Saturday, November 27, 2010

Gladstone Hotel reading photoes, courtesy of Jeremiah Hill








Click HERE for Jeremiah Hill

My Favorite Quotes

"If a writer of prose knows enough about what he is writing about he may omit things that he knows and the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will have a feeling of those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them. The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water." Hemingway



"The artist, like the God of the creation, remains within or behind or beyond or above his handiwork, invisible, refined out of existence, indifferent, paring his fingernails." James Joyce

"The written word is the most powerful tool we have to protect ourselves, both from the tyrants of the day and from our own traditions. Whether it is the storyteller of legend Scheherazade, staving off beheading by spinning a thousand and one tales, feminist poets of the last century who challenged the culture's perception of women through verse, or lawyers like me, who defend the powerless in courts, Iranian women have for centuries relied on works to transform reality." - Shirin Ebadi

"I have to speak, whatever that means. Having nothing to say, no words but the words of others, I have to speak. No one compels me to, there is no one, it's an accident, a fact. Nothing can ever exempt me from it, there is nothing, nothing to discover, nothing to recover, nothing that can lessen what remains to say." Samuel Beckett

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Praise for Echoes from the Other Land


"Life in the Islamic Republic of Iran is a mystery to most of us. And much of the information we have about that country comes from the evening news. It often takes fiction to add depth and humanity to this one dimensional picture. We are fortunate to have writer like Ava Homa... "Glass Slippers" is a powerful story with a strong ending, and it's full of resonant images, especially around the seclusion/covering up/confinement of women." Carole Giangrande author of The Gardener on the Moon

"Glass Slippers is haunting, thought-provoking, elusive, subtle, all the things a short story should be" Dawn Promislow author of Jewel and Other Stories

"Ava Homa is Canada’s exquisite answer to Raymond Carver. Homa announces new beginnings—less irony, more hope—and from a breathtakingly multicultural and international perspective. Readers will experience awe and beauty at the force of Homa’s art to convey female Iranian protagonists wholeheartedly grasping their lives. A taut and subtle plain-spokenness enlivens her writing, belying rich dramatic tensions that build just beneath the surface—which will surprise readers and then
captivate them."
—Louis Cabri, author of The Mood Embosser

"Ranging across regions, ethnicities, genders, sexualities and political dispositions, Homa’s characters give us a prismatic portrait of Iran that resists both internal tyrannies and Western demonization. Her style is elegantly spare, gem-solid. This is a voice we all need to hear."
—Susan Holbrook, author of Joy Is So Exhausting

"Ava Homa's Echoes from the Other Land is an enchanting collection of short
stories from Iran and Kurdistan, drawing readers into the complexity
of the characters personalities and the societies in which they live and the
simplicity of their wants and desires. I felt engaged from start to finish.
I couldn't put the book down." Susan McClelland the author of A Bite of Mango


"Dipped into it last night to read "Glass Slippers". For me it was a virtuoso performance where in a very tightly written story you managed to echo so many popular fairy/folk/literary tales, East and West...Cinderella of course but also Bluebeard and Yusuf and Zulaikha to name just a few!...Bravo" Ariel Balevi, Story Teller


"I can only say that having read, critiqued and helped to edit the first drafts of most of these stories, that they are simple, but beautiful.  If you’re a fan of Hemingway-esque prose, Ava Homa’s stories will make your literary senses tingle.  If you are at all interested in Iran as a political, cultural and social landscape, you’ll enjoy Echoes From the Other Land.  There are no clichés in these stories.  You’ll have to read them again and again to really understand what’s just happened:  this was proven when a very smart member of our class, totally missed the point in one of Homa’s stories (which has since resulting in much teasing) but is easy to do when things are not stated outright, when the reader has to explore to find the answers.  The politics aren’t overdone and heavy-handed; this is not a book highlighting Iranian doctrine or Western doctrine.  There’s balance here." Jenny Ferguson

"Powerful collection of short stories...all connected by the Sufi proverb stated at the beginning of the book "If you cannot fly out of the cage, fly with the cage".Very strong narration style which makes it hard for the reader to remain a silent spectator as the story proceeds. Its amazing how the protagonist picks up and goes on with her life in each story." Smitha Cholakkal

Monday, November 22, 2010

Attention intelligent, supportive people!


