Thursday, September 26, 2013

"A Rose for Raha," a story by Ava Homa, published in Still anthology by Negative Press, London

This is from 2012 that I had forgotten to post here.

Q&A | Ava Homa

Ava HomaAVA HOMA LIVES IN TORONTO, CANADA. She is a Kurdish-Iranian-Canadian writer. Her collection of short stories, Echoes From the Other Land was nominated for the 2011 Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award. Ava’s writings have appeared in various journals including the Toronto Quarterly,Windsor Review and the Kurdistan Tribune. She’s finishing work on a her first novel and teaches creative writing and English. For Still she wrote ‘A Rose For Raha’, a story about a Kurdish family trying to find their way in Canada.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Eastern Kurdistan (Iran) and my parents still live there. Being a Kurdish woman, I was stigmatised both for my gender and my ethnicity. Nevertheless, living in a collective culture, I’d received unconditional love from my family and close relatives. Something I really miss here. I entered Canada on a student visa six years ago.
How do you describe yourself: Canadian, Kurdish, Iranian?I have a hyphenated identity: I am Kurdish-Iranian-Canadian. The truth is that I have been exposed to all these cultures and have picked and chosen the best in each as much as I have been able to. The unconscious part of my brain has done its own selection without my consent.
Your story ‘A Rose For Raha’ is about a Kurdish family now living in the free world in Canada, but still not being able to be free. Is this based on your own experience? If not, where did the inspiration come from?Writing fiction means feeling for others and writing about them. My family never left Kurdistan, but I have observed that the dictatorship mentality lasts long after the dictator is gone. I have observed that victims of oppression can sometimes turn into victimisers without being aware of it.
Female Artists Dressing Room (Rose) by Roelof Bakker
Female Artists’ Dressing Room (Rose) by Roelof Bakker
You selected a photograph with a dried yellow rose. Is the rose significant for you or in Kurdish/Iranian culture?It was hard to choose between all the inspiring and beautiful photos, but something drew me towards this rose, not because of a significant cultural connotation, rather because of the sense of attractiveness mixed with exhaustion. That’s the sense this photo instilled in me.
Did you enjoy collaborating with an artist?It was my first experience and a lovely, stimulating one. I look forward to more such collaborations.
How did you get into writing?It was in me from a very young age. I completed my first manuscript at grade 5: an animal story illustrated by my immature drawing. I followed my instincts to write despite the infinite cultural/economical obstacles. Now, I am hooked on the joy of writing.
Who/what was your greatest influence?I am constantly inspired by great people. I can mention two examples: Leila Zana, the female Kurdish leader who was imprisoned by the government of Turkey for ten years but never lost her strength and spirituality. She gives me hope as to what extent humans can be resilient.
Bahman Ghobadi, the award-winning Kurdish writer and director of A Time for Drunken HorseTurtles Can Fly, Half Moon, and most recently Rhino Season. I believe he has served the Kurds in the best possible way. He is passionate, artistic, honest, talented, lovable, inspiring.
Your book of short stories, Echoes From the Other Land, explores the position of women in Iran. Are you active politically to improve women’s lives in Iran? Do you collaborate or work/write with women in Iran?
Iranian women live under horrific laws that openly discriminate against them. For example, based on the law, they cannot leave the country or get a job without their husband’s permission. Yet, they are highly educated, strong, resilient, and ambitious. We work with each other, we support each other, we help each other.
What’s the most important thing you have learnt from life?
No one can help me better than myself.
What are you working on at the moment?
I am editing my completed manuscript: a novel tentatively titled Many Cunning Passages.
Echoes From the Other Land

About Negative Press London

Ava Homa at Meaford Film Festival

I came across this photo today HERE. If you have not been to Meaford Film Festival, you are missing out. Check out their website and mark your calendar.

Ava Homa - Kurdish-Iranian author of Echoes From the Other Land on stage talking about the film Separation MIFF 2012
Ava Homa, Kurdish-Iranian author of “Echoes From the Other Land”, on stage talking about the film “Separation” at MIFF 2012

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

FREE Teen Creative Writing Workshop at Toronto Library, Morningside Branch

Creative Writing Workshop Series for Teens by Ava Homa

2:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m. on recurring dates listed below
120 mins
Lean how to craft a piece of fiction at this 5-week workshop. Each week, facilitator Ava Homa will cover a new topic to enhance your writing. The program runs from 2-4 p.m. on five Saturday afternoons:

September 21
October 5
November 2
November 16
November 30

Please contact the branch for further details or to register.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Radio Feminism's interview with Ava Homa

Monday Jul 22 12:00 2013
Please click the play button or the download link only ONCE.
(It is normal for a delay of up to 30 seconds for archived programming to start).

