Sunday, 27 February 2011

Asian Anthology



HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME
A contemporary collection of Asian writing
Edited by Farhana Shaikh
Paperback published 30 October 2010, £8.99
ISBN 978-0-9566967-0-0



New writing from thirty eight different authors and poets some with emerging voices provides a rich feast of Asian Writing in this anthology. The Forward by Claire Chambers Sen. Lecturer in English Literature Leeds Metropolitan University who specializes in South –Asian Literature sets the scene. She states that ‘South-Asian writers are producing the most nuanced and politically engaged writing in the world today’ and encouragingly adds that British Asians will consider writing as ‘a viable career choice.’
This anthology has been ably edited by Farhana Shaikh. Her passion for showcasing Asian Writing is evident with the success of her online project The Asian Writer. Here she has brought together both published and aspiring writers from across the globe to write on the theme of ‘Celebration’. The book also has a selection of interviews with authors like Roopa Farooki, Rana DasGupta, Moshin Hamid, and Nikita Lalwani. The third part of the book has an in depth interview with Lorella Belli a Literary Agent whose advice to new writers is well worth reading. In the final part twenty authors give their advice some cryptic like ‘Scare yourself.’ ‘Read, read and read more’ and some longer ones for new writers.

As with all anthologies this has some excellent pieces of prose and poetry. I commend some of the poems, like R. Hossain’s ‘I am a child of the Colony’ ‘Valentine’, by Paul Lobo Portgues, and ‘Celebration of Life’ by S.S Vikram. The authors of the short stories worked with the word celebration in its broadest sense. ‘Twilight Sojourn’ by Fehmida Zakeer was superb, the dream sequence in the mosque was well written and the anguish of the woman’s pain beautifully expressed. Sharmila Chauhan’s ‘Tiny Steps’ was excellent ending with a hopeful reconciliation. The editor’s own contribution entitled ‘Coming Home’ was a moving tale of the protagonist in the story coming to terms with the loss of her mother.

This is the first anthology of Asian Writing comprising mainly of British Asian Writers that I’ve read and I am very impressed. Farhana Shaikh is right to have taken the brave step to bring new Asian voices to the forefront. With an Asian name people expect the next Salman Rushdie or Adiga, a prize winner to come from the subcontinent. Perhaps it is time to nurture and encourage talents here in the UK.

For further information please contact Farhana Shaikh at Dahlia Publishing on 0116 2741266 or f.shaikh@dahliapublishing.co.uk. Also availble on Amazon.

Thursday, 24 February 2011







The books are here! Two boxes containing Adichie's wonderful book 'Half of a Yellow Sun' to give away on Saturday March 5th. oooh... the smell of new books is deliciously satisfying. This is the programme at the library:


World Book Night

Programme

Saturday 5th March. Milngavie Library.


2.30pm. Refreshments available.
2.45pm. African drummers welcome the books to be distributed.
3.00pm Leela Soma talks about “Half of a Yellow Sun” by Chimananda Ngozi Adichie
3.15pm Questions and answers
3.30pm. Book giveaway
3.45pm African drummers
4.00pm. Finish

More pics on the day! Oh, here's a copy of the 'ticket'.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Writers Blog




Its amazing how many wonderful people you meet on Twitter! I found Louise Wise through another fellow author Allan Mayer who directed me to her wonderful blog. Not only does Louise blog about writing her own books but is so generous with her time and is willing to promote authors who have taken the POD or self- publishing route. She has kindly given a special promo for 'Twice Born' on her blog. I have included a synopsis in it as it is one of the things that all of us authors find onerous and difficult to write. I hope some of you writers find it interesting. Here's the link to her blog: www.louisewise@blogspot.com

Louise Wise is an author of two books 'Eden' and 'A Proper Charlie' beautifully produced by YWO.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Doris Lessing




The next Nobel Prize winner we are reading is Lessing. Her prolific writing is legendary for a woman who dropped out of school at 13! This book however- 'The Marriage between Zones Three, Four and Five' is really challenging me. It is part of a series and falls under the Science Fiction genre. I am not a great fan of SF and Lessing's novels like 'The Grass is Singing' was so much more powerful.If any of you have read all the five books in this collection known as 'Canopus in Argos'
I would love to have your thoughts on it. She was described by the Swedish Academy as "that epicist of the female experience, who with scepticism, fire and visionary power has subjected a divided civilisation to scrutiny" I am looking forward to the class discussion on this eminent writer. The Times ranked her fifth on a list of "The 50 greatest British writers since 1945".

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Book Giveaway


Most of you are aware of the book I am giving away on World Book Night. On Saturday 5th March at 2.30, Milngavie Library will reverbrate to an African drum(hopefully)which will herald the givaway of Chimananda Ngozi Adichie's fabulous 'Half of a Yellow Sun.' I know reading a wonderful book can uplift the spirit of anyone and transport them to faraway lands. This book certainly did that for me.I want to share that with 48 others who will hopefully enjoy the same passion as I feel for reading books. I promise some photos of the event.