There is something going on Wednesday Nov 24, 2010 that you would not want to miss: TSAR 2010 Launch at the Ballroom of beautiful Hotel Gladstone 7:00-8:30 pm.

Doors open at 7pm, so come early to get some snacks and a drink, beat the rush at the book table, hunt down the author to get it signed, listen to readings from Ava Homa, Dawn Promislow, Sheniz Janmohamed and H Nigel Thomas (who is joining us from Montreal), and chat with fellow book lovers.

If you plan to attend, and have not yet RSVP, you can still do so at
http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=543495646#!/event.php?eid=172412206107376&index=1

If you can't make it, but would like to get a copy of the above authors' books signed, please order from tsarbooks.com and send an email requesting it to be signed (deadline: 3pm on Wednesday)

We hope to see you all there, with a friend in tow.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

What doesn't kill you makes you wish it would


"I break inside, darling. Misconduct kills me. War didn't, earthquake didn't, poverty didn't, even loneliness didn't, but this behavior will. Please darling, please." she rose and left the warm house.
"I hate love. It makes me vulnerable," she thought and rubbed her hands together to stop them from freezing.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Listen to the story, "Glass Slippers" from Echoes from the Other Land



Carole Giangrande hosts the Words to Go Podcast and in honour of WORDS TO GO's first birthday, "Carole offers two fantastic "firsts" -- a story from Ava Homa's debut collection of powerful fiction set in Iran, Echoes from the Other Land"

Click HERE and listen to podcast 22
ENJOY :)

A Gardener on the Moon by Carole Giangrande is a good read


Carole Giangrande is a Toronto based novelist and the author of the novella, "The Gardener on the Moon." Novellas is an under-appreciated genre that we should revive.

"The Gardener on the Moon" is a good read. It is the story of human complexities, delicacies, pains, guilt and forgiveness. I really enjoyed the book and it took me only a weekend to read. I was in the middle of reading Nino Ricci's "Origin of Species" when I attended Carol's reading at North York Public Library. Mesmerized by her beautiful voice and her reading of the novella, I purchased the book and decided to read this book first since it was shorter that a Nino's chapter! Once I was done reading "the Gardener on the Moon," I wished it was longer.

This is a conversation I like:
'Have you found love?' he asked.
'I've found distraction,' she told him. 'Francois is good company for now."

and this:
"She is looking for hope,"
"I am, too."
"forgive me,"
Silence
"I love you, Danielle."

I guess you have to read the book to enjoy these dialogues more. By the end of the book, I got to finally understand Pierre (the male character) and identify with him after I blamed him for about 60 pages or so. His letter to Mary-Helen on page 26 (esp second paragraph) rolled tears in my eyes.

Check Carole out, her book, (http://www.carolegiangrande.com/) her podcast (http://wordstogopodcast.com/) and attend her readings. You will love her. :)

Friday, November 19, 2010

Susan MacCllaland on Echoes from the Other Land



Susan MacCllaland, the acclaimed Canadian writer and journalist on Echoes from the Other Land

"Ava Homa's Echoes from the Other Land is an enchanting collection of short
stories from Iran and Kurdistan, drawing readers into the complexity
of the characters personalities and the societies in which they live and the
simplicity of their wants and desires. I felt engaged from start to finish.
I couldn't put the book down.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Would exotic setting encourage people read your book or familiar one?


Peggy Blair in Canadian writers and exotic locals shares her experience which is contrary to mine. She mentions that Canadian books do not sell and she quotes A Brit Giller judge who makes fun of Canadian fiction.

