Thursday, July 17, 2014

Tyrant and the dangerous narrative of The Other

Growing up, the people who look like the men in my life on the Western television screen never played the romantic lead or the dashing hero- instead, they played the bad guys or the comedic relief- the bumbling gas station employee or the hilarious [fill in the blank] who would soon be outwitted. Fast forward to present day and not a great deal has changed, after all, we're still in an era of Homeland, a show I watched initially hopeful for complexity but which ultimately devolved into a woman shrieking as she held the Quran belonging to her secret Muslim husband, who in truth did quickly transition from good American man into a beer drinking, adulterous, Muslim terrorist upon conversion.

When I heard about Tyrant, the beloved baby of the creator of Homeland and 24, I wasn't exactly optimistic. When I read the premise, an assimilated Arab American living the happy middle class American life with his wife and kids with nary an evil thought in his head until... he returns to his fictional Arab country and devolves into a monster, I was understandably sickened.

But when MPAC was said to be a consultant on the show and had, from what I read, given their thumbs up of approval for the show, I thought okay. I'll try it. I'll watch.

And then I watched. And well, it was so terrible that it veered slightly into the absurdly comical. And as NPR, Alan Sepinwall, Daniel Fienberg, AV Club, all pointed out, it wasn't bad just beacuse it relied on caricatures of Arabs and because it had a white British man pretending to be Arab because "no Arab was good enough" to play the part, it was bad because it was bad. With shows oozing nuance and complexity like Breaking Bad, The Wire, True Detectives, and Mad Men, maybe we as a cultural viewing audience have grown more discerning.

But it's troubling that such shows are made. That a show like Homeland draws the "logical" conclusion that a conversion to Islam equals terrorist activities and wins Emmys while giving all it's viewers implicit messages of who I am, leaves me ill.

This Ramadan is a hard one. This Ramadan I see so much pain around the world. I see little kids dying because someone has deemed them other. I see one sect of Islam declaring another an abomination and taking it upon themselves to settle the score because they see them as the other. I see the KKK handing out candy in South Carolina to help children join their cause against the other.

I see a world that is suffocating in the narrative of the other.

And it makes me think about the show Tyrant. It came out a few weeks ago but today for some reason it's been on my mind again. I think it's because while shows like Tyrant make for bad TV on many creative and artistic levels, the show isn't just bad TV-- it's dangerous TV.  Shows like Tyrant help us write off an entire group of people because it promotes full force the narrative of the other. And that has real life consequences. It has the consequence of creating an us and a them. It can be the difference between crying at the image on the screen or shrugging and scrolling. It can be the difference between calling a congressperson or saying that's just how they are. It has the consequence of closing hearts. And that is the most dangerous kind of show there can be.

Monday, July 14, 2014

The rockstar ARC goes on tour and the weightless free floating nature of letting go

I'm part of a lovely group of YA and MG authors debuting in 2015. We are the Fearless Fifteeners and as confusing as publishing can sometimes be, it's been awesome to have others going through the same journey at the exact same time to talk it all over with. A little while ago I got my ARCs in the mail and it was a thrilling moment. I got only a handful of ARCs and they've quickly been distributed to parents, siblings and the like, but I did save one ARC. One lucky ARC that is no longer just a little ARC but is instead, a rock star touring the country, meeting cool folks, getting signed and posing in photos for selfies and shelfies along the way.

Right now, Rockstar ARC is with Anna-Marie McLemore who sent me this lovely color-coordinated picture that makes me smile each time I see it. Anna-Marie is my agent-sister with Taylor Martindale and she is the author of the forthcoming novel The Weight of Feathers that I'm eagerly awaiting because it's not coming soon enough (i.e. right now! this minute! gimmegimme!) ahem. And after she reads it, it will go to the next reader, and so on until it finds its way back to me.

Since the book deal, I've wondered where my book will land in the world (ala Where's Waldo) and to that end I've added a tab to my blog to share photos of selfies and shelfies readers share along the way. The book isn't released for a while so I wasn't planning on adding the tab just yet, but then I saw this, and it made me happy, so up the tab goes! While the photos are brief for now [it's one ARC making it's way around the country one reader at a time] I hope to share a little behind the selfie or the shelfie as it travels the globe while I can, and hope to keep that tab filled with photos sent in.