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Ava Homa reading the lullaby

Go to for the rest of the story

Who is Going to Save My Soul?

Historic Joy Kogawa House, the childhood home of the Japanese-Canadian writer, like other residencies is a sanctuary for writers. I had a quiet place to unleash my imagination, a garden to enjoy, apples and raspberries to pick and flowers to watch while picking words to tell my story, a story of Kurds.
 For three months, I got to write all day, to read all night, free of daily responsibilities of my Toronto life. I taught a Teen Writing Workshop and loved my students and the stories they shared. I judged a short story contest and gained some insight into the semi-arbitrary nature of prizes. We each had a favourite story before entering the meeting and defended them; thus, the 5 winners.
 I met many people, made new friends and learned from them. I read in public, from my published book, Echoes from the Other Land, and the manuscript I had been working on, Many Cunning Passages. The audience seemed to be deeply moved by the reading I offered from my work-in-progress, a reading accompanied by cello and piano. Their reaction gave me a thrill, even though I am not sure if my work gets the credit or the music. Here is the video
Yet the response, secretly and maybe just in vain, gave me hope that my novel is working, that after three years and three months of my soul’s perspiration it’s finally coming together, becoming slightly presentable.
 I met Kurdish Women’s group of Mosaic and listened to their stories, interviewed a Kurdish freedom fighter about his years in Turkey as an asylum-seeker and the brutality of the Turkish police. A woman, an ex-political-prisoner told me the condition for her freedom at age 20 was to get married in 3 months. I also talked to a family who were part of the Al-Tash camp, the camp B'aas government sent the Iranian Kurds to during the 8-years war with Iran.
I enjoyed a Chines traditional music concert and two operas but the one that touched me the most was “Naomi’s Road,” an opera based on Joy Kogawa’s children book, a performance that showed/sang/narrated the story of the Japanese-Canadians who were sent to camps during the war. Why should that choke up a Kurd? The alienation, being sent to exile, being perceived as a threat, treated as a foe….all resonated too profoundly, triggered a historic pain-body.    
In the evenings and weekends, I biked, paddled, hiked, rode a boat, swam and was filled with veneration for the breathtakingly beautiful province of British Columbia. Every couple of week new flowers bloomed _mostly blue, “goli shin,” a phenomenon Kurds thought to be imaginary. From every corner of the city, green mountains greeted me, the generous ocean shone brightly and it’s sound healed and exhilarated my soul. The many gardens there, the ferries, the wild life, the mild weather, even the gentle raindrops filled me with life, with appreciation, with awe.
Like Kurdistan, Vancouver was mountainous, unlike Kurdistan, the mountains were green all-year-round. BC mountains, however, never brim with bright poppy fields the way mountains in Mariwan  do.
Like my childhood in Sanandaj, I got to pick strawberries, eat them unwashed, get thrilled by my little act of defiance, have a tummy ache at the end and laugh at it. Unlike strawberry pickings of Kurdistan, my parents weren’t there, my brothers, Ako and Azad, were absent. My spouse, Ehsan, however, listened patiently to my nostalgic memories.
Now I am back, in the home that I missed. Although satisfied with the experience and happy beside the man whom I adore and came back to, who loves and protects me, I realize how each hike, each walk under the soft rain, cleansed and detoxed me, how the busy life of Capitalism poisons us all gradually, kills us noiselessly.
In the face of my stressed-out Toronto friends, in the loud honks on the streets, the cut-offs of the drivers, the rush, the anger, the frustration, the desperate cling to eating and drinking, I see a mirror that reflects my situation before Vancouver and before Kogawa House. This is what I used to be, how I used to feel.
I can’t help but to wonder if it is possible not to fall in that trap again? How? How much longer before I am putrefied again with stress, with irritation, within the city that keep shouting that “not enough. You can’t afford this, can’t afford that. Go back to more work from work. Now work some more. Spend hours in traffic and lose patience. Drag your exhausted body around and find solace in things that damage your soul. What is a soul, anyway? It doesn't even exist.”
I put on my gardening gloves and hit the back yard. I resist.