I wrote for her that it’s interesting that my impression is quiet the opposite. I have published a collection of short stories “Echoes from the Other Land” which happens in the “exotic” land of Iran, a frequent topic of media. ;) The setting has been a drawback rather than a memorizing seducer. :) So, maybe exotic has to be part of the golden side of the planet “Europe and America?” or… maybe what makes a book known and admired is a complex set of “mysterious” connections/things?

I really wish our judgment was just based on quality of writing. Readers (including judges) brings into the book so much bias, sometimes at the expense of literary value of the work! But, really how can we objectively judge a subjective matter like art and literature?

At the end, Ava thinks she should just get to writing instead of getting busy by the controversial talks of writing.

Free Excerpt of Echoes from the Other Land by Ava Homa




A River of Milk and Honey



Evening.

“Every relative is willing to donate something, as much as they can.” I recognize Ronak’s voice, my aunt.

“I know, but it’s a high-risk surgery. What can I say? How can I make a decision like that for her?” That voice is Mom speaking.

“Trust God, dear.”

“What’ve I done to deserve this?” Mom asks. “For which sin?”

Same old questions. I lean my head against the hallway wall. Which sin? Whose sin? Who pays for whose sin? Sometimes I wonder if God hates all the people in this city, all the people who live on the border of Iran and Iraq. My father says Sanandaj is a city of revolution and mass murder, tyranny and genocide. I was in my mother’s womb when the war broke out and eight when it was finally over. I do not know what sin these peoples committed to deserve such horror but I know that God does not ever answer my prayers. Maybe He will in the afterworld.

“God is testing your faith,” Ronak says.

Pushing the door open quietly, I tilt my head so as to peek into the living room. The two women are sitting on the handmade carpet, leaning against the new Kurdish cushions. Ronak takes a sip of her tea and notices me in the crack of the door. “Sharmin is a sweetheart,” she says, raising her voice.

Mom’s white headscarf that she wears during prayer has slid onto her shoulders and her salt-and-pepper hair is messy. “Her situation wouldn’t run me down, if she was, at least, a boy,” Mom says. Placing a hand on her hip, she winces.

“Sharmin, dear, come here,” Ronak says. “You look nice in that shirt, darling.”

Mom coughs and pulls the scarf over her head. I hobble over and sit next to Ronak, and hide my head behind her shoulders, twisting my fingers into the hem of my blue shirt.

From her purse, Ronak takes out a book with a red cover. “Because you finished reading the last book,” she turns her head to me, smiling. “You deserve a new one.”

Good Stories for Good Kids2. On the cover there is a sketch of a young girl in a headscarf, across from a boy. I grab the book and limp hurriedly towards my room.

“Would you like to eat now? Your dad won’t be in tonight,” Mom calls after me.

“Not hungry,” I say over my shoulder, close the door and throw myself onto the bed. I open the book and position its corners on my ears.

*****

Weekend. My uncle’s family will visit us and I pray that Azad will be with them. Mom says he is a man now and does not go out with his parents. When I am on the rooftop waiting for the days to end, I often see Azad in the neighbourhood with his friends. I do not call out and he does not look up. I have a feeling that Azad will come over today, if it’s God’s will. Please, God!

Afternoon. The shampoo slowly slips to the corner of my mouth. The bitter taste. I close my eyes. It’s not hard to imagine myself emerging from the River of Milk and Honey: luminous wings open. Azad passes by and stares. Gathering my wings behind me, I walk elegantly in a white dress towards a garden of red roses, pretending not to see him. A breeze blows through my hair. When I get to the garden, I turn and beckon to him; he has a look of adoration in his eyes. He runs to me. We walk together through the garden, hand in hand.

I begin shivering. The water always gets cold fast—to wake me from dreams, I think. No, “to save gas,” says Dad.