Thursday, 10 February 2011





Reading for pleasure, not for my classes I had indulged in Manju Kapur's 'Difficult Daughters' - a superb novel and greedy for more I espied a copy of 'A Married Woman' at the library and read it. The latter did not have the same impact on me as her debut novel. I still think she tackles the role of a middle class Indian woman very well. The characterisation of Astha, the protagonist of 'A Married Woman' starts off well in the opening chapters. Unfortunately the story then meanders a lot and deals with various issues of her parents lives, her aspirations, her sexual love for her husband (quite explicit scenes) her day job as a teacher, her children and her abiding passion as an artist. The demolition of the Babri Masjid is the political scenario that Astha becomes aware of and then gets lured into it by the young leader. She donates a painting of hers for the cause. The novel then moves onto her brief affair with the young protest leader who dies tragically in the riots. Much later Astha meets Peepilika, the partner of her dead lover and a lesbian affair ensues. Kapur has tackled too many subjects in this novel.

I have just started Nathacha Appanah's 'The Last Brother', again borrowed from the library. The novel appealed to me as there is a personal connection. I have a very close Mauritian friend with a daughter named Natasha and I had to read the book to learn more about the island. I've only read the first 50 pages and I can see why it has had rave reviews. In the very moving opening chapter Raj is reminiscing about his childhood friend David and visits his grave. The wonderful descriptions of Mapou, the sugar plantations, his alchoholic father and two brothers who die tragically on the same day draws you into the novel.The family move to Beau Bassin where the father becomes a prison warder and that's where Raj meets his friend David a young Jewish boy from Prague. Their friendship is the theme of the book. The translation by Geoffrey Strachan is superb.I'm sure it will 'become a classic of childhood literature' as it says on the book's blurb. Another great find by 'Quercus Books'the publishers.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

World Book Night





Lots of fun things happening in February and March. The Lit scene is alive and thriving in Glasgow as shown in my other blog www.glasgowlitcorner@blogspot.com. Liz Lochead our own Glasgow poet has been made the 'Makar' or Poet Laureate for Scotland. Her poetry is alive with vigorous speech idioms; collections include True Confessions and New Clichés (1985), Bagpipe Muzak (1991) and Dreaming Frankenstein: and Collected Poems (1984). Here's is one of her poems:

SORTING THROUGH
The moment she died, my mother's dance dresses
turned from the colours they really were
to the colours I imagined them to be.
I can feel the weight of bumptoed silver shoes
swinging from their anklestraps as she swaggers
up the path towards her Dad, light-headed
from airman's kisses. Here, at what I'll have to learn
to call my father's house , yes every duster prints her
even more vivid than an Ilford snapshot on some seafront
in a white cardigan and that exact frock.
Old lipsticks. Liquid Stockings.
Labels like Harella, Gor-ray, Berketex.
And, as I manhandle whole outfits into binbags for Oxfam,
every mote in my eye is a utility mark
and this is useful:
the sadness of dispossessed dresses,
the decency of good coats roundshouldered
in the darkness of wardrobes,
the gravitas of lapels,
the invisible danders of skin fizzing off from them
like all that life will not neatly end.

So accessible and touching. Its wonderful to have two females poet Laureates in Britain today.
My classes are challenging and enjoyable. The works of Naipaul this week an indepth look at his work, 'Enigma of Arrival' a sad, melancholic book with prose that is so lucid and perfect. A contrast after the lyrical, ironic and meditative poems of Szymborska which sparkled with her own comedic touches. The other class I am attending 'Scotland and the Empire' is very informative. Tasmania populated by some Scots who were the victims of the Highland Clearances. They committed the same atrocities that were done to them by carrying out the near-genocide of the Aboriginees. This is contrasted with the wonderful work of other hard working Scots like Lauchlan Mc Quarrie still referred to as the 'Father of Australia.' Many had made their fortunes in India moved to Australia and took over huge tracts of land for grazing their sheep.It reminds me of Elihu Yale, the founder of the famous university who donated a huge amount of his ill-gotten gains to fund the university.

I quote: 'He was a fervid Anglican who served in the British East India Company between 1670 and 1699 and was governor of FortSt. George at Madras from 1687 to 1692 As governor of Fort St. George, Yale purchased territory for private purposes
with East India Company funds, including a fort at Tevnapatam (present-day
Cuddalore). He imposed steep taxation towards the upkeep of the colonial
garrison and town. His punitive measures against Indians who defaulted included
threats of property confiscation and forced exile. This spurred various Indian
revolts, which were ruthlessly quelled by Company soldiers. Yale was also
notorious for arresting and trying Indians on his own private authority,
including the hanging of a stable boy who had absconded with a Company horse.

More audaciously, Yale amassed a private fortune through secret contracts with
Madras merchants, against the East India Company's directives. This imperial
plunder, which enabled his patronage of the American university, occurred
through his monopolisation of traders and castes in the textiles and jewel
trade. By 1692, Elihu Yale's repeated flouting of East India Company
regulations, and growing embarrassment at his illegal profiteering resulted in
his being relieved of the post of governor.'

Today the Ivy League University flourishes. History opens my eyes to so many past events that I only had a vague understanding of.

March 5th and I am one of the 20,000 bookgivers on 'World Book Night!' The largesse of 48 copies of Adichie's 'Half of a Yellow Sun' will be given to people who are passionate about reading.And 'Aye Write' Glasgow's own Book Fest is on March 4th to 11th with a wonderful line up of authors.

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