Discussion

Currently Reading

I’m not even going to pretend anymore. My reading has stopped to a trickle. First the whole Orange Apocalypse thing happened. Then I started writing a lot which made me not want to spend too much time spent not writing reading.

Convoluted sentenceee.

But I love reading and I genuinely miss indulging in it like it was my damned job. Gosh, I remember when I did spend all my time at work reading. Oh, those days.

Still, I try to read as much as I can. I’m also back to indulging in chunky books because I no longer care about the quantity of the books I read as much as I care about the quality. I want to read good books! So here’s a list of all the ones I’m currently reading.

  1. A Curious Land: Stories from Home by Susan Muaddi Darraj
    This is a short story collection pubbed by the University of Massachusetts press. I believe the author is Palestinian American. All the stories are set in a village (well apart from one) Tel al-Hilou and detail the lives of the villagers in time, starting from 1916. They feature different characters who are, I’m learning, linked in some ways.

    The prose is criminally beautiful and I’m learning so much about the craft while reading it. I’ve read only 2 stories as of yet but I am going to enjoy reviewing this when I’m done.

  2. I’m Judging You: The Do-Better Manual by Luvvie Ajayi
    I found this through Janana of TheShrinkette fame and so far it has been fun. I’m reading about culture right now and Luvvie has a lot of pertinent opinions I wish people would take note of. I will be reviewing it here.
  3. The Queen of the Night – Alexander Chee
    Hm. I’m 115 pages in and absolutely loving it at the moment. It’s 561 pages long so I hope it goes strong until the end.
  4. The Devotion of Suspect X – Keigo Higashino
    I think I have watched the live action drama of this one but I’m not too sure. I’m only 26 pages in and haven’t found it to be particularly compelling. Fingers crossed though.
  5. Certain Dark Things – Silvia Moreno-Garcia
    Once again, I’m not that far in but I’m intrigued by the mythology presented in the book. Vampires in Mexico City, people.
  6. A Crown of Wishes – Roshani Chokshi
    I’ve just read the prologue and wanted to weep because it was so beautiful.
  7. Strange the Dreamer – Laini Taylor
    See above.
Discussion · writing · Writing Diaries

On Writing: The World According to the World

A decade ago I wrote a little snippet about a girl running through the streets of a city, desperation on her heels, her face contorted in an expression of anguish, the skies dark and threatening, the roads dirty and wet. Her name was Fatima.

As I grew up, the girl grew with me. Much in the same way that Croi, the protagonist of my first novel grew with me, so did Fatima. She learned from my lessons, learned from my mistakes. She hurt when I did, she knew the same joy and happiness I did.

Now I am writing her story.

And it humbles me. The idea that I am writing her story–who is so much a part of me but is her own person at the same time–humbles me. I could make some analogies to explain this feeling, give a sense of this experience, but I don’t think I want to.

A lot of Fatima Ghazala’s story is shaped by the world today. Even though the setting is fantasy and ultimately an escape from the real world, I have peopled it, sometimes unintentionally, sometimes intentionally, with characters going through the same things as we are.

It occurred to me that there are more females in my book than males (with major speaking parts anyway) and I worried about that until I realized that so many books exist in which women are present at the periphery, often limited to roles as wives, girlfriends, maids, or whatever subservient position is available.

There are a host of different cultures in The Fire Within and I get so much pleasure in exploring, even slightly, the different facets of that culture. Just the greetings alone are so different and give so much information about the kind of people they belong to. I grew up in a hodgepodge of cultures and I live in a place that is incredibly diverse. I wanted to convey that in my book so I did. I also want to present all the women as fully realized as possible but also reflecting their different cultures without any commentary on the disparity that exists between how the white feminists expect all women to be and the reality of how different women exists as feminists in their culture of origin.

Perhaps I have made the book more political than it ought to be. I am almost 48k words into the book and feel so very determined to make it as beautiful a piece of literature as I can.

I will just forget about how the sentences don’t sentence very well right now and just get the story (in all its dubious glory) out on paper.

Discussion

January Reading Wrap Up

It is the first month of 2017. It is the 21st century.

If you look at the news, the above facts will surprise you only if you believed that people would learn from history. But no, we are doomed to repeat our mistakes.

I am angry.

Whew. Let’s contain that anger and talk about all the books I have not been reading.