My underdress and puffy pants are silver. I pull on the Kurdish dress, bright red with embroidery, which Ronak gave me last year. She bought it for me in Iraq—the only dress I have that Mom hasn’t tailored. I choose to wear my short-sleeved, silver vest, which I have decorated with white sequins and glass beads tying the long tails of the sleeves behind my neck. The loose fit hides my noticeable breasts. I loop a belt around my waist and rummage through the dresser for a red headscarf and come across a vest of Mom’s that’s ornamented with sparkly charms, traditional amber, red and black beads, and gold jewelry received as dowry. In the last drawer, I find her belt, made entirely of connected and dangling gold lira coins. I have never seen my mother wear the vest or the belt. Mom and my aunts always wear dark-coloured, plain Kurdish dresses, with long-sleeved vests, and with little or no accessories. I, too, do not like to make God angry by showing off. And though I hate covering my thick and wavy hair, nobody should pay for my sins.

I am trying on the headscarf when Mom appears between me and the mirror. She frowns at the messy knot I have made of the scarf and lifts a black scarf from the drawer: “This black one will make your face look smaller.”

I examine her frowning face and then my own face in the mirror. It’s nothing like a monster’s. I am loveable.

“Take it,” she sighs.

“I hate black.” I move towards the door.

She drapes her arm around my neck and whispers in my ear: “Darling, everything will be fine after the surgery. I mean if your irresponsible father ever cares for his family.”

Driving his truck between Iran and Iraq, Dad is never home but he is not irresponsible. He is kind and never talks about surgery. She pats my head. Turning my head, I search her eyes for something I cannot find. I push her hand away, and shuffle away as fast as I can up the flight of stairs to the rooftop.

I sit in my corner, in my chair. There is a blanket folded over the back, which I wrap around my body and over my head. Here, under the blanket, I see again men with thick glasses and green attires cutting my chin, like in the nightmares I have never talked to Mom about. Azad is the only one to whom I will tell these things.

Footsteps. I feel a presence and steal a look from under the blanket. Azad is standing there and it is not a dream. Hands in his back pockets. I drop the blanket. Azad sees my uncovered hair. I am trembling. He has lost weight; the skin under his almond-shaped eyes seems darker.

“Sharmin!” He says my name in his deep, strong voice. “I knew you would be here! how’re you?”

I blush and clumsily smile; my entire body pulses.

“May I?” He rocks my chair, chewing a gum, his eyes fixed on the Awyar Mountain in the distance. “Exams, exams! I’m not in the mood to study whatsoever.”

I would be finishing high school in two years if I were still in school.

“You’re lucky, Sharmin! Rocking, watching pretty neighbours all day.” He chuckles.

Azad talks rapidly, like always. Mom says he has changed but for me he is very much Azad. He has the habit of pulling his left ear when excited. I’ve wanted to tell him how much I hated the school, the kids and the teachers. I’ve wanted to tell him that I know why they hated me at school—because their heads were small and because they said I could not learn as fast as the others. But I’ve wanted to tell him that I am not stupid. I’ve wanted to tell him all my secrets.

“I’m going to enlist in the air force next year, in Tehran.”

“Air force?”

“I’ll make a good pilot, don’t you think?” He winks.

“You’ll fly people around the world?” I ask. I want to ask him if he remembers our childhood games, during the war, when he would take me around the world in his plane.

“Ha-ha, no, war pilot. I know you have a gorgeous neighbour,” he says before I get to say anything else, and he smiles mischievously. “Do you know which is her bedroom? Do you think she sleeps by herself?” He turns his gaze away from the neighbour’s house and looks into my shocked expression. “Shaho, our other cousin, is in love with her, too. Her beauty is fascinating,” he adds, to explain himself. I tell myself how how glad I am that he still feels close enough to me to share his secrets. He knows that I will keep them to myself. But my throat has constricted. No one else is Vengeance like I am. “Her name is Kazhal,” he says, and walks towards the edge of the roof, bending over it to peer across at the house on our right. “Rhythmical step, appealing makeup, large breasts, flat belly, big lips, God, she’s incredible, just incredible,” he says as if reciting a poem.

