of Bangladesh.
Taslima Nasreen is a woman not of her place and time. Bold and fearless she found her voice writing about the injustice women in Bangladesh faced. The way they are silenced by tradition and religious expectations. Falling foul of community standards and culture, she stumbles into a legal nightmare when participating in an interview that quotes her saying the Quran should be revised. Despite her clarification that she was misquoted and was actually referring to Hadiths, sayings and acts by prophet Mohammed used to understand the Quran, the damage is done. Religious Mullahs with their own agendas use her misstep to bring a case of blasphemy against her.
After tense negotiations and facing the possibility of extensive time in jail Taslima becomes a writer in asylum in Sweden and her new life as the poster child against Muslim fundamentalism for the West begins. Hailed as the next Salman Rushdie by the ‘Dragon Slayers,’ the human rights fighters that rescued her, they find that Taslima the woman falls short of Taslima the myth.
Deen writes the book like a detective novel subtly piecing together the pieces of the puzzle about who Taslima actually is-a writer, human rights activist, unconventional woman, professional victim, or opportunist. As she charts Taslima’s rise to prominence and uncovers the power plays behind her leaving Bangladesh, she also pinpoints the gullibility of the media in being too quick to chase the next story to undertake fact checking, and the eagerness of the West to embrace an opportunity that confirms their own prejudices.
I got caught up in this book and couldn’t put it down. As a writer it was also fascinating to think about some of the observations and questions Deen posed as she tried to peel back Taslima. Can a writer actually survive being in exile when their voice and soul is shaped by place? As a writer should we be governed by the ethos of freedom of speech, or censor ourselves? And the one I grappled with the most, if your writing has the opportunity to change the world in some way, do you put everything on the line, including your life?
On the Trail of Taslima is a complex tale and one that says much about our expectations of writers as well as women.
For more information or to order a copy go to Hanifa's website.
What I've been reading
Tor is a friend from my writing group. The Light Heart of the Stone is a fantasy novel, set in the world of the Stone Body, a continent on which plants and animals need human companions in order to thrive.
For more than one thousand years, the Companionaris and the Indidjinies have lived side-by-side. The colonising Companionaris control the talent for growing plants and breeding animals. The colonised Indidjinies own the land.
In order to achieve a balance a high price is paid by the Indidjiny who must give up their offspring with talent and indenture themselves to the Companionaris in order to live on the land. This is a very Australian fantasy novel that parallels Australian history and the story of Colonial invasion and Indigenous loss into another world. It has magic, romance and stories that echo the dreamtime fables. This is a great read and a well crafted world.
For more info go here.
some writing things
At the Etchings Launch in Embiggen Books reading from Woman on Fire. Photo by Amanda Summons Photography.
It's been a big week and I'm still recovering. I finished university and I am now officially on the path to being a teacher. It feels so amazing to finally have reached this point and have it all behind me and my future as a teacher in front of me.
Last week was marred by a pretty nasty virus that I'm still not completely recovered from so I don't feel like I've had the time to properly take this in or even to celebrate.
However, on Thursday night I managed to go to the Etchings launch which I was so excited about. My memoir piece Woman on Fire is published in the issue and my husband's short story When I am Dead White was also published in the same edition. Such a lovely moment. I managed to do a reading and it was so nice to be a part of the writing community with all these other wonderful writers.
The theme of Etchings is Visual Eyes and so there are two covers for this edition and you can see me posing with both. It's almost like a his and hers version.
Kevin Brophy launched the issue and he said that today a book is becoming an art form and the Etchings journal is the most beautifully produced journal in Australia, and I couldn't agree more. Looking forward to reading the whole issue and finding out what gems await me. To view the issue click here.
Last week was also big because I very ambitiously embarked on Nano. I can only blame it on the illness affecting my mind at the time. I was a Nano success story for three days, and then stopped. It's just not the right time. I'm burnt out from study and dealing with the rather daunting prospect of looking for a job as a teacher. I have survived my first interview, but it was the most nerve wracking experience of my life and I'm still shell-shocked from the stress of it all. I also have some works in progress that I want to dedicate my time to at the moment and just enjoy the process of writing for a few weeks, without putting pressure on myself.
nano -day 5
I have to accept that today I have to fail at Nano. Too many things have conspired against me from having Sofia home today, to judging the teen category of the City of Melton competition, and I also seem to be feeling worse from my cold. There's a heaviness in my chest and I'm feeling horrible again. So I'm hoping if I fail today I'll have more energy tomorrow and be able to do it, even though I already have an amazing to do list. Sigh.