Books read: 24
Pages read: 3307

Genres:
Picturebooks: 12
Poetry: 5
YA: 2
Nonfiction: 1
Graphic novel: 1
MG: 1
Translated: 1
Historical Fantasy: 1

Favourites:
The Geek Feminist Revolution – Kameron Hurley
Moonshot: The Indigenous Comics Collection vol 1 – Edited by Hope Nicholson
What I’ve Stolen, What I’ve Earned – Sherman Alexie

Read Your Own Books: 14

I did not read much but I did read widely. I don’t think I’m going to get much reading done in February. Apart from working on a manuscript, I am also finding it incredibly difficult to get into a story right now.

But I am attempting to read more diverse stories as everyone should.

Discussion · Feminism · Nonfiction · review · Review Copy

You Can’t Touch My Hair and Other Things I Still Have to Explain by Phoebe Robinson

hair

Paperback, 320 pages
Published October 4th 2016 by Plume Books
Source: Publisher

I wasn’t familiar with Phoebe Robinson until after I read this book so I went into it without any idea of who she is and what she does.

You Can’t Touch My Hair provides a fascinating insight into a black woman’s life and the obstacles she has to navigate daily. The meaning of hair and how hair culture is very much a thing that one cannot understand unless one is part of the community.

Robinson talks about the politics of race and gender which informs every person’s daily experiences whether positively or negatively. I most remember her anecdote of being on a reality TV show as a female comedian and the disparate and discriminatory ways in which she was treated–she is not just a woman but she is a black woman which changes things quite substantially.

What also struck me was Robinson’s experience with her previous agent who treated her badly but Robinson, due to the conditioning she has received all her life as a black woman, was unable to speak out until the person went too far.

I enjoyed this book and yes, sometimes the humour read a bit too American for my tastes but on the whole, the book gives an interesting and valuable narrative on gender and race in contemporary America.

Discussion · Nonfiction · review · Review Copy

The Geek Feminist Revolution by Kameron Hurley: Thoughts

I have a cold and am medicated. God, it feels like I’ve been saying this all the time recently but I have become really susceptible to colds and the like this winter. Uninteresting introduction done with, let’s get on with the, well, I wouldn’t say review. Let’s say thoughts.

줄발!

geek

Hardcover, 272 pages
Published May 31st 2016 by Tor Books
Source: Raincoast Books

Before I begin this, let me just say that I am not really familiar with  Kameron Hurley’s fiction so I waded into this book with very little knowledge about the author and her style. As an aspiring author, I was interested in what Ms. Hurley has to say about the craft and the business and let me tell you guys, it’s ALL SO BLEAK.

In the first part of the book, “Level Up,” Hurley talks about the business of writing, about the struggles of being a fledgling writer, of failing and succeeding and how even the successes are relative. You always know that the publishing business is difficult but the truth of it comes across most when relayed by someone who has been navigating the business for a while.

Hurley talks about her own life and how her experiences have shaped her and her writing. I like that she’s so upfront and accepting of the fact that she has privilege. She is very aware that her privilege has afforded her a life that may be impossible for a POC.

I most appreciated Hurley’s thoughts on being a woman in a virtual space. She has experienced a lot of abuse online and has persevered so her thoughts resonate.

“There are many ways to silence a woman and not all of them involve getting her to stop speaking. Sometimes it’s enough to simply ensure all she speaks about is you.”

I enjoyed this collection of essays that offered an insight into the SFF world and in esoteric spaces that most people wouldn’t know about. The writing is accessible and though there were times when I wished Hurley would engage with a topic in far more depth, ultimately I appreciated the brevity of the essays as it allowed me read at a faster pace than I usually would.

I recommend this!

Discussion

On Reading: Look at All the Effs I Give

This will be one of those blog posts that I will not regret writing even though it is shades past 2 am and I most probably should not make any attempts at coherency past 2 am.

Also, there will be typos and grammatical errors but you know what? Let me just vent.

These past few days I have been feeling overwhelmed by the amount of toxicity spewed by people who sit snug behind their computer screens and spout utterly reprehensible shit because they have been given the green light by their prevailing Orange Cheeto Lord.

I usually seek solace in books because what other way to escape then by jumping into another narrative, another mind, another world. But being in the writing business (or trying to be anyway) and being an academic (of sorts), you can’t help but be aware of the subtext in the prose, be aware of how the narrative is informed by the author and what the author believes in.

So when you are reading a book written by a white author that has dominantly white characters and the chauffeur is a black man, your eyebrows climb up. Because you know what? Fuck you.