Seeing the picture today, it really hit me: for the first time that out there in the world my book is with a reader. Not to critique, or edit, or help me revise but to simply read it.  For so long the book has been mine alone but soon it will belong to whoever reads it, and as this quote says so well, people will bring their own stuff into it, their own views, their own perspectives and their own thoughts- and that is as it should be, that is as I want so much but the reality of it is now here and it feels like sky diving- both thrilling and weightless. Like every author, this books contains a piece of my heart so I'm humbled to have a very first reader of this newly completed book, and blessed to be at this stage of the journey today.

To add Written in the Stars to your goodreads you can click here! And to pre-order you can click here! Thanks as always for the support!

Friday, July 04, 2014

Why I Write

When my friend Grace Hwang Lynch contacted me about the writing process tour, I was honored. Hers went up last week, and this week is my turn to share a little more insight into my writing life.

What am I working on?

I have a few drafted YA manuscripts but right now my full focus is getting getting ready to review my pass pages! Pass pages is when your book is at it's near final stages and we're examining everything for minor spelling and grammar issues that may pop up. It's amazing to work on getting Written in the Stars all grown up and ready to enter the big wide world all on its very own. When a book is unpublished it belongs to you and means what it means to you, but once it's bound and packaged and published it belongs to the readers and means what it will mean to them alone. So really, in tweaking my current manuscript and looking it over I'm working on two things: (1) The manuscript and (2) letting go. My friend Rebecca shared this picture with me and it's true, as beautiful as it is to share my novel with the world, this book is a part of my heart and soon it will become what it was always meant to be, a story, a novel- belonging to everyone who reads it as they wish.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I think all work differs from all other works. Give two writers the same plot idea and characters and you will get two completely different books. Creativity is beautiful like that. My work differs from others of its genre because I am the person who wrote it, its as simple and complicated as that. We are unique and as a consequence so are our stories
 Why do I write what I do?

My stories have always "come to me". Over dishes, while rocking a baby to sleep, or simply brushing my teeth, poof, a girl [somehow it's always been girls so far] talks to me, I see what she looks like, I get the first whiffs of her voice and it draws me to sit down and sketch out who she might be and what her story is. My stories tend to be about Pakistanis and Pakistani Americans. I believe we need more representation in literature and as a member of the We Need Diverse Books campaign I am thankful that the voices that speak to me are these [though that could always change].

How does your writing process work?

First, I sit around and stare at my moleskine.

Every Meeting

Then I decide I need to write something so I start writing fast and furious trying to ignore how much I'm thinking this draft sucks!!!!


Then, I pause, take a break for a few days or weeks and wait to hear from my writing partner Tracy and just play it cool, drink chai, you know, chill.

Bill Murray Drinking Coffee

Then I get back feedback and critique, and head back to the laptop to start revisions. 

 Sometimes it's hard and I very much want to stop when the right word isn't coming or the scene feels off for one reason or other and I want to just say I give up...

Computer Smash

But I keep on going. I finish. I send it off to my agent for feedback, and declare I'm done! I'm done! I will take a two year break from writing and breathe because writing is HARD it's LONG and I NEED A BREAK and then mid-celebration a new story idea hits from out of nowhere.

yes, wait wtf?
And back I go to writing again.....

Hope this was illuminating! Now, I’d like to introduce you to three friends who will be blogging about their writing life the week of July 6th! Check out their blogs next week to find out what inspires them!
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Saira Siddiqui is a freelance writer/life coach who holds a Masters in Education.  Previously she taught for several years in the public and private sector.  When she is not writing for others she enjoys writing for her own blog,  Confessions of a Muslim Mommaholic
Reem Faruqi is a doodler any chance she gets, an aspiring children's book writer in the nights, a photographer on weekends, and a Stay-At-Home-Mom during the week to a preschooler and a toddler. Originally a second grade teacher, she is taking a break from the teaching world to mother her two daughters. Check out her blog, Doodling Through Life: Follow her on twitter: @ReemFaruqi or on Facebook:

Jamila Basharat is a mother, crafter, and Pinterest addict. This former Florida native re-discovered blogging only a few months ago, but she already loves it! When she is not brokering peace between crying children, you can find her baking chocolate treats, reading, or finding new uses for Mod Podge. Follow her adventures at