Today's wordcount: 0
Total wordcount: 6,206
It was bound to happen so today was the day that I regretted signing up for Nano at all and felt such incredible resentment about this commitment. However, a commitment has been made which meant I had to sit down and punch out the words or I would feel even more crap. So I did. It's horrible writing. I'm just slapping the words down without any craftsmanship, but the world building is happening and I'm already seeing question marks of things to be filled in. So it's working. Hopefully once there are a lot of words there, I will be forced to do the craft and actually make something resembling a novel from this lump of miss-shapen words.
the good daughter review
Just found this review of The Good Daughter by a Year 8 student that's made my day:The Good Daughter
by Amra Pajalic
Review by Alana Orsulic
Sabiha (Sammie) is fifteen and having a bit of an identity crisis. Her grandfather is back in her life and suddenly her mother expects Sammie to be a model Bosnian daughter, complete with attending metjef (Islamic classes). Meanwhile, her charismatic cousin Adnan - who's extremely popular with the girls at Sammie's school - seems to be able to get away with anything. Also, Sammie has fallen out with her old friend Kathleen. She starts hanging around with nerds Jesse and Brian, sure that something more will develop between her and Brian, despite the warnings of Dina, another Bosnian-Muslim girl at school. But Dina has secrets of her own, and Sammie realises that maybe they can help each other...
This is a wonderful high-school based story set in the suburbs of Melbourne and filled with crushes, friendship troubles, teen identity crises and power struggles with parents and peers. There is also a focus on growing up with more than one culture. In short, it contains everything I love to read about. I absolutely loved this book.
I found it very easy to relate to Sammie. She is a fantastic character - strong-willed but not superhuman. All she wants is to get on with her life; all she gets is pressure at home and at school. Sammie hasn't had a conventional upbringing as it is, and when the definition of 'good daughter' changes for her almost overnight, it's not easy to deal with. This gives an original twist to the exploration of mixed culture in coming-of-age fiction. Dina and Adnan's stories tie in with Sammie's and complement her cross-cultural issues. Jesse and Brian are also wonderful, well-rounded characters. It's fascinating to see Sammie's friendships change and develop, and I adored the way some of Sammie's new relationships were based on books and reading.
I think I might be feeling better from my cold. Today's wordcount was the easiest one to achieve so far. I took my daughter to a play centre and supervised from a couch with the laptop. I need to do this more often.
Today's words: 1,668
Total wordcount: 4,610
My cold is worse today than it was yesterday. Had two naps, lots of cold and flu tablets and have lost my voice so I'm doing lots of miming and hand clapping to get Sofia's attention.
Achieved my word count today so I'm happy. Going to lie on the couch now and perv on Chris Hemsworth in Thor.
Today's wordcount: 1,687
Total wordcount: 2,942
Day one of National Novel Writing Month and it's already been super tough. I have a cold so that's really knocked me out. I also had to drive to my publisher to have an interview filmed as part of the educational resources package for Amir: Friend on Loan.
I'd stayed away from chocolate all week in order to have clear skin for the interview, but this morning had to slather the make up on in order to cover the dark circles and red nose. Then I kept getting lost on the way there and back (was driving from the Western suburbs to the Eastern suburbs) so 45 minute drive there took 1 hour and 30 minutes.
I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to write at all, but the fact that I had publicly declared I was doing Nano forced me to find the bum glue. I'm going to be writing a blog post every day this month charting my journey so that I keep myself honest.
Today's achievement is 1255 words of word vomit. I'm content with that. I will now swallow lots of cold and flu tablets and lay my weary body into bed. Until tomorrow.
Amra Pajalić is an award-winning author, an editor and teacher who draws on her Bosnian cultural heritage to write own voices stories for young people, who like her, are searching to mediate their identity and take pride in their diverse culture. She writes memoir, young adult and romance under the pen name Mae Archer.
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