The Nafiza in early 2016 would have shrugged it off and read on but the Nafiza of early 2017 who is angry and hurt at the way the world continues to vilify people who don’t look like the dominant race, who don’t believe in the same things they do, that Nafiza says no.

I am  done with these little microaggressions that add up to one big wound. I am done excusing, accepting, tolerating, I am done with all of that. I just don’t care anymore.

And yes okay, I realize that me refusing to read books that have problematic subtexts or issues with representation is not that a big deal on its own but I don’t care about that. Those doing their best to maintain the status quo, to ensure diversity and the demand for it becomes a four letter word, these people don’t understand that at the heart of it, all we really want is to be accorded the respect that the hegemonic group seems to consider their due. Or maybe they do and they just don’t care. Because they get off on feeling superior because of whatever reasons.

But books you know. I used to be able to turn off the world and read but after that Tuesday revealed what people really think, how they really think of POC…Things changed.

Those who create consumable culture are, in some ways, the people who direct the mores of society. So the call for diversity means POC/people of different sexualities and orientations become become normalized at all levels of society, more accepted and what is wrong with that?

Going back to that example I mentioned (it’s not an example, it’s an actual book but let’s say it’s an example), had there been more POC characters around, would I have been as upset with the ethnicity of the chauffeur? No. The subtext, you guys. It couldn’t have been louder if it had a speaker and was up on a stage.

Yeah okay, I’m mostly done now. Still pissed off but done. For now anyway.

Discussion · writing · Writing Diaries

On Writing: This is YOUR book until it isn’t.

It feels remarkably self-indulgent to be still concerned with the lighter things considering everything that is happening politically across the border and around the world but here we are. Still concerned with art and the making of it. (Also the marketing of it but that is a different post for a different day.)

I am still working on my current project for which I wrote the back copy as:

“You are a child of flesh and blood and I am a being of fire and ink. Were I merciful, I would bid you run and end this tale here. But I am Ifrit and my stories are eternal even though I am not. So come here child, and in return for the kindness I have shown you, become the ink that writes my tale.”

Qirat is a country ruled by the humans who claim its forests and the Ifrit who claim all that is desert. The City of Noor, located on the border between the forests and the desert, is the seat of power for both the human and the Ifrit rulers. When Fatima, a human citizen of the city of Noor, delivers a letter to the Name Giver of the Ifrit that ends up fatally wounding him, she becomes the unwilling recipient of an ancient power not meant to be wielded by humans.

The days following the Name Giver’s murder are full of fire and smoke. Fatima is stalked through the city by the Djinni Guard which is led by an Ifrit called Zulfikar. The Name Giving power she received from the murdered Ifrit leads Fatima to discover a name and its associated Djinn fire that, inexplicably, belongs to her. She is captured by Zulfikar who finds himself drawn to Fatima for reasons he cannot understand or accept.  (This doesn’t happen because things are a bit more complicated than the above sentence implies.)

Old enemies resurface and chaos threatens to submerge Qirat into war once again. Fatima is thrown into a world where danger wears many faces and all roses have thorns. She learns that those who love often have the most to lose but that those who don’t love are often the most easily lost. With the war coming, Fatima has to decide which loss is more palatable to her.

Today I will talk about how your book is your book and no one else’s book and how you are writing it as the person you are and not the person you wish to be or the person you will be in a couple of years.

And obviously all these thoughts pertain to me because I am self-absorbed like that but perhaps these thoughts will help you reach some clarity in your own work so here goes nothing.

I spend a lot of time reading articles and posts on writing, taking in advice, talking to people about writing, and generally just learning the craft. So sometimes when I sit down to write I don’t know where to start because sometimes the advice I get is contradictory. I flail, I eat cookies hanging upside my bed, I have heart to heart conversations with my nephew whose entire lexicon is a variance of the word “goo.”

It took me a long time to come to terms with the fact that this is my first draft and I am going to make a lot of mistakes writing it. And that it is okay to make mistakes. This is YOUR book and you are allowed to write it the way you want to. Sometimes that will mean not taking the advice given to you and sometimes that will mean doing exactly what people told you not to. Because this is your book and it is the first draft.

So write it. Get it all out. Make all the mistakes. Flail. Cry out loudly. Scream. Get it done.

Because it is your book.

And then, once you’re done with the first draft, woman up. Because as soon as it goes to beta readers, editors, critique partners, it becomes their book too. Learn to take critiques, take all praise with a grain salt ESPECIALLY if it comes from your mother.

Then jump into rewrites. Buy lots of chocolate.

Good luck.