Haunting Stories by Ava Homa
Patrick Connors – Toronto: Echoes from the Other Land by Ava Homa are short stories which do indeed resonate with images of what life is like for women in her native Iran.
I met her at Brockton Writers 17: http://newz4u.net/?p=11246
“It’s encouraging to have appreciative audience. I could hear that people were listening while I was reading “Glass Slippers” from Echoes from the Other Land. A pleasant experience, indeed!”
I asked Homa what it will take to cause change in the treatment of women in the other land. “Change in rules, first and foremost. Laws that consider women as half a human only strengthen the male chauvinism. In “the Other Land,” some echoes of which are presented through my book, Iranian women struggle for equal rights while the laws are obviously discriminatory in divorce, custody and so on. This does not mean, however, that all Iranian men take advantage of the unfair system but the point is that they can if they want. This legalized abuse, however, only makes the relationships shatter. I mean just because men have the right to do whatever, doesn’t mean they are happy. At the end, men indirectly suffer from inequality too, either because of their own rotten relationships or because they see their loved ones (a mother, a sister, a friend) suffer and the law only supports this. I think it is for the same reason that nowadays many Iranian men support women movements.”
‘Fountain’ starts with Anis palming a small pink pill. “Oh, only a temporary relief with tons of side effects which is probably the reason Anis is hesitant and finally throws away the pill,” Homa said. “Well, there might be some who deal with such situations, for healthy or unhealthy reasons. But, unlike Iranian women, a Canadian woman would have more options. For instance, in case of a failed relationship, the price an Iranian woman pays, in terms of social taboos and rejections, is much higher than what a Canadian woman would pay. The story wants to present the other side of the coin, an insight into what Ali thinks and feels but, of course, indirectly.
“The fountain is the central symbol that connects all other elements of the story. It is a cycle of life, rising up and falling down. As Ali mentions, Anis loves the fountain, which represents her desire to move up in life. Another woman passing stands by the fountain and enjoys the water dropping on her face. Ali cannot understand the fountain and its significance. Instead, he tries to remind himself how the law sees him superior to Anis only because of his gender. So, when he comes home, he tries to hide his insecurity behind showing off his “power.” Ironically, that’s exactly when he loses Anis.
“Just a quick reminder that the Islamic Republic of Iran by no means represents Islam; even though the name suggests so. Iranian government manipulates religion to stay in power (so do many other groups, I think). I only realized this after I left Iran and met some progressive and amazing Muslims. Anyways, many non-for-profit organizations are really only after profits. Names do not always represent the essence.”
‘I Am One of Them’ has Sana holding a knife in her hand – once again, the reader wonders what she will do with what is in her hand. But it becomes symbolic by the way women are still cut, in some cultures, by circumcision. This becomes very powerful and eye-opening to the reader. How does her Sana’s Mother, and other women in general, contribute to the status quo? “What we are used to is a great part of our lives, isn’t it? Habits are powerful. Therefore, looking for stability, avoiding trouble and given the power that normalization has, people can survive under oppression. The mother and other women might admire a rebel, but as long as the rebel does not get them into trouble.
“Qeshm is a very hot and humid Island. Raining fire is real and symbolic at the same time. Sana is burning and melting in the unfair situation. Even at the critical moment of experiencing epiphany, she cannot say the word “circumcision.” Being too far from the reality of her body, the recognition seems surreal to her. When she realizes that some ordinary, even “holy” custom is horrible, she experiences shock and disorientation. Just a quick note that circumcision is not really common in Iran and happens only in very few cities. “
‘Just Like Googoosh’ seems like a very sweet story in contrast to the others. It says a lot about the quality and depth of Homa’s writing that she can write from different perspectives, different voices, different modes of relating to one another, while yet making it seem like a streaming narrative. Still, there is something in the tenderness between the man and his wife which inspires hope.
“Kurdish men are simple and honest,” Homa said. “Diako, the male character of the last story, is in sharp contrast with Ali of the first story. I was hoping to present a spectrum of men starting from Ali who takes advantage of the system, to Diako who is called docile and “not a man” by his own sister, but maintains a beautiful relationship with his wife. However, the question is whether Diako would still stand up to the patriarchal culture if his wife was not diagnosed with cancer. I think men are pushed towards being abusive sometimes without even recognizing it. And, unfortunately, what encourages a man to use his power can be a woman. Men and women contribute to patriarchy not just men.”
Echoes from the Other Land is available in all major book stores and can be ordered through Amazon.com and .ca as well as the publisher’s website www.tsarbooks.com. People can also easily order the book through their local book stores. All the links to the online shopping, reviews of Echoes from the Other Land, readings, interviews and free excerpts are available in www.AvaHoma.com.
On May 15th, Homa will read as part of CEPAL (HERE) at Beit Zatoun (612 Markham St., Toronto) 6:00-9:00 pm. On May 17th she will read and talk to the students of Martingrove Collegiate 9-11 am. June 1 and 15th she reads at North York Public Library Room 1, 2:00-3:00 pm. Trevor Cole also records her for www.authorsaloud.com. For those readers who like her style, she offers feedbacks on manuscripts and teach some creative writing workshops that are open to public.
Susan Holbrook calls Echoes “a prismatic portrait of Iran that resists both internal tyrannies and Western demonization.”
M.G. Vassanji calls them, “Fine stories, subtle and evocative, disturbing in their impact.”
But the last word goes to Homa. “A book unlike media is a three-dimensional portrayal of life and for those who want to really understand the complexities of Iran, Echoes from the Other Land presents a real and honest image.”