I’ve wanted to show him that no one has my hair.

******

Evening. Azad has left. “No one else is Vengeance,” I say out loud, rocking back and forth in my chair. I look at the house on the right where a new family has recently moved in. Unlike ours, it was built after the war so it does not bear the scars. This is the way the city looks: modern, chic buildings next to the old, ones with their plastered-over bullet holes, next to other left to rot.

A child’s voice in the alley calls for her mom. I hobble to the edge of the roof...

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

About Echoes from the Other Land




Generally About Books
Sunday, October 31, 2010
Echoes from the Other Land
Recently, I attended the launch of Ava Homa’s collection of stories Echoes from the Other Land. Ava is an immigrant to Canada and her collection of stories set post-Islamic revolution Iran are at once deeply personal and political.

TSAR has published the book.

Echoes from the Other Land’s launch was at Beit Zatoun, a meeting place with a Palestine heart and a global soul. It was my second visit to this fascinating place, with a pronouncedly political milieu.

Homa read an excerpt from a story in her collection – A River of Milk and Honey.
It’s a story of Sharmin, a teenager with Down’s syndrome (although this is never explicitly stated) and her muted pain of growing up into a lonely woman without any hope of getting Azad, the boy she silently loves.
Launch event; Ava (author) in blue jacket

Sharmin is homebound and fantasises about a perfect world where she is without a blemish and emerges from a river of milk and honey.

“I close my eyes. It’s not hard to imagine myself emerging from the River of Milk and Honey, luminous wings open. Azad passes by and stares. Gathering my wings behind me, I walk elegantly in a white dress towards a garden of red roses, pretending not to see him. A breeze blows through my hair. When I get to the garden, I turn and beckon to him; he has a look of adoration in his eyes. He runs to me. We walk together through the garden, hand in hand.”

Azad loves Kazhal, Sharimn’s beautiful neighbour, who everyone desires – from teenagers like Azad, to grown men such as neighbour Shilan’s father.

Kazhal has “Rhythmical step, appealing makeup, large breasts, flat belly, big lips.” She’s everything that Sharmin wants to be but isn’t and can’t be. Sharmin’s aunt tells her that beauty is misery, but she’s unconvinced.

When Kazhal tells her that she has no friends with whom she can converse, Sharmin realises that a beautiful young woman can be as lonely as one with Down’s syndrome. They become friends. Later Kazhal gets married to someone who claims to be rich, but before the marriage is consummated, her family discovers that he isn't.

“Kazhal does not know what to do. She tells me that she actually hates him, and hates her mother for making all the decisions on her behalf and then blaming her. Sometimes she even hates herself for being so wretched and sometimes she hates all women for being such miserable creatures. I hold her hands in mine.
from Generally About Books Blog ”http://www.generallyaboutbooks.com/2010/10/echoes-from-other-land.html

Ava Homa Reads for Words Alive




Ava Homa
will read from Echoes From the Other Land this Thursday (Nov 18) at 7 pm for Words Alive Literary Festival Books/Cafe and Things, 208 Main Street
South, Newmarket, Ontario.Some other great writers will read at the same event.

Ava was born in Tehran and grew up in Sanandaj, Kurdistan. Ava experienced war as a child and the aftermath of war in adulthood (Kurdistan uprising, losing loved ones, economic crisis and inflation). Ava is a woman who studied and worked under a tyrannical regime and patriarchal culture. Nevertheless, she graduated from Allameh Tabatabai University, the Iranian ivy league, in 2005, with Master's degree in English. While a full-time student, Ava worked as a journalist, translator, teacher and writer. In September 2005 she became a full-time faculty member to teach English at Azad University, Iran. In 2009, Ava graduate from University of Windsor with Master’s in English and Creative Writing .Echoes from the Other Land, Ava’s first collection of short stories in English was published by TSAR. Echoes from the Other Land is the story of human endurance, resistance, passion and pleasure.

As a resistance to the national and international oppressions, misrepresentations, and censorship of the Iranians, Echoes from the Other Land reveals some truth about a historically rich but betrayed land. On its universal scale, Echoes from the Other Land is the story of human’s alienation from self, escapism and wandering. This is a collection of thematically complicated short fiction written in a spare style and simple language implying volumes of unspoken knowledge, like the seven-eighths of an iceberg underwater.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Considerations don't let you be yourself


When nothing, no pet or TV, can substitute for human I like to write, to find solace in paper/monitor. But, even in my deep lonely moments, when no human is around, no light is on, no music plays and the huge TV screen casts shadows and then denies them, I dare not confront myself and my past. And, this escape and denial is so delicate and invisible that I am unaware of it. The negligence brings a comfort until I see Leilaie Leili.

I am intimated by her courage, her honesty. She wants and she can be herself, her real self, no disguise, no cover. She dresses in the most comfortable and practical way: no brand, no make up. No need to make herself appealing to anyone. I admire that.

She can talk about her past although it involves taboos. She doesn't care the listener might judge her or be uncomfortable. She is critical and politically aware, she is an engineer and a writer, she analyzes and criticizes, reflects logically and is in love passionately.

When I am with her, I hold a palm on my throat and suffer an emptiness, a disguise, a burden of considerations and like to rebel. Then I remember all people who NEED me to expose only so much and jail the rest. Because of them, I am silent again and in denial. This is the price I pay for my choice.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

November 11


I have a lovely, teenage student who studies TOEFL with me. She is an international student in Canada (at this age! Remarkable) living on her own, and I feel very protective towards her.

She brought me a Pepero today and said November 11 was Korean Snack Day. I never knew that an unexpected cookie stick dipped in chocolate syrup would taste so good. :)

I thought offering cookies on November 11 is much more pleasant than being reminded of detestable wars, don't you think?

By the way, it was called Pepero "nude," for some reason! Don't ask me. ;)

Monday, November 8, 2010

About Echoes from the Other Land


Ava Homa, a writer of diaspora, has been a journalist, translator, teacher and writer. As a resistance to the national and international oppressions, misrepresentations, and censorship of the Iranians, Echoes from the Other Land reveals some truth about a historically rich but betrayed land. On its universal scale, Echoes from the Other Land is the story of human’s alienation from self, escapism and wandering. This is a collection of thematically complicated short fiction written in a spare style and simple language implying volumes of unspoken knowledge, like the seven-eighths of an iceberg underwater

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Mark you calender for Ava's readings in GTA



Nov 13, 5:30-8, Art House 60 Steels E

Nov 24, 7 pm, Gladstone Hotel

Dec 4, Queen Gallery 3 pm

Dec 11, 10-4:30 Hotel Gladstone, book fair

Jan 5, 7 pm, 270 As part of Brockton Writer's Series 7-9 St. Anne’s Church, 270 Gladstone (just north of Dundas)

Jan 25, Waterloo U

Jan 30, Kurdish House

April 6th As part of Brockton Writer's Series 7-9 pm St. Anne’s Church, 270 Gladstone (just north of Dundas)

May 11, 2:00-3:00 pm North York Library

June 1, 2:00-3:00 pm North York Library

Friday, November 5, 2010

Be mine and make me yours


Every day, every morning I call upon you, “You are the only one. You are where I come from and where I go back to, you are my departure point and you are my destination. I know you are the base and basic of what I want, who I am, what I do...without you nothing makes sense." I ask you to help me remember this, to practice this. I plead and plead, "please make me yours, let me be your reed..be mine and make me yours."

But at those moments, when I recite what is my own insight, my own words and nobody else’s...sadly, I do not know the importance and depth of what I am asking for.

Negligence is my company