Tuesday, August 23, 2011

An Intriguing Review of Echoes from the Other Land

Echoes from the Other Land is carefully crafted in a realist style but, when compared to homogenized portrayals of Iran in the western media, the reader’s experience more closely resembles the surreal. For a western reader the conflict of the real and the surreal resonates – it echoes – and does not fade away.

Echoes from the Other Land is a rare experience. A western reader is confronted not with a didactic tale of oppression or a stark narrative of an alien culture – Iranian – from across the globe. Instead these stories are dry-witted and at times shockingly funny. Echoes from the Other Land is optimistic and driven by characters and dialogue that feel so unexpectedly familiar that their social context is pushed to the periphery. Simultaneously, power builds in this periphery until ultimately crashing into the mainstream narratives. You will forget the setting while your attention is directed to individuals. And you will be reeled back in when the time is right.

In one story, “A River of Milk and Honey,” a beautiful woman appears before a battle damaged home. With a focus on beauty Homa tricks her audience into confronting the ugly. Slowly and quietly the weight of conflict and tyranny weaves itself deeply into the most personal areas of the protagonists’ lives – but they are so disturbingly used to it the reader is often more conscious of it than they are.

A scene in “I Am One of Them” juxtaposes what can only really be described, without giving away too much that is, as ‘girl talk,’ with the challenges faced by some girls of specific cultures. There is an important realization to be made regarding the distinct experiences of, in this story, Qeshmi and Kurdish girls. However, despite some such components and themes that could rightly be called feminist, do not confuse Echoes from the Other Land for feminist literature. When the narrative is exploring the distinct experiences of these girls it is not because they are girls. It is because they are an organic part of the story.

For a reader who has lived under tyranny –this one has not- the experience is likely to come with a sense of liberation. The characters, while from ‘the other land,’ are not themselves ‘othered.’ Instead, it is the oppressive regime of a mad dictator that is ‘othered’ as the stories unfold. In this vein Echoes from the Other Land gives a voice to those who may only speak up at personal risk – this is true freedom writing.
There is something Ava Homa said at a “Freedom to Read Week” reading recently in Windsor, Ontario, that stands out in memory: “no invasion, please.” Homa strongly believes that the Iranian people possess the strength of will to overcome tyranny without foreign military intervention, are better off pursuing freedom of their own initiative, and her belief is built quietly into the narration, character development, and the very foundation upon which Echoes from the Other Land is constructed.

P.B. Shelley once said that poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world. Likewise, Homa stands firm in her belief that literature is a potent tool of social change - spreading education, unity, and promoting common purposes. What makes Echoes from the Other Land effective is that, while the stories lay bare the daily lives of people in Tehran, Kurdistan and other cities of Iran, conclusions are left for the reader to make freely on his or her own.

Gavin Wolch has a Master’s degree in English and is presently a law student. Some of his literary interests are post-colonial, gothic, and science fiction. A brief list of his favourite authors includes: Wilde, Ondaatje, Coetzee, Rushdie, Saramago, and a trio of Russians whose names you can probably guess. Gavin’s personal literary ambitions are currently on hold while completing his legal studies.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Echoes from the Other Land one of the TOP TEN reader's choice for The Scotiabank Giller Prize

CBC Books - The Scotiabank Giller Prize

Week 3: The Top 10


The Readers' Choice contest has now been running for three weeks and we've received more than 2,000 nominations! It's time for another update on how your nominated books are doing.
Once again, Everything Was Good-bye by Gurjinder Basran is leading the vote, but there's much movement elsewhere in our list. Angie Abdou's The Canterbury Trail moved into second place, while four books have made their way into the Top 10: Myrna Dey's Extensions, Ava Homa's Echoes from the Other Land, Steven Hayward's Don't Be Afraid and Incidents in the Life of Markus Paul by David Adams Richards.


1. Everything Was Good-bye by Gurjinder Basran (5.3 per cent of total entries)
2. The Canterbury Trail by Angie Abdou (4.4 per cent)
3. Man & Other Natural Disasters by Nerys Parry (3.5 per cent)
4. Hope Burned by Brent LaPorte (3.4 per cent)*
5. Copernicus Avenue by Andrew Borkowski (3.4 per cent) *
6. Extensions by Myrna Dey (3.3 per cent)
7. Echoes from the Other Land by Ava Homa (2.5 per cent)
8. The Time We All Went Marching by Arley McNeney (2.3 per cent)
9. Incidents in The Life of Markus Paul by David Adams Richards (2.1 per cent) +
10. Don't Be Afraid by Steven Hayward (2.1 per cent) +

*Tied for fourth place
+Tied for eighth place

See last week's results here.

Be sure to check out some of the featured nominations here.

Remember, if you haven't submitted a nomination yet, you have until August 28 to do so. We'll be tallying the entries and announcing the Readers' Choice on September 6, the same day the Scotiabank Giller Prize longlist is announced. In the meantime, keep visiting CBC Books for updates and upcoming features.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

داستان‌هایی واقعی از عمق قلب

ادبیات — August 17, 2011 19:45 — 0 Comments

کتاب آوا هما نامزد جایزه ادبی گیلر/آرش عزیزی

“طبیعت بشر،‌ جهان‌شمول”

گپ کوتاهی با آوا هما، به بهانه‌ی نامزدی کتابش برای جایزه‌ی ادبیِ گیلر
نویسنده‌های مهاجر، بخصوص آن‌هایی که از کشورهای جهان سوم وارد جهان اول می‌شوند، معمولا در خانه‌ی جدید خود با مشکلات زیادی روبرو هستند. این مشکلات البته بی‌شباهت با مشکلاتِ بقیه‌ی مهاجرین به طور اعم و بقیه هنرمندانِ مهاجر به طور اخص نیست، اما همین مشکلاتِ همیشگی برای نویسنده، و بخصوص برای نویسنده‌ی داستانی،‌ بعد دشوارتری دارند چرا که ابزار کار او زبان و ظرافت‌های زبانی است. همین بعدِ مشکلات است که ادوارد سعید را واداشت آن‌چنان حزن‌انگیز از دردِ غربتِ نویسنده بگوید. و همین است که کمتر پیش می‌آید نویسنده‌ای بتواند در کشور مقصد بدرخشد و کیفیت‌های خود را نشان دهد.

آوا هما
وقتی به فهرست افراد شهیر و موفقِ جامعه‌ی ایرانیِ کانادا هم نگاه می‌کنیم می‌بینیم که در هر گوشه‌ی کانادا و در هر زمینه‌ای چهره‌هایی از ما درخشیده‌اند، اما در عالم داستان‌نویسی و نویسندگی، هنوز کمتر.
و دقیقا همین است که خبرِ خوشی را که هفته‌ی گذشته ما را وا داشت گپ تلفنی کوتاهی با آوا هما، نویسنده‌ی جوان مقیم تورنتو،‌ داشته باشیم، خوش‌تر می‌‌کند.
کتاب “پژواک‌هایی از سرزمین دیگر”، مجموعه داستان‌های آوای جوان که تازه چهار سال است از ایران به کانادا آمده، نامزد یکی از معتبرترین جوایز ادبی کانادا،‌ یعنی جایزه‌ی گیلر، شده است.
آوا، که این کتاب را به انگلیسی اما راجع به داستان‌های زندگی مردم ایران نوشته، به شهروند می‌گوید: “از طریق ناشرم بود که از این خبر مطلع شدم و خیلی خوشحال شدم. تا قبل از این کانادا مرا خیلی تحویل نگرفته بود. با این‌که در ایرلند جایزه گرفته بودم، اما خوشحال شدم که کانادا هم نگاهی به من انداخت!”
آن جایزه‌ی ایرلندی که آوا به آن اشاره می‌کند البته به نوبه‌ی خودش کم افتخاری نیست. جایزه‌ی بین‌المللی فرانک اوکانر به بهای 35 هزار یورو بزرگترین جایزه‌ به مجموعه داستان‌های کوتاه در سراسر جهان است که آوا امسال نامزد آن هم بود.
اما معلوم است که آوا در همین چهار سال اینقدر به خانه‌ی جدیدش دلبسته که “تحویل گرفتنش” توسط این خانه برایش طعم دیگری داشته باشد.
می‌گوید:‌”به قدری خوشحال شدم که احساس کردم اگر به مرحله‌ی بعدی هم نرسم از این کار بسیار خوشحالم.”
اصلا به نظر می‌رسد او بیش از آن‌که از نفس نامزدی برای جایزه خوشحال شده باشد از صفحه‌ی وب‌سایت سی بی سی که از خوانندگان خواسته به نظر پیشنهادی خود برای کتابی که محق دریافت گیلر است، رای دهند، خوشحال شده. این‌جا است که او فرصتی بدیع پیدا کرده با خوانندگان مختلف کتابش آشنا شود و با آواهای مختلفی که “پژواک”هایش را خوانده‌اند رابطه برقرار کند. خودش می‌گوید:‌ “از همه مهمتر و با ارزش‌تر همین فضایی بود که دریافت کردم.”
“برای من خیلی ارزشمند بود که خواننده غیرایرانی به من رای داده.”
اما این چه رمزی در نوشته‌های هما است که کمک کرده خواننده‌ی کانادایی اینقدر به آن نزدیک شود و به این مهاجرِ‌ تازه‌وارد اجازه داده اولین کتابش به مقامی دست پیدا کند که بسیاری نویسندگان کانادایی آرزویش را می‌کشند؟
او البته با مهاجر و اقلیت بودن غریبه نیست. هر چه باشد کرد است و همه‌جا از کرد بودنش می‌گوید. همین چند ماه پیش و در همین تورنتو بود که در جشنواره‌ی تیرگان، قلم را زمین گذاشته و لباس رقص کردی به تن کرده بود و پس از اجرای برنامه، با استفاده از فرصت برای تعریفِ دردهای مردم سرزمینش، موجب جنجال شد.
می‌گوید: “من یک نویسنده‌ی کرد ایرانی کانادایی هستم. این سه تا ابعاد وجودم را تشکیل داده‌اند و هر کدام نقشی بازی می‌کنند، اما کتابم با این‌که محلی است، رنگ جهان‌شمولی دارد.”
و به نظر او دقیقاً همین است که موفق شده دل خواننده‌های متنوعِ کانادایی را به دست بیاورد: “فکر می‌کنم بُعد جهان‌شمولی کتاب باشد. چون راجع به طبیعت بشر است و فکر می‌کنم خواننده بین‌المللی این سئوال را می‌پرسد که اگر اتفاقی افتاده بود و در ایران به دنیا می‌آمد در آن اوضاع چه احساسی می‌کرد؟ “
به نظر می‌رسد داوران هم با او موافق باشند چرا که در موردش نوشته‌اند: “آوا هما داستان‌هایی واقعی از عمق قلبش می‌نویسد و برای خواننده هیچ‌ چیز جذاب‌تر از حقیقت نیست. او نویسنده‌ای است جسور و درخشان،‌ پر از نیرو و صادق. نبضِ‌ زمان را حس می‌کند و کلماتش انعکاسی از واقعیت‌های تلخ زندگی به سبکی بسیار لطیف و شیرین هستند.”
خود می‌گوید خیلی سعی کرده این صداقت و “از ته دل بودن” را حفظ کند و جمله‌ی همینگوی که “مهم است که نزد خودت و کارت، صادق باشی” را سرمشق کارش قرار داده.
می‌گوید “فکر می‌کنم دیدی که در این کتاب از دنیای ایران ارائه کردم از طرفی مخالف دید کلیشه‌ای رسانه‌های غربی است و از طرفی دور از تصویر ایده‌آلی است که بعضی‌ها می‌خواهند بدهند.” صمیمانه می‌گوید “خوبی‌ها و بدی‌ها” را گفته، حتی اگر گفتن بعضی چیزها “غرورِ ایرانی‌اش” را زیر پا گذاشته باشد.
این تازه آغاز کار برای آوا است و امید بسیاری می‌رود که شاهد درخشش‌های بیشترش باشیم.
خودش می‌گوید چون اولین کتابش است بردن یا نبردن برایش “خیلی فرق” نمی‌کند: “همین که نامزد شدم خیلی بهم اعتماد به نفس داد، بخصوص با خواندن نظرات مردم در وب‌سایت سی بی سی.”
در حال حاضر مشغول ترجمه‌ی داستان‌هایش به فارسی است که قرار است انتشارات پگاهِ تورنتو منتشر کند. در عین حال روی کتاب دومش کار می‌کند که باز هم شامل داستان‌هایی راجع به ایران و کردستان خواهد بود.
با تواضع غیرمصنوعی از خواستش برای پیشروی بیشتر هم برایم می‌گوید و این‌که بیش از هر کاری مشغول بیشتر کتاب خواندن است.
“خیلی برایم ارزش دارد که بتوانم کیفیت کارم را از لحاظ ادبی بالا ببرم.”
می‌پرسم امکان دارد داستان‌های بعدی‌اش به جای ایران راجع به کانادا باشند که باز تایید می‌کند برایش مهمتر از موضوع، ارزش ادبی کارهایش است و در ضمن تاکید می‌کند به “جهان‌شمولی طبیعت بشر” معتقد است.
جایزه‌ی گیلر را جک رابینویچ، کسب و کاردارِ تورنتویی، در سال 2004 به افتخار همسر فقیدش، دوریس گیلر، بنیان گذاشت که زمانی از سردبیران ادبی تورنتو استار بود. این جایزه همراه با پاداش نقدی 25 هزار دلار کانادا هر سال به بهترین رمان یا مجموعه داستانی که نویسنده‌ای کانادایی به زبان انگلیسی نوشته است، اعطا می‌شود.
برای اطلاعات بیشتر راجع به آوا می‌توانید به وب‌سایت او به نشانی  avahoma.com مراجعه کنید. همانجا لینکِ‌ صفحه‌ی کتابش در سی بی سی را نیز پیدا می‌کنید و  می‌توانید به او رای دهید یا نظر بقیه راجع به کارهایش را بخوانید.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

CBC Books - The Scotiabank Giller Prize

CBC Books - The Scotiabank Giller Prize

Donya for Echoes from the Other Land by Ava Homa

Cambridge, ON

I believe that Ava Homa's short story collection, Echoes from the Other Land, should be added to the long list for the Giller Prize. Ava Homa is a new, refreshing, young voice representing a segment of Canadian society which often goes unheard from. Her short story collection adds to the Canadian literary landscape with both its beauty and content.

CBC Books - The Scotiabank Giller Prize

CBC Books - The Scotiabank Giller Prize

Camille for Echoes from the Other Land by Ava Homa

Omemee, ON

Echoes from the Other Land by Ava Homa is written so well, and educates us on a culture that we probably will never understand, or even try to. The abuse and total disrespect for women is so strong, and Ava tells you just the way it is!

CBC Books - The Scotiabank Giller Prize

CBC Books - The Scotiabank Giller Prize

Shannon for Echoes From The Other Land by Ava Homa

Toronto, ON

Ava Homa's Echoes From The Other Land is a sharp, well crafted and at times wickedly funny collection of stories. Featuring strong women characters struggling for self-determination in the midst of social and political turmoil, this book offers readers a narrative glimpse into lives rarely represented in Canadian Literature and does so with style.

Monday, August 15, 2011

CBC Books - The Scotiabank Giller Prize

CBC Books - The Scotiabank Giller Prize

Holly for Echoes from the Other Land by Ava Homa

Markham, ON

Ava Homa has written a wonderful book, Echoes from the Other Land, on the oppression of women and men in Iran. Having heard Ava reading from her work in a writer's group; Markham Village Writers, the emotion and realism is both profound and moving.It's insightful,real,senitive and worthy of distinction. The silenced voices are in fact the echoed thoughts of the masses.

CBC Books - The Scotiabank Giller Prize

CBC Books - The Scotiabank Giller Prize

Nora for Echoes from the Other Land by Ava Homa

Thornhill, ON

I think Ava Homa should make it to this year's Scotiablank Giller Prize long list, for her Echoes from the Other Land. Homa's book portrays the struggle of women in a politically mysogenistic country. It shows how the frame of mind encouraged in a society affects all its members. Homa keeps a detached and neutral voice. She shows men and women of all ages, temperaments, mental abilities and socioeconomic classes and how they respond to the limitations and priviledges the regime imposes upon them. Homa's book is a study in individual and social psychology. Her writing style is vividly descriptive, and creates a sense of vitality and immediacy.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Black Coffee Poet presents Kurdish writer Ava Homa

CBC Books - The Scotiabank Giller Prize

CBC Books - The Scotiabank Giller Prize

Ayub for Echoes From The Other Land by Ava Homa

Toronto, ON

I believe that Echoes From The Other Land should make to this year's Scotiabank Giller Prize list. This book is fiction, but it tell you so much about real life, particularly the life of women in Iran. For a country like Iran that is closed off and inaccessible to many, Echoes From The Other Land is a window. By awarding this book the Scotiabank prize you will bring attention to stories from thousands of miles away and encourage a writer that has so much more to tell.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

CBC Books - The Scotiabank Giller Prize

CBC Books - The Scotiabank Giller Prize

Sheniz for Echoes from the Other Land by Ava Homa

Markham, ON

Ava Homa's Echoes from the Other Land is a stunning debut of short stories that provides an intimate look at the lives of women in Iran. Told from a Kurdish perspective, this book is truly a reflection of what Canada is known for - A haven for diverse voices. Homa is a courageous author who shows us the other side of life in Iran - one we often don't have access to through mainstream media. She deserves to be recognized.

CBC Books - The Scotiabank Giller Prize

CBC Books - The Scotiabank Giller Prize

Mehdi for Echoes from the Other Land by Ava Homa

Toronto, ON

Ava Homa writes true stories from the depth of her heart and there is nothing more appealing than truth for a reader. She is a bold and brilliant writer who is energetic and honest.She feels the pulse of time and her words reflect the bitter realities of life in a very soft and sweet style.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Ava Homa's Interview with Black Coffee Poet.com


Ava Homa is author of Echoes from the Other Land  which was just nominated for the the world’s largest short story award: 2011 Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award. Ava is a Kurdish-Canadian, writer-in-exile, with two Masters’ degrees one in English and Creative Writing, another in English Language and Literature.Echoes from the Other Land has a running theme of resistance by modern Iranian women under an oppressive regime. Ava’s writings have appeared in English and Farsi journals, as well as the Windsor Review and the Toronto Star.  She was a writer in Iran, and university faculty member. In Toronto, Ava writes and teaches Creative Writing, English, and ESL.
ML: Why do you enjoy writing?
AH: I can’t help it J I get the urge, it can be anytime, anywhere: in the middle of the night or while driving, swimming, walking in a trail or on the beach. At such times, I just have to write in a notebook or on the sand or just text myself with my cell phone. I am not always successful, though.
In addition, writing for me is a form of reflection. It makes decision-making easier for me especially when I feel confused. Also, I see writing as a form of therapy. It helps me when I’m trapped in unhappy situations. Writing is my world, is everything to me. I’m obsessed.
ML: What is your process?
AH: Of completing a piece of fiction? It varies from piece to piece. In general, I can say it’s like gardening. I have the seed of the idea and then I have to plant and attend to this seed regularly before it blooms. That means, in order for a vague idea to become a complete story, I need to work on it every day for a few months. I might only get to write a few hours a day but I’m always thinking about my story for example, about the different ways my characters can react to situations, and various ways my plot can proceed.
Usually, after three months when I feel a chapter of a novel or a short story is complete, I leave it for a while-a month or two- before I get back to it and read it from a reader’s point of view. I mean, I try to detach myself from my work and read it as a third person, as if this writer has applied for a contest and I am the judge.
ML: How long have you been writing poetry? Stories?
AH: Since childhood. I can’t remember the first time. My mother tells me that I used to be totally happy with a pencil and a notebook for hours. I know I completed my first “manuscript” when I was in grade five. It was an animal story: a bird who missed her mother and was stuck in a forest. It contained some of my drawings too. After that I wrote on and off for all my life but I took my first Creative Writing workshop in 2002. I went from workshop to workshop and a couple of instructors told me that I had a gift and I should continue writing. I listened J
ML: Who are your influences?
AH: That’s not that easy for me to say. My motivation for writing was internal. No one in my family or friends encouraged me because I wouldn’t share my writings with anyone for a long time.  Do you mean which authors influenced me the most? I am a voracious reader, I swallow books. It’s not really easy for me to see who influenced my writing the most because it has not been conscious. I later realized that Hemingway, Carver and Salinger have had the highest impact on my style. I loved those writers’ techniques very much. Overall, in every book that I read, I find something to admire and I automatically pick up on them.
ML: Your book of short stories, Echoes from the Other Land, is a wonderful achievement. How long did it take to write?

AH: I appreciate that comment, May Lui! I worked on that book almost every day for four years. I would think about stories, write, re-write and revise each story for over six months.
ML: All the stories in your book are from a woman’s perspective. Do you consider yourself a feminist? Why or why not?
AH: Nowadays, feminism is such a broad term that when somebody asks me if I am a feminist I should ask what they mean by that word. There is no “ism” that I absolutely accept and identify with. If I am to find a title for my interests, I’d say I am a humanitarian. The reason I wrote from women’s point of view was because I believe women in Iran need more help than men. Their situation is worse than men’s although every person living under an oppressive regime needs help unless they are part of that regime.
ML: Share with readers of this blog what your inspiration was for the various stories in your book.
AH: First and foremost, I love writing for the beauty and power of writing. But, it is also an affirmative action. Women’s situation in Iran must change. Moreover, I heal through writing and I hope I can help my readers heal too. I think Iranians are a traumatized nation due to everything we had gone through. I am a Kurd and my history is more painful than other Iranians. There are many personal and historical reasons behind my writing.
ML: Were any of your stories based on your personal experiences?
AH: Not really. I wrote a few stories based on my personal experiences and they did not turn out too well so I did not include them in this collection. I think a professional writer should stay detached from her work. Writing about myself makes that difficult for me.
ML: Themes running through all your stories include relationships between men and women, isolation, anger and fragmentation. Can you tell us more about this?
AH: I like to write about things that transcend time and place. Human relationships overall – be it men-women or same sex couples- intrigues me. Humans are complicated beings and when someone wants to connect to somebody else at different dimension, whether emotionally, physically or mentally, things get very complicated. I think people can write about relationships for the rest of history.
Isolation, I believe, is an inseparable part of our life, too. We fall in love, work, live in a community, make friends, some of us marry and start a family … to make believe we are not lonely. I think some parts of us stays inaccessible, no matter how many people we have around us. Anger and frustration are temporary results of such situations.
ML: What was the process like getting your book published?
AH: I was very lucky in that regard. TSAR was the first and only publisher I sent my manuscript to and M.G.Vassangi loved my work. He endorsed it for me, something his wife told me he hasn’t done for anyone else.

ML: Any publishing tips for emerging and unpublished writers?
AH: Publication is a very tricky business. Don’t let rejections get to you. In addition to the fact that writing is subjective, publishers have enormous limitations in what they can publish. Nevertheless, try to see the reason for the rejection and if it makes sense to you work it out in your manuscript. Always seek to improve your writing. There is no end to that process.
Write for the sake of writing. If you get published fine, if not just continue writing. Let me tell you a secret, my friend, getting published is a huge distraction from writing.
ML: You run writing workshops occasionally. Tell us more about that.
AH: Over the course of a 5-session workshop, I discuss crafting a piece of fiction: “How to create characters who breathe on the page,” “The art of writing dialogue,” “Plot is the thing: Suspense and conflict,” “Point of View” and “Setting.” I distribute five short stories to the participants prior to the beginning of the workshop. During each session, participants are encouraged to read the text and analyze one element mainly. After that, members will be asked to read their own work out loud and get constructive feedback from peers. This way the workshops help the writers build skills from session to session. I will probably have some more workshops in the fall or winter. Your readers can check my website for updated information. www.avahoma.com
ML: What are you working on now?
AH: I am currently working on the manuscript for a novel called Hush. Hush is a novel told from multiple points of view that captures both the life of a nation at large and that of a family in detail. Hush shows the ordeal of the Kurds in both Iran and Iraq as well as the 2009 post-presidential election crisis in Iran. This novel shows both sides of the story that consist of hope and horror, solidarity and betrayal, pain and strength.
ML: Is there anything that you want Iranian communities, in the diaspora or elsewhere, to get from your writing?
AH: I think habitualization is human’s enemy and saviour at the same time. It’s the reason we can survive even extremely tough situations and it is the reason we internalize injustice. I want all my readers and not just my fellow country people to re-think some already established ideas such as gender roles, the role religion plays in everyday life, etc. I also think we need circles of healing. After years of living under tyrannical regimes, economic instability and all forms of oppression, we need to get together, tell tales, support and understand each other, get rid of our internal “windigo” and recover.
ML: What advice do you have for writers out there who are having difficulties with their writing, or who have yet to see their work in print, or who are afraid to perform their poetry?
AH: It’s unfortunate that being published and recognized is mistaken for being a great writer. I have seen more under-appreciated talents than I’ve seen worthwhile “big names.” Write for your soul and for the beauty of writing. Everything else is just noise. If you are true, honest and patient with your talent, you’ll finally get what you deserve.
ML:  Are there any other comments that you’d like to share about your writing, the writing process and getting published?
AH: Thanks to you May Lui and to Black Coffee Poet! I wish you and your audience tons of happiness.
May Lui is a Toronto-based writer who is mixed-race, anti-racist, feminist and an all-around troublemaker. She blogs at maysie.ca, ranting and raving at any and all injustices and uses the f-bomb regularly. She’s been published in the Toronto StarFireweed MagazineSiren Magazine, in the anthology With a Rough Tongue: Femmes Write Porn, at section15.ca and rabble.ca. Contact her atmaysie@rogers.com

Monday, August 1, 2011

A New Review of Echoes from the Other Land



Echoes from the Other Land (Stories)
By Ava Homa
Review by May Lui
Reading the stories in Echoes from the Other Land, I found myself absorbing and learning perspectives and realities that are both similar and very different from the world that I’m familiar with. Ava Homa writes of a world of urban Iran, a world where women; single, divorced and married; negotiate and navigate a sometimes unfriendly and harsh world of religious police, family, religion, narrow views of women’s sexuality and societal expectations for women.
She does this without using the Western tropes of how Iran is “othered” when white secular Christians write about Iran and other Middle Eastern countries. Her perspective is much needed in the landscape of Canadian fiction, and intensely valuable on its own.
Ava Homa is Iranian-born, of Kurdish ancestry. Her stories suggest her unique perspective on what it means to be marginalized and part of a minority. This is reflected in her characters, who are often nonconformists who aren’t understood by their family and friends.
Each story could be a novel in itself. Each story drops us into a world where we must quickly become oriented, as the narrative is already moving quickly starting from the first paragraph. Homa simply begins each story mid-way through a moment in the lives of her characters, and we need to carefully read to understand the full context and the parameters in which the various characters, all of whom are women in their 20s, find themselves.
In A River of Milk and Honey Homa writes:
People say they hate the Komiteh because they are constantly harassing everyone, but I see that people fear each other more than they fear the police. (page 41)

Themes weave in and out of all the stories; one theme is the tension as well as the interlocking aspects of isolation and connection. So many of her characters are isolated, some of their own choosing, some because of society’s notions of what is “acceptable” for women and others through repressive political and religious systems. Her complex and sometimes troubled characters respond and react against this isolation, as well as their own needs for connection, in different ways, all of which draws the reader into each story.
In Glass Slippers Homa writes:
Yusef has never yelled at you or laid a hand on you, has never bullied you. He knows poetry by heart, cares for spar-rows, feels pity for the fish imprisoned in the small pond ofthe yard, and loves flowers. You love him. (page 68)
In Silk Shawl Homa writes:
I flipped through the four channels. As usual, three of them featured blathering mullahs, and the last, football.  I turned off the TV.  (page 83)
Another theme that’s very strong in Homa’s stories is told through the young women who are her main characters, and how they chafe, struggle, fight, resist and rebel against the many restrictions in their lives. They drink, they have sex, they pray, they wear the veil, they don’t wear the veil, and they wish for things to be different.
Homa’s characters also want what all young women want: to express themselves separately from what their parents want for them; to fall in love; to be loved; to be good at their jobs; to be happy.
Homa uses very tight, descriptive prose that takes us right into the moment of the story. She describes sights, smells, textures and sounds, as well as emotions, disagreements and passions that cut deeply to the heart of knowing her characters from the inside. She does this with an almost painful honesty, a striking truth and vulnerability that cannot be dismissed or ignored. Homa also moves the reader through lies, deceptions, anger, jealousy, fear, as well as tenderness, kindness and love.
The breadth of Homa’s stories go from a woman in a very unhappy abusive marriage; to divorce; disability; cross-dressing; friendship; the lines between friendship and sexual attraction; self-harm and much more.
Each story ends too soon. We’re left wanting more, wanting some kind of closure to stories which at times feel unresolved. Since that’s how life is most of the time, that’s another truth that is a reflection, an echo.
A wonderful collection from this excellent writer. Recommended.
May Lui is a Toronto-based writer who is mixed-race, anti-racist, feminist and an all-around troublemaker. She blogs at maysie.ca, ranting and raving at any and all injustices and uses the f-bomb regularly. She’s been published in the Toronto StarFireweed MagazineSiren Magazine, in the anthology With a Rough Tongue: Femmes Write Porn, at section15.ca and rabble.ca. Contact her atmaysie@rogers.com
Tune in to Black Coffee Poet Wednesday August 3, 2011 for an inclusive interview with Ava